Living On Air

“He will pop the bed!” says the Bearded One in mock protest to us getting a cat that will have free-range of the house day and night.


I’m mopping the dining room floor, around the queen-sized inflatable air mattress that has been our bed for five weeks now. We’re still cutting out new windows upstairs and waiting on the termite crew. Not quite to the animal phase yet.

I laugh. The Bearded One has resisted cats all his life, but was won over by our beloved Olalla tabby Garfield. He wants a cat almost as much as I do, but for the mousing, not the companionship. He’s watched rats up in the palms, eating the precious palm seeds, some definitely quite rare, that he fantasizes growing.

In a squeaky little cat voice, he continues, “Oh, I have to sharpen my little kitty cat claws!”

Garfield – he who is well-positioned back in Washington with our nephew who has even made a cat video of him – was locked in the hut at night for his own safety and our sanity. There are no raccoons or coyotes here. Only mongooses, and they don’t hunt cats. Maybe also the occasional wild pig.

“We are not going to be sleeping on a raft forever,” I say.

In fact, our upstairs bedroom already has two fabulous new 4’x4’ screened windows.



Traditional Hawaiian buildings have jalousies, which are glass louvers to protect from sideways rain squalls. They’re expensive. The Bearded One is designing some sort of shutter or insert instead of glass windows or jalousies. He bought a bunch of used louvered doors to convert into shutters, but is now leaning toward much simpler pieces of rigid, clear Lucite plastic.

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Anyway, just four more windows to go upstairs, then we’ll insulate the tin roof, buy a bed, and voila. Lovely trade winds from the east windows – we are on the windward side of the island – will blow straight through. It’s a tropical indoor/outdoor life, temperature almost always in the 70s. This is an old hippie house, back-to-the-land, minimalist and off-grid, but it seems to me that the lifestyle stems from the weather as much as any ideology.

I describe a little magnetic screen door (a miniature of the one we installed on our front door here)



in one of the upstairs windows that would allow cats to come and go. Which scares the Bearded One. A cat could jump on him in the night, meow in his ear, carrying a very-much-still- alive-rat. Cats love to bring in their hunt trophies.

The termite guy called last week to postpone as he was “whacked by a centipede,” which had crawled into his shoe, which he’d removed before going into a client’s home. It got him twice, his foot swelled into a football and he was on medication.

I watch for centipedes as I mow our acre this week, the thick grass so like what I grew up with in Texas, memories of my father sweating and cursing in the Houston summer heat, the air 30 degrees hotter than here. Not thin, wispy northern grass like at the first farmlet, where I mowed with an antique push mower. Unthinkable now.

Here, we have a Husqvarna.

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Besides the dense grass, which like the pineapples and other Bromeliads needs virtually no soil and lives off the tropical air, the mower has to deal with large patches of lava rock and giant tree roots that grow above ground. “Ankle busters everywhere,” says the Bearded One.


It’s a good place to live off the air. Climatologists have long said this side of the island has (literally) got the cleanest air on Earth, cleansed over 2000 miles of Pacific Ocean. Ironically, the other side, with its volcano “vog”, has the worst.

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“Let’s go look,” I say, drop my mop, and we troop upstairs and stand before the two windows. We do this often. The screens are invisible, and we marvel at the breeze, the tops of the palms, our good fortune.

A couple of doves coo from the top of the coconut tree, which dropped a coconut this week, our first to slice open.


Then I look closer and point out a rat up there by the doves. High up in the tree.

The Bearded One shakes his head, smiles at me and says, “Too bad we got no kitties.”

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18 responses to “Living On Air

  1. So sorry! The cat video link isn’t working; I’ve contacted my nephew and hopefully will get it working soon.

  2. Christine Widman

    Aloha. I can feel your tropic breeze as you stand before the Bearded Ones magic plastic windows.
    I have been thinking about what we live on here…in the Sonoran desert. I think it is the sense of something ancient – seeing the bones of the earth and the vault of sky.
    We have had our first real monsoon. After the tumult comes a deep quiet….every plant, cactus, breath of air is stilled.
    We watch here for scorpions and rattlers. You have centipedes and rats.
    Ah life on the wild earth.
    “In the presence of the Divine.”

