First Light

“Come look here.” Tom grins and walks over to the lamp on the kitchen counter. It’s late afternoon and he has been working hard here all day. He reaches for the lamp plug and leans over the counter to one of the new virgin outlets he’s installed over the past weeks to electrify this old off-grid hippy house.

“Is this IT!?” I say, and then run out onto the lanai to call the Bearded One. “Electricity!” I holler, and the Bearded One leaves the site of Moby Dick (the downed cedar he’s making into a jungle gym for little kids) –


and all the hugelkultur beds (dirt atop rotting tree limbs) –


he’s constructing from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle’s debris to witness the birth of the first electricity to travel through our new wiring.

Snap. The dining room is bathed in light.

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The dark tongue and groove wood of the room glows. But the most amazing thing is the silence. No generator is on. Silent light. This electricity is from four bright-green solar batteries under the house which cost about $500 each and come charged. They will last 15-20 years if we take care of them well, not letting their charge get below 75% and adding distilled water to them monthly.


“IT WORKS!” Tom says. We clap and hug and decide to celebrate the moment sitting around the vintage wooden card table I bought at a garage sale last week for $15 —


and drink Coke (the Bearded One), Mountain Dew (Tom) and potable water (me) and bask in the color and the quiet.

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Tom sat here earlier on this long hot and humid day with his computer, studying electrical connection diagrams. Now he sits back and stares off into space. Sweat streams down our faces.  It’s the tropics.

A breeze rustles the palm leaves outside and then fingers its way through the screens and across the room. “The trades are coming back,” Tom says and the Bearded One and I both pray he’s right. In the six months we’ve lived here, we’ve experienced the first direct hit hurricane in 150 years, a volcanic eruption and lava flow slowly descending Kilauea toward our closest town, and the hottest, muggiest September since the 1940s.

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Tom tells us he’ll be back tomorrow to hook up the big new propane generator, which will fill the four bright-green solar batteries on rainy days.


Our nine solar panels are installed on the roof, but not hooked up yet. A needed part was shipped Fed Ex priority, but ended up on a barge for 4 weeks, so we’re living on batteries (juiced up with a big generator an hour or so a day) without solar panels.

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This is okay. The Bearded One and I are saturated with new information at each increment of this path. Now it’s learning to nurture batteries for a long life.

Tom packs up his tools and by the time he says good-bye, it’s close to 6pm and getting dark. The Bearded One and I sit down again and are discussing how batteries and fancy electric cables are now a fact of life and that he must get another propane tank since we have another mouth to feed (generator), when there is a loud knock on the door. The Bearded One hops up. It’s Tom.  He charged his computer in his truck all day, and then ended up staying longer than he thought.

He just stands in the doorway for a long moment, looking mildly flummoxed but still grinning as he asks, “Got any jumper cables?”


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20 responses to “First Light

  1. YAY ELECTRICITY!!! YAY BATTERIES!!! Congratulations all around.

  2. It occurs to me that Hawaii has welcomed you into the fold turning up the volume on all four vital elements – earth, air, fire and water…… Well, maybe not the ‘earth’ part – but heck that’s the land that holds you up while the winds wreak havoc, the lava flows seemingly endlessly and the sweat pours out of you ….. 🙂 And I so appreciate being made aware of how I take flicking that switch for granted! I hope that errant part arrives soon – poorly done FedEx!! Arohanui xoxo

    • Hey, Pauline, did you see your painting in the photo of the living room? It’s on the bookshelf to the far right. No frame, but nothing has a frame. I love it! The colors are the colors of Hawaii. And yes, lava is new earth, so it qualifies for fire and earth, I’ve decided.:) Hawaii is the only land mass on the planet which is currently growing. I just read that somewhere. Global warming is shrinking the continents.

      I know what you mean about taking the light switch for granted. Never again! Aloha xoxo

      • I did not see it at first – I was too busy admiring the light coming through the windows. I raced over and biggified that photo and yes, there she is! That warms my heart 🙂

        See I hadn’t thought that through properly – so you do have everything! Better build a guest room or two, as our countries begin to disappear [NZ is supposed to shrink] we shall all start swimming furiously towards Hawaii 🙂

      • We’re working on the guest quarters. Please do come! I LOVE the painting, Pauline. The orange and blue are so Hawaii.xo

      • I wish I could! My daughter is coming next year though – she and her partner have been three or four times and simply love it – They were in your part of the world a couple of years ago and want to go to Molokai and some other place I forget next time. I get all the excitement of the holiday without the travelling 🙂

  3. Ah Christi and Keith! Such a wonderous thing to have that we all take for granted in our own respective mainlands. Your producing your electricity in a green way and the earth will thank you. Me ka aloha pumehana (with kindest regards :))

    • Mahalo, Cathy, for the lovely Hawaiian blessing! We still use propane and batteries, but the idea is to use less. And to support alternative methods of energy production. It feels complicated now, but it will become habit soon (they say 27 times in a row and a habit is born)! Aloha! xoxo

  4. This is such a cool process! You are a great writer and a great teacher. I’m learning a lot! I can’t resist, “Silent light, silent light, all is calm, all is bright”. I’ll stop there! So happy for you guys! How wonderful!

    • LOL I was going to title the blog Silent Light, but Keith came up with First Light and I liked that better. And many thanks for the compliments, Susan. You’re such a bright spot on our horizon. 🙂

  5. Christine Widman

    The miracle of electricity.
    Here we are having solar panels put on the Catalina Guest House roof tomorrow. So we can share solar stories!
    I just read that tropical storm/possibly hurricane “Ana” may hit Hilo and then veer toward Honolulu. So I have you, Keith & His Majesty on the Big Island and our son and daughter-in-law in Waikiki. Guess who will be checking the weather in Hawaii?
    Wow. The earth keeps turning and we keep revolving/evolving in one way or another.
    Tell the Bearded One I love his Starry Night with Jumper Cables. Touched a little heart spot.

    • Aloha Christine! Yes, Hurricane Ana is almost upon us, but it has veered some to the south so it won’t be a direct hit. Still, they’re predicting 85mph wind, up to 20 inches of rain and 30 foot waves! I hope Matt and Rung and hunkered down, too. I’m sure they are. Everyone here is on alert after Iselle, in aloha-mode and preparing. Love you, and good luck with your panel installation! xxoo

  6. Thanks for sharing your interesting life. I know how you two are together and always smile when I read.

  7. And THAT is irony is it not Ms Christi? I love that you have light again, crystal clear, natural and most quiet light. What a steep learning curve you guys have had to endure over the last 6 months! You have come through it all with flying colours. Must be that bit of Texas in your blood girl 😉

    • It’s the Texan, yes, with a bedrock of Montana in my geology. All my grandparents and great-grandparents were Montanans and are buried there. Not necessarily huge brains, mind you, but survivors. Hugs from Hawaii! 🙂

      • Huge brains weigh you down. Knowing what to do with your brain and how to use it to good effect is more important. And Tom said “Let there be LIGHT!” and there was light… 😉

  8. Wahoo! Silence…what a relief. Good news. Life without earplugs is so much sweeter!

    • Aloha, Becky, and you know so well about the joys of hearing the small noises. 🙂 Also, I just found out from my swimming buddy that the owl is in fact a Pueo! She’s a bird lady and has rescued barn owls and this is not one, she says. It is such a blessing. As is your friendship.xxxooo

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