Talk Story

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.

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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,

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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.

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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.”





38 responses to “Talk Story

  1. Transitions are hard, and a transition to “paradise” especially so, because we feel that it’s churlish (love that word) to not be able to be anything but joyous. It’s hard to be homeless (you have a house, but it’s not yet your home), it’s hard to work your butt off to have drinking water, it’s hard to adjust to the climate, it’s hard to be out in the middle of the ocean far from your family. Your body is there, the spirit is willing and eager, but your heart moves more slowly. Take good care of yourself in the meantime and don’t force it. You know this, but I’m just affirming it. ❤

  2. Wait, got that wrong. Churlish to not always be joyous. Whaddevah, you know what I meant.

  3. I remember Gary remarking that he was loving being in Hawaii so much and why didn’t he feel that way back at home. “Because we are on VACATION”, I noted. It’s harder when you are trying to make a new home and a new way of life. Everything is turned upside up and then down and all over again. When you wake up one morning and know it is home, it will be. Thinking of you both- often.

  4. Sending you a very big, tight, warm hug! And lots of love!!

    It was so good to read your ‘talk story’ too – there is so much life hidden away in those few sentences. I understand that awful cyclic depression that ascends unbidden and unwanted over our lives, seeping up and out from those hidden depths of unhealed soul trauma…….. Your story reminds me how it can take such life and colour and turn it grey and bleak in an instant.

    I no longer live with depression and wish we could sit together for a while and talk story 🙂

    I wonder how much courage it took for you to write this post. I have been missing hearing from you for so long and was wondering if all was well with you – it is easy for us to post when life is full and exciting – so much harder when we are struggling huh! A friend once said to me, with a meaningful look “Wherever you go, you take you with you.” I was on the move once more, trying to out run my demons and she made me stop and think, but it was still many years before I truly understood. For me it was trying to find peace somewhere outside of myself and then on being ‘somewhere else’ discovering I was still the same and down I’d go again. It seemed like an unending cycle – until suddenly it wasn’t any more!

    I am glad to read you feel like you are returning to yourself again – the fun of making a home is one that should be really enjoyed and lived into whole heartedly! Enjoy the moment! Enjoy the process and let the Bearded One do all the worrying – at this point in time he is stronger than you! Big, big,. big hugs and love xoxo

    • Oh, Pauline, I feel bigly hugged by you! You talk story to me right here. I sympathize with your struggle as well. Thanks for your wonderful description of the cycles and what depression is and what it can do to an otherwise light spirit. Thank the gods for antidepressants (wish my grandmother had them) — and for loving family and friends, like you. :)xxoo

  5. Christine Widman

    Dearest Christi,
    You know how I believe in Talk story.
    I’m immersed in my talk story right now during a break in the B&B work. Editing my journals from 2002 – 2006. When we moved far away – dream driven – desire pulled to the desert.
    And – wow – it is difficult to read our challenges then and yet I am awed by our kindness to ourselves, by our commitment to fulfill our vision, by the total ongoing support from all our friends and family. And truly even now – yes – by the graciousness of our B&B guests.
    Dennis and I send you delicious joy in the taste of mangoes, limes & pineapple, colorful hopes in plumeria & hibiscus blossoms, and sweet sleep to the lullaby of the ocean.

  6. Christine Widman

    PS Tell the Bearded One my tenderness just filled to overflowing over the drawing of you two watching the sun setting into the ocean.
    PPS I think I told you how during my first summer in Honolulu I would come home from college and tear my clothes off as I ran to get into the shower. I was overwhelmed by tropic sweat. :-))))
    PPPS The Islands can be overwhelming at first in their fecundity.
    PPPPS Yes. It is happening. You are there and getting there.
    Love love love across the desert and the ocean

    • Dearest Christine, I can just see you racing to the shower! I do this each night, and it’s a cold shower. 🙂 Sometimes we can get the Paloma to work for a few seconds and we get a blast of hot. But water on the skin is nature’s own coolant, and I have a wet washcloth nearby at all times. Here’s to fecundity, and to appreciating kindness toward ourselves. I love you. xxoo

  7. Got some salty ocean-sized tears welling up seeing this Picture Talk Story… Thanks for making it possible. Hugs to you. It takes guts to go slow.

  8. Hello Dear Christi and Keith 🙂 blessings to you both in your settling in mode. It is wonderful to hear from you. Adjusting to new things, however dearly they are wanted can be very hard! We never quite feel in control of our brains that love to conjure up “what ifs” and ” have I done the right thing” . You just wish your brain would shut up and leave you alone. I’m very glad your getting all the help you need and your beautiful man is right there beside you. Your a precious part of the world Christi and we are all the better for knowing you and BO 🙂 xoxoxoxox

  9. Lovely to hear you talking story, Christi. House and tropics look like home.

  10. I’ve been wondering about you two. You may have thought you were prepared for Hawaii but it truly is a unique lifestyle and one that takes a lifetime for some to get used to. But, you knew going into it that it was going to be a big adjustment AND a BIG adventure! So, time to focus on the adventure part. It’s one that not many will ever have or ever dare to try. I admire you both for doing it and I know that you will be just fine and end up loving it. Can’t wait to visit! 🙂

  11. ‘raaaaay, what a beautiful post. You really capture the spirit of the place. Ohhh, makes me so homesick. I’ll be back at the end of this month. See you then! HUGS.