  3. Christine Widman

    PS I forgot the tarantulas! A BIG one was creeping along beside me as I walked through the carport seconds ago.
    The monsoons bring them out.
    I’m wondering if bobcats pounce on tarantulas????
    Maybe you shouldn’t tell the Bearded One about this. :-)))

    • You forgot the tarantulas, I forgot the fire ants! Just bugs, as our brave termite guy says. It’s been raining all day here, too, which is kind of unusual. It usually just rains at night. Rainstorms, typhoons and hurricanes cropping up all over the planet these days. I’m grateful for the regular rain.

      The desert is ancient; Hawaii feels young and moist. Although there is desert here, too. I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s book WILD and loving it. She hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone, experiencing all the flora and fauna as she purges her grief and lostness. It’s really beautifully written, too. I feel the wildness here. Mahalo for your beautiful comments. xxoo

  4. You are so brave. I’m so proud of what you’ve done! I’m so happy to hear of you soaking in the gratitude of your good fortune. You truly are in paradise! By the way, I slept on an air mattress one time while visiting my ex in-laws and got the best night’s sleep I had in ages. Those suckers are comfy! Thanks for the post, Christi! It is so beautiful there. I love a great breeze blowing through the house! My house has a lot of windows and I really enjoy the breeze (when it’s not 110, hehe). I miss the ocean. I have heard from world travelers that Hawaii is the prettiest place they’ve ever visited. I’m thrilled for you guys! It will be fun to get kittens when the time is right! I think you got an awesome house. Mahalo – I love that.
    Love, Susan

    • Aloha Susan! Yes, the air mattress is comfy, but not forever, you know? 🙂 And the breeze is heavenly. When I lived in Houston, the houses were all built to be closed up and air conditioned…if there was any breeze, the architecture and landscape didn’t take advantage of it. There are houses being built here like that — they’re called “Rip and Rolls” and they just bulldoze the lot to the lava. It looks like a moonscape. It’s cheaper, and the greenery will grow, but it’s stuff like Albizia trees that take over and swamp other vegetation. I love the ocean, too. The vastness, the color, the sound, the salty smell. I’ve read that blood has the same salinity as the ocean; maybe that’s part of the draw. Mahalo is a wonderful word. Thank you. Mahalo nui loa, thanks very much. Aloha. Love. 🙂 xxoo

  5. Ooooh, that last comment – ‘….blood has the same salinity as the ocean…..’ doesn’t that make perfect sense! It certainly explains the draw to the sight and sound and smell of the sea! Some say that walking the strip of wet sand between sea and land is walking in magic – I kind of believe it!!

    I have been looking at a magnetic mesh door just like the one in your photos – wondering if it might be a good way to let puppy travel in and out and keep the flies outside too. No rats, bat or spiders to worry about here 🙂

    You know the BO is only teasing about the kitty – right? Right BO? I never appreciated Orlando’s zen until Siddy arrived to try and destroy it…….. I go stand beside him when manic pappy energy has spun me out 🙂 Very good feng shui for your new improved hippie house! Plus kitty will remove rodents, bugs and flying thingies, which is a great service they do for us all.

    It is so nice to have you back and posting regularly again – Happy, happy! xoxo

    • Aloha, Pauline! Yes, the BO is teasing, but don’t we always fantasize how we’ll control the specifics of the comings and goings of new responsibilities, even though we know having cats is a wing-it and see what the cat wants deal anyway, right? 🙂 And the magnetic mesh door works great with pets. We had one in Olalla and both Ruby and Garfield used it expertly from the get-go. It’s compact, too, and no big installation issues. It’s on a curtain rod at the top and tacks on the sides.

