“Everybody’s on Edge, Honey”

It’s early Monday morning and NeNe, my swimming buddy, and I are on the phone.   She sounds good but weary. “Everybody’s on edge, Honey,” she says.


The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports lava from the Mt. Kilauea June 27th flow could cross the only road to Pahoa and all of lower Puna — Highway 130 — in just 9 days. Lower Puna is where we swim and where she lives along with as many as 15,000 other people including our son, His Majesty.

Lava flow map

I tell her I can’t swim today, that we have to go into Hilo to get the breakers for the solar system, which might or might not be in yet.

“There’s no Uncle Roberts this week,” she said. “How about Wednesday?”


Uncle Roberts is a sort of magical farmer’s market held down in Kalapana, where the last lava flow crossed the highway in the 1980s.

We decide to meet at Four Corners near Kapoho and go to the tide pools. I also want to see the work being done on Railroad Road, the old gravel bypass that’s being bulldozed through to our subdivision, Hawaiian Paradise Park, and which starts near where His Majesty hitchhiked 3 days after Hurricane Iselle hit last month. Puna is getting a crash course in earth changes this summer.

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An hour later the Bearded One calls the solar supply guy and the breakers aren’t in yet and it could be a week or more. This isn’t that unusual in Hawaii, so much is shipped in and time works differently here anyway. Still, people can get worn thin. It’s been hotter than ever, 90 degrees F. Even the locals are complaining. It’s some kind of long-term tropical depression.

Our younger daughter, the Nurse, is coming here in just 5 more days. She knows about the electricity situation and the inflatable mattress and the mosquitoes and she can’t wait to come.

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I sit at the peninsula in our kitchen by the landline and a breeze blows through my hair. I feel good.

My internet wasn’t working this weekend so I was a bit stressed. And then I called Tod in Washington, my old computer guy, and when he answered he said, “Aloha!” And I was stunned he knew it was me. “Who else would it be?” he said, and I was so happy. He walked me through some steps (he was amazed that my phone isn’t portable – but that requires steady electricity, which we don’t have yet – which gave him the chills) and got it working again.

Communication and hot water are my two life comforts. If I have these, I can be fairly flexible with everything else.

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There’s one other comfort I’ve discovered, something I can carry in my heart to access anywhere, any time. It took me two weeks to memorize it.

I’m stirring beans on the propane stove when the Bearded One comes inside, dripping sweat, and sits near me in front of the fan. “My, my,” he says, grinning, “a poem might be nice about now.” We both know exactly what he’s talking about.

“The Layers,” I say, “by Stanley Kunitz.” And then I begin to recite, walking slowly toward him as though it’s all a big lap dance.

I have memorized this 44-line, 9 sentence poem, every phrase. I recite it several times a day. The words have become mine. Saying them calms me. Oh, and the Bearded One loves poetry now.

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27 responses to ““Everybody’s on Edge, Honey”

  1. I’m glad you love that poem. I haven’t memorized it, but it’s near me, always

    • Your Facebook post of the poem a couple of weeks ago was my first encounter of it, Lisa! I fell hard and wanted to make it mine, know it, eat it. I was surprised that I could actually memorize something that long any more.:) Mahalo. xxoo

  2. I so love the opening ‘I have walked through many lives, some of them my own’ You cannot have lived a few years without this line resonating deeply within – in me it echos somewhat painfully until I get to the bit about making a tribe out of true affections and then it dissipates. Isn’t it the most wonderful thing to memorise a poem, to make it your own, to take it into sleep with you and to know it inside out…… I know I said you inspired me to do the same but I have been willfully lazy and have not. I thought to tackle Invictus [William Ernest Henley] – but it isn’t as strong and meaty as your offering. I like the beginning ‘Out of the night that covers me’ and the ending ‘….. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’

    I do love the image of you reciting these words as you move towards your waiting husband – what a different and classy lap dance! 😀

  3. Truly wonderous blog Christi. Now I will have to go find that poem too! I love how BO has drawn himself with what looks like stars in his eyes 🙂 . Good luck with the volcanos offerings. Xox

