Dragon Woman

“It’s all barometricky out there,” says the Bearded One. It’s Saturday morning and I sit sweating in my chair next to the window in our upstairs bedroom. I grunt, a sort of nasal harrumph out of the inactivity of my project-free weekend. I need something to do.

“I have no life,” I say.

Today is the first day in over two weeks we haven’t been under a hurricane or tropical storm alert, which is also practically the entire time I’ve been home from the mainland after attending Grandson Cy’s birth last month.  Cy is doing well.

Cy and Molly in bed

And so is Roger the dog.  And Molly and Ben.

Ben and Roger

It’s also hot and humid and mosquito infested and I feel worn out. Even though neither Guillermo nor Hilda hit, we tied down and tucked away anything outside, rounded up plywood window coverings and food and library books, filled propane and gas cans, and notified relatives and friends that we no doubt would lose internet and phone if it hit.

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We stayed close to home and didn’t schedule anything, all lessons from last year’s direct hit by Tropical Storm Iselle.  I’m grateful we didn’t get hit, but the aftermath of such intense preparation is a kind of void, like getting ready for a trip and then not going.

Everything annoys me today. Cobwebs and dust in the house. Rampant lilikoi vines choking palm trees. Beautiful and bloated historical novels of Hawaii that break my heart. The world was a very different place until just a hundred years ago. Kids died, diseases wiped out hundreds of thousands. I stare out the window at the blue skies and sparkling sun – I need a project.

“You could mow,” offers the Bearded One, using a tried and trusted trick of his. It’s true, mowing has never failed to improve my mood. However –

“Yes, I could,” I say. “But I don’t want to.” A long pause, then I add, “It just grows back.”

He is unfazed. He helps me process. “Hm,” he says, pacing around and examining our small upstairs area. “Well, I need to help get this termite repair project set up for you. And get supplies for painting the beams. You’ve talked about wanting to take that on.”

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There are a million projects we’ve talked about doing on this old Hippie House, and I could embrace any of them, but I’m not.

“I want to begin something new and different and full of purpose and meaning to-day,” I say. The words trigger tears.

The Bearded One looks out the window across our lush tropical acre. He has a heart project, I think. Two banana patches, one in the front that already existed but wasn’t thriving.

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And one in the back corner, which he is building directly on the lava, layers of brown and green vegetation to make the necessary two feet of compost. We love bananas, especially the little apple bananas that grow here.

“And it’s not to start a novel.” I’m scowling now. Writing another novel is always my default go-to knee-jerk first-idea solution to the problem of what to do with my creative juice, even though the writing spirits haven’t moved me sufficiently in 20 years to warrant all that work.

“Okay,” he says. “No novel.”

“And not dry more fruit.” Although that was a fun project this week. Jackfruit, papaya, pineapple and mango – all from this property, sliced and spread out on baking sheets and set on the dashboard and front seat of the closed-up truck. Two days in the equatorial sun and they are bone dry.

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“That was a great project,” he says, still scanning the grounds through the huge screened windows that make the upstairs feel like a super-elevated lanai, like we are truly outdoors.

“And not cook.” Even though I love my new kitchen counter and sink and windows.

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“We eat like kings,” says the Bearded One.

“I’m fasting today,” I say. (I’ve developed a 10 cookie/day habit this month that has to end.) “And I am not going to even think about a vegetable garden!” (It’s too hot here, the sun scorches my every attempt, there’s no soil. Besides I can get fresh stuff local – higher elevation farms – inexpensively at the market on Sunday.)

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“I’ve already disassembled the planter tubs,” he says.

“And I thank you for that,” I say back, and finally breathe.

I think of the white pineapples growing here that I love to eat, how choked they are with weeds. I think of the pineapple factory workers in the novel I’m reading, 12 hour days, dismal pay, racism, plantation labor, abuse, the blatant overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. I think of the Hawaiian word for the land – ‘aina (EYE-nuh) and how Native Hawaiians see their identities and well-being entwined with the ‘aina. Respecting it and living with it are of utmost importance.