      I love the ocean/blood salinity thing, too. Gives me chills. There’s a series of books Hidden Messages in Water by Emoto Masaru where he takes magnified photos of water crystals that have been polluted and/or in hurtful places and those which have been around love and shows how different the crystal structure is, supposedly influenced by human consciousness. It’s controversial to say the least, but since humans are like 90 percent water, it makes you wonder how the very substance of our bodies is affected. Woo woo again, but I love it. 🙂

      Mahalo for your ongoing love, and kisses to Siddy and Orlando! xxoo

      • I have Masuru’s book and have kept my pitcher of water on a large laminated picture of the ‘thank you’ crystal for about 4 years now. [The photo also causes to remind me to feel gratitude for my water]

        A while back I did a wee experiment and kept two jugs of water, one on the photo and one not. The blessed water has a different mouth feel and ‘taste’ for want of a better word. 🙂 I know it is controversial and some may call me a crack-pot 🙂 But I know what I don’t know…….

        Siddy and Orlando are becoming increasingly able to be together 🙂

      • 🙂 We are on the same wavelength, methinks. I think about Masuru’s work as it relates to homeopathy, the “like cures like” idea and how flower essences are made by putting petals into water and exposing it to sunlight, the water absorbing the flower energy and then when a person takes a drop…. As you put it so beautifully, I know what I don’t know. lol

        Sounds like the energy in your house is blissful. 🙂

      • With you on the homeopathy thing – and also Bach Flowers 🙂

        We aren’t quite at ‘blissful’ yet – but there is a definite drop in wild puppy energy around kitty cat – it is utterly adorable how he just sits quietly and soooo hopefully and Orlando is teaching him that if his energy level is at the correct setting he gets a nose kiss. I’m so totally involved in the process I forget photo taking ops until the moment has passed. It is magic 🙂

  6. Elizabeth Hauk

    Hi Christi!

    You are living on love and clean air and surely will thrive in this place that is becoming home. I hear progress in this post and not just the tangible kind you can show in photos and sketches. I am writing this to you from Alaska where the rain is pouring from the sky and the fireweed is blooming. We are taking a deep breath and willing ourselves to slow down. Hugs to you both. Wish I could just sit and talk with you.

    • Aloha in Alaska, Betty! Where our son-in-law is fishing and where my thoughts wander every day. I hope you and Gary and Nate can breathe and bask in those long long days, perhaps even see a Northern Light? Hugs to you as well. I like wishing and imagining you visiting here some day.

  7. Hawaii has awakened the horticultural beast in The B.O. eh? Good to see 🙂 It must be a bugger to have to sleep rough etc. BUT just imagine, you are creating your own personal customised space from the ground up, a labour of love and creativity that is going to make you ADORE your home twice as much as you would have if you just bought it ready-made :).

    Steve and I both noticed the gorgeous sheen on the wood. Beautiful stuff :). You are dead right on the lifestyle being a product of the weather. It would draw a certain type of person, pioneer hippies, and so the flavour of the community would be swirled around and delivered like a most delicious latte completely native to Hawaii 🙂

    LOVE that random pineapple just hanging out on the newel. “Hi there little pineapple, do you want to come in for a visit? To chew the fat so to speak?” 😉 I dare say there are mozzies to the max in Hawaii…no cold weather to dampen their delight and maybe that pineapple is placed strategically to scare the mozzies? The screen/mesh is a good back-up but what mozzie wouldn’t be afraid of a whack with a fresh pineapple eh? It would certainly make ME think twice before invading Chez Aloha! 😉

    You read about the things that crawl in the night being SO much bigger and more dangerous in the tropics because the temperature variances are so minimal that they can just go on growing and expanding exponentially. I guess you just found out about one of the opposites of the silver lining of moving to Hawaii! Might need a few chooks to clear out the creepy crawly population as well methinks!

    How big is your property? Could you do the “lawns” with a whipper snipper? Might be an option. Commiserating with you about the rocks etc. Story of our lives…

    So you are living in a juxtaposition of air?! How exciting and how fortuitous that you are living on the right side! 😉

    I KNEW you would have coconuts! Cheers for the gratuitous coconut shot. I am STILL dead jealous of you being able to grow and eat coconuts on your own property. Not too jealous mind you because you are some of the nicest people I know BUT still a little green tinged. What horticulturalist wouldn’t want to grow pineapples in rocks and have coconuts drop from the trees for them to casually collect?!