  12. Such a moving post, Christi! I, too, have had my innings with depression (and second-guessing even the best of my choices). I haven’t noticed a cyclic pattern, though. For me, I think it’s more when I get too stressed (often by not enough time alone; for an extreme introvert, this is a big challenge!). Don’t know if that is a factor for you as well. Like Pauline, I’ve done my share of moving, looking for the ‘right’ place. I’m going to make a note in one of my notebooks for when I have my own dream place; I’ll need the reminder that it takes time to adjust to change, even to one we dearly want. Thanks for sharing so well. I’m sending hugs, too. You are in my thoughts every day. Love and Light to you. ~ Linne

  13. Christi the photos of the house (not a home just yet) look intriguing. I hope it will soon feel like home. It’s hard when you have had everything mostly just so and then you have to start again. Hugs and well wishes xoxoxo

  14. Fear is a terrible thing. It can clear you out of happiness in one fell swoop and there is nothing like upping sticks and moving WAY out of your comfort zone to induce fear. Having moved more times than I would like to even remember I am so with you here and sending HUGE hugs and waftings of Brunhilda love to you right now. At the very least that lovely yellow plumeria and bright mu’umu’u’d Linda with a no doubt cheery countenance would have been good for your soul in that waiting area.

    It takes guts and glory to make a new house your own “home” and a whole lot of effort and putting “you” into it. From the outside (and the get-go) it’s beautiful. That makes it a whole lot easier to commit to a new house. I love the tropical foliage that graces your home and I still marvel at how similar in architecture the new house is to The Farmlet.

    See The B.O. has a new adventure afoot. He has all of that “man stuff” to wrap his mental capacities around and that would take him all over the place in the happiness quotient. You have come from a neat, ordered house to a blow up air mattress on the floor. Easy when you are 20 but not so easy to adapt to when you are over 50. I love my comfortable bed and take me away from it and you also take my sleep away from me. We get used to our comforts. We put them on like we slip on a favourite jumper or pair of jeans and when they are gone we feel naked and vulnerable.

    As always The B.O. is ahead of you paving the way, brushing the road clear of debris to make you a pathway to walk on. You work like the sun and the moon you two. His early acceptance will make it easier for your own chance to feel out your new home. It always takes time to move, to engage, to “become” and 2 months is nothing. I was still shell shocked 2 months after moving to Tasmania let alone moving from one meridian to the tropics. Give yourself time. Allow yourself a period of grieving for The Farmlet, for the cold, the damp, the “known” and allow The B.O. to be the sweeper of the pathways to the new. He does it so well 🙂

    I have great faith in your spirit Christi. I have great faith in the healing power of community and nature and you are surrounded by both of them. Slowly Hawaii will become part of you. You just need to bleed out a bit of your old life to allow it time to infuse, sort of like a blood transfusion for “place”. HUGE hugs from frigid Sidmouth. No tropical anything here aside from a couple of hardy palm tree thingo’s down in the jungle/tangle of blackberries and weeds that we know as “our view”. Time to start hugging trees, getting down and dirty with the native animals, letting the soul of your home touch your own soul and start healing you from within.

    • Oh, Fran, this is such a beautiful comment. I have transferred it to my documents so I can read it whenever the generator isn’t on. 🙂 You have given me such good advice and help…the blood transfusion in particular struck deep. Thank you for your wise words and compassionate heart. I love you.

      • I love you too Christi girl. You will soon be back on top of things and one day you will wake up and pure Hawaii will be running through your veins. Sending 4C temperatures your way to cool you down a bit 😉

  15. Maria Patrizzi

    It sounds like life to me! We all have a story- you are part of mine. Take a big sigh every am- be glad you took the adventure! xomaria

  16. Oh Christi, my heart goes out to you. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since ’89. I feel your pain. It’s so real and tough. I love your stories and your authenticity! I am going through a very rough time myself with thyroid troubles and other health issues but trying to stay hopeful. I love your new house. It will be a home in no time. As you grieve, assimilate, the meds start working, and you talk story all will be well, I just believe in you! You are so brave. I feel a kinship with you even though we haven’t met. Keith loves projects. I love the eloquent post and comments. They are straight from the heart. We are all here for you. I am going to PM you my number and if you ever need to talk I am here for you! Love and hugs! Susan

  17. Acclimate not assimilate! I am losing my mind! See, told you. My brain isn’t functioning properly. I hope we both get better soon. I’m sure I drive writers nuts.

    • Thank you so much, Susan. We are so alike! Very interesting. Thanks, too, for your phone. 🙂 And I hope you are feeling better soon, too. Thyroid troubles are yuck, and Linda the Nurse Practitioner even mentioned testing mine. I’m feeling pretty good now, though. No anxiety med this morning! But it is real and hard and staying connected to beloved friends and family is key. Hugs back atcha. Love, Christi

  18. My wife has depression and anxiety so I can sympathize. Hang in there, it seems you know what to do.

  19. Ugh. Depression. But I see how much love and support you have in the little Farmlet community — and I know you and B.O. will be okay. The comments are so insightful and true in response to your painfully honest post. I have only moved a few times in my life, and none of them was a move like this is. I agree with the rest of these fine folks who say that it is only a matter of time until you claim Hawaii and it claims you and becomes home. Although I suspect that any place that you and B.O. perch together would soon become home, because it isn’t a place – it’s a feeling, an emotion, a comfort. I’m glad he’s digging right in and getting things ready for Farmlet II and his lovely bride. You have your own little piece of Heaven on earth, and no matter what comes, you’ll stand together. That is love, and that is what this life is all about, right? Hugs to you both, and I am SO glad you’re posting again. I’ve missed you! xoxoBecky

    • Thank you so much for this comment, Becky. You are part of the Farmlet community and I love your mentioning place. I’m like you, place isn’t the heart of my home, but it is important, too. Makes me think. This Hawaii warmth and the flora and fauna are so much like how I grew up, and not like the 35 years I spent in the Puget Sound area. I love being able to wear fewer clothes and go barefoot. The indoors and outdoors are One. It’s all about Love, yes! Hugs back to you. xxoo

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