Here I am at the doctor. A nurse practitioner named Linda in a bright mu’umu’u and a yellow plumeria in her graying hair follows up with me after an acclimation struggle that landed me in the Hilo ER with stomach pain from depression and anxiety on May 22.
The Bearded One is across the parking lot doing our laundry. Chatting with the Pahoa locals about dogs and moving and children. He is thriving.
He has dealt with my depression for 20 years. It is not a Hawaii thing. It moves in six year cycles. This one is right on time.
I’m back satisfactorily medicated, but the anxiety is new and that’s what has me back at the doctor again. My heart races and my stomach aches and roils and presses against my breath. I’ve lost 15 pounds from just eating less. Brain stem stuff, pituitary, fight or flight stress that meds help, but as Linda says, “You also need to talk story.” It’s a Hawaiian phrase. Our neighbor used it when he came over to meet us.
“What do you want in your deepest heart?” she asks.
“To make our new house our home,” I say. This surprises me. It’s not to go back to Washington, which I thought about last month as we waited to get into our new home. “We’ve just been in the house a week. It’s off-grid. There’s a lot of work to do.”
“Why did you come to Hawaii?”
I answer with the weather and the adventure of it, but later I regret not saying better that the big island of Hawaii is an amazing place — an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virtually every ecosystem imaginable, rainforest, desert, alpine. I’m privileged to live here, and I know it when I wake at night and smell the gardenia and puakenikeni blossoms wafting across our inflatable mattress in the dining room of the house as I listen to the ocean pounding the shore less than a mile away.
We have no electricity or hot water, but will by July. Since we got a land line – no cell phones work at our house – the Bearded One has been ordering solar components and Eccotemp propane flash hot water heaters and researching new water catchment tanks and completely engaging in the job at hand.
I’m trying to engage with the kitchen. The propane stove is rusty and the propane fridge is old and small. Both are being replaced. The tiny counter is a thick block of mango wood. I set up the Igloo 5-gallon drinking water cooler in a corner by the fridge. Hawaii is a huge porous lava rock and houses have cesspools and water catchment tanks for washing and flushing, but you have to bring potable water in. It’s heavy.
The Bearded One and I were both raised in Texas. We fell in love in the hot spring and summer of 1977 in Waco, and when we broke up a year later, I ran as far north as I could to Seattle, Washington. Where I fell in love with the cool gray wetness, and had 16 incredibly productive years with my first husband. Three children and seven published books.
When I started to write essays and even a poem about air conditioning and mimosa trees, I went for the first time to a doctor for depression. I divorced, married the Bearded One, and we stayed within 20 miles of my first husband and all raised the kids.
We told this tale to the WWOOFers at the community farm we stayed at April 14-June 2 down by Pahoa. They are the same age as our kids, and we treated them like ours. One was from Texas. We talked about big things, how 2/3 of the world doesn’t have electricity. I felt useful, and they were compassionate to me as I crashed in the heat wave we were having.
Thinking about our Texas-sized subdivision, the biggest in the entire USA. Hawaiian Paradise Park is immense, miles of roads, paved and unpaved, each lot an acre, some areas bleak as a Texas prairie, others shaded in towering albizia trees. Rooster lots supporting the cock fights,
small churches of every imaginable sort, plant nurseries, and car repairs dot the big roads. Our termite guy lives on 29th – Mauka (toward the mountains) We live on 8th – Makai (toward the ocean). Tom lives on 16th. These are pretty far apart. We are car dependent as ever.
But we are living differently. Our systems are low tech. We are in the tropics. The aloha spirit of everyone being connected in ohana (family) and the deep respect for nature in the presence of molten earth are real and shared attitudes. Plus everyone tells me acclimation takes at least a year. I’ve been here two months.
I meet the Bearded One in front of the Laundromat, where he is reading.
He waves good-bye to everyone there, and escorts me to the truck. The laundry is in the backseat, all beautifully folded.
“Island time,” he says. “We are juggling and getting stuff done without setting any personal best speed records in any category. It is happening. I think we’re here for a long haul.”
“Could be,” I say. “I’m getting there. Here.”