    I love that last image…an empty room can be a sad thing…a house abandoned, left behind OR it can be full of the promise of a new life, clean, clutter free, a completely blank canvas for someone to pick up and paint with their own personal colours. LOVE this blog even more than I did before (if that is possible…) Cheers for sharing your exploits, the excitement, the wonder, the challenges and the triumphs and again, as your posts flow, I am noticing that you are relaxing into Hawaii and it is infusing you with slow, easy joy 🙂

    • Right on, Fran. It is sooo lovely to be able to do all this to the house, to have the money and time to customize it to our own little vision. The vision evolves as we learn how to live here, and that’s interesting and a gift, especially since I can write about it and beloved readers care!

      The woodwork in this house is amazing. The front door is a work of art. The floors are all hardwood, and just need some orange oil desperately. But I can’t do that until the termite guy comes with his super-concentrate orange oil to stop the termites. The former owner was an interesting fellow…a horticulturist AND a woodworker extraordinaire…kind of like STEVE!

      I like your swirl of Hawaiian latte image, with the Kona coffee and luscious tropical fruit flavors that infuse it. It’s not a perfect melt, though, as there is lots for native Hawaiians to be pissed about and many are. The idea is to listen and honor and be extremely respectful. Sounds like a good path anyway, eh?

      Chickens are everywhere here, wild and tame, roaming and roosting. I’m thinking we’ll get some, yes, but it’s not on my radar yet. And neither is a dog, hard as that is to believe. We both love dogs, but after Ruby died last August and we had that darling, rambunctious puppy Arly for a couple of months…well, two dogs is the way to go, and we’re just not hep for that yet. Cats are where it’s at.

      The property is 1 acre. And we just bought a “Wheeled String Trimmer” which is a mower/whipper snipper hybrid with 2 big back wheels and the whipper snipper up front. They had one at the farm where we stayed for 2 months when we first arrived in Hawaii. We have to get a bar welded onto it’s bottom somewhere to make it extra sturdy, and then I’ll use it. The Husqvarna is the mower the owner left for us, but it is a great machine. The lava is everywhere, but the roots are the hardest to spot.

      I was stunned at how much corky husk surrounds a coconut! The Bearded One got a lovely hatchet in the mail from the son of a woman he lived with for 10 years long ago, who is now 39-years-old and the father of 4, and who is going to come visit when we’re ready. And the hatchet worked perfectly to cut off the end of the coconut. His Majesty did the honors. 🙂

      I love and cherish your friendship, Fran, and am amazed that we have never actually met. It’s like the old pen pals, I guess. I look out across the Pacific Ocean and think of you, Steve, Earl and Bezial on the other shore. Cheers to you for sending such palpable love. 🙂

      • As soon as your dreams turn into your reality there is ALWAYS something to be pissed about ;). Nothing like hitting your Husqvarna on a root to wake you up from half asleep mowing ;). I love how you meld your “families” together, any and everyone, past, present and future slips in and out of The Farmlet on a regular basis and that hatchet is a good symbol of how relationships can both end, and keep going. A wonderful gift and most excellent for those coconuts. Just be careful standing under the coconut palms when they are almost ripe ;). I am sending both palpable and shivery love. Nice and cold here and a teensy bit envious of your balmy even temperatures. Oh how I WISH it was a bit like that here! Just the even steady rain over summer would make Serendipity Farm my permaculture dream. So much hard work just to grow anything here. I do have a little envy but not much because I adore you two and are SO happy that you got your little spot of paradise and that I get to live vicariously through your exploits and your sharing 🙂

  8. Loving these snippets as they arrive, little vignettes of your new jungle-hippie life — I just drink them in as you tell them. Your little piece of Paradise sounds just wonderful — save for the various critters whose neighborhood you’ve moved into. With tales of rats and tarantulas, fire ants and centipedes, I doubt I’d get a moment’s sleep!

    • Aloha Becky! Thank you so much. Hope you’re finding a way to keep cool in the crazy heat Seattle (and vicinity) is having. I love your boating pictures on Facebook. 🙂 xxoo

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