  4. You two make me smile.
    A lot.

  5. You found a way to defeat your fears and your anxiety…poetry recital…quite, internal, slowly spoken, as an invite to dual communion with that starry eyed B.O. or screamed out at the top of your lungs at a lava flow that would redirect and change and make you relinquish your hold again…life lessons. Nature has no control, no desire for control. She doesn’t need it. When she ebbs and flows she sends waves across the world, when she heats up, the other side of the world cools down, when she builds up pressure, she BLOWS! Seems like nature has the right attitude. Your poem is a real mantra for hope, for acceptance and for the inevitability of grace in the face of it all. Can’t they grade channels for the lava to flow down in advance? Hugs from busy Sidmouth 🙂

    • Exactly so, Fran. Poetry recital, who would have guessed it would help so? lol

      Back in the 1960s they did try to bulldoze to “steer” and/or block the lava and it didn’t work. The lava runs in these deep cracks — on the map in the blog the cracks are the blue lines. There are also these huge lava tubes which tunnel all through the volcano. The lava really can’t be controlled, as you say. Acceptance. I was just visiting a bunch of orchid greenhouses down there this morning before I swam. They’re emptying them, trying to relocate all these thousands of exotic plants because they are right in the current apparent path. Hugs back to you as you venture out into the spring and your beautiful Serendipity Sanctuary. xxoo

      • A huge reminder that mother nature is boss. Here’s hoping that mother nature is kind and detours that lava elsewhere. I adore tropical plants but wouldn’t want to have to be relocating them all in a hurry! 🙂

  6. I love love LOVE Keith’s illustrations. He really zens/groks/gestalts it. Bullseye!

  7. Poetry and spirit. Part of my life since I was as little as can be and memorized nursery rhymes.
    I discovered Haiku in Hawaii.
    Why do I live among the green mountains? I laugh & answer not, my soul is serene. Mokichi
    the white iris I forgive myself Roseliep
    Hurricane Odile put out threatening vibes so that Tucson was on alert in an odd kind of way.
    With the forecasts of flooding rains, I drove up to Flagstaff a day earlier than planned – driving up in the dark rather than risking floods on I-10 & I-17. As it turned out Odile was a kitten rather than a wildcat. Brought much needed rain – no monster monsoons.
    Flag was golden meadows, wildflowers blooming white and yellow and lavender. Rain one morning…then dark green of ponderosa, white bark of aspen, and blue blue vast sky.
    Leaves of the aspen
    the moonlight
    G Anderson

    xoxo to you & the Bearded One
    PS He’s captured exactly the spirit of your Nurse daughter running from the plane. Ahh,,my heart said “Oh yes!”

    • Oooo, MAHALO for the lovely haiku, Christine. It’s interesting how we memorized poems as children and then quit. 🙂 I remember the children’s book writing class we met in at the UW back in 1985…how the teacher asked if there were any poets in the room….and you raised your hand high. :)I loved you instantly. So glad you weren’t swept away with a hurricane and monsoons, and that you got to see those gorgeous, wonderful grandkids. Love to you always, Christi

  8. I think of you every time that I hear anything about the volcano on the news. Thanks for including the map. Several years ago I visited the big island and it really helps me orient myself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the the lava didn’t cross the road to Pahoa.

    • Keep those fingers crossed, Sheryl, it seems to be working. 🙂 The lava front has stalled. The top is still spewing, though, but there could be a slight change of direction. It’s very slow and trying on those who try to plan for it. Mahalo for your thoughts.

  9. I love Nurse daughter running from the plane! Hope you’re all having fun right now and the volcano has made a sudden duck underground, taking its sweet time to move any more – at least time enough to build a bridge over that section of the highway. Here’s to hot water, phones and poetry.

    • Thanks, Pierr. It’s true, the flow front has paused…but the community discussion of bridge, ferry, alternate routes continues. Here’s to hot water, phones, poetry and human ingenuity. 🙂

  10. Just as there are cracks where the lava flows unchecked, there are openings in between our realities and our hearts where poetry flows. I love that you have made this poem your own; to me, poetry is best when you perceive that it speaks only to you. It really is a lovely work.
    I haven’t memorized any poetry since “Jabberwocky” and “The Highwayman.” But I do love being able to call to mind specific lines or chunks of my favorite pieces.
    Hugs to you and B.O. as you continue to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances of your new home. xoxoB

    • Mahalo, Becky, for your lovely image and words. 🙂 I love “openings in between our realities and our hearts where poetry flows.” And I memorized Jabberwocky, too, or at least the opening, back in the day!:” ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.” Ha! Such a fun poem. Hugs back to you in WA. xxoo

  11. Pingback: Sometimes I Sits and Thinks ……. | The Contented Crafter

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