Swimming in the ocean connects me to this place, but the truth is, I haven’t connected to this land yet. I stand up. I have to get outside.

I start weeding the ginger bed right off of the lanai.

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Ripping and tearing, snakes of vines circling the tall leaves, crawling up ti (TEE) trees and obscuring huge lava rocks. I wear long sleeves and pants and boots and gloves and work for a couple of hours, sweating with a purpose.  I won’t much notice the spider bites (the Bearded One gets them all the time…) until later.

Inside I drink glasses of water and sit in front of the fan.

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Then out I go again, careful of my back, continuing my weeding, drawing closer and closer to the dreaded Bromeliads which encircle the northwest side of the house. Dozens of giant, six-foot serrated razor-sharp leaves in a cone, sitting on the lava in virtually no soil and holding gallons of water in their bases, a mosquito larvae heaven. I have thought of taking them all out so many times, but…

Today is the day! I pull at a leaf and discover that I can actually dislodge it. One after another, I tug and twist and disconnect the individual Bromeliads from the base octopus of root lying on the lava. Water pours out over my pants and boots and socks as I tip the monsters, then I grab the root and drag. To the fence line  up at the back of the property, back by the new banana patch.

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Six maniacal two-hour sessions over two days I work. All weekend. The area slowly opens up and I see the base of the mango, an orchid planted on a branch. I smell savory ginger and sweet puakenikeni.  The Bearded One has removed both the crocus and the strawberry guava trees that have been super conspicuous for the year we’ve been here.

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It’s cool and shady and I think there are already fewer mosquitos. I thank my 58-year-old body for the strength to bend and pull and drag, to get really dirty and sweaty over and over again.

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Bone-tired and smiling, I ask the Bearded One to help drag the last brontosaurus Bromeliad the rest of the way. I am draggin’ it uphill towards him.

“You,” he says, studying my flushed face, sweat-soaked attire, and fierce accomplishment – he waits until I look up – “are a draggin’ woman.”

I lean into him and say, “Well, grab hold. Let’s get this sucker outta here.”

Chop wood. Haul water. Drag Bromeliads. I feel much better.

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37 responses to “Dragon Woman

  1. I love this post. I feel that way sometimes. When I do I have to move and take on a big project. We are so much alike. I’m proud of all you got done. I don’t have your health or strength but I do have similar determination when I feel shitty. Good for you! Mahalo. Much love, Susan

  2. Love the photo of Cy – and once again, The Bearded One’s expressive illustrations, then whoo-hoo! Let’s hear it for that Drag’n Woman in us all.

    • Aloha, Pierr! I know, about that photo of Cy and Molly, so dang cute. When I first saw that photo I just howled and jumped around with joy. The Bearded One LOVES your praise, so I’ll be sure to pass the sugar. 🙂 Love you.

  3. Christine Widman

    Ah Christi….chop wood…carry water…a guide to finding spiritual fulfillment in everyday life. In my library. I always think of this book as a “hippie generation” book but it was published in 1984 when my love & I and our 4 kids moved to Seattle. I loved the NW blue and grey and water everywhere but I was also deeply up-rooted from my sense of place & family…the east coast and Europe. That uprooting was when I truly became the children’s book writer I had dreamed of being, rooting myself in words. Back then you & I both turned to words in a time of “what is our life”? & it so beautifully worked for us both.
    Now I am tied body and soul to this desert landscape and I sense something of this “nature” is within you also. I love our synchronicity even miles and miles apart. Last week I (with the incredible help of Pierr who was visiting) worked hours and hours and hours (in 103 degree heat) on our property…pruning trees and raking mesquite pods…hauling wagon loads of detritus back to our enormous compost pile. And in the process (again with Pierr’s encouragement) creating a sacred place in a “dark corner” of my laundry courtyard.
    And like you – in the process of sweat and tears (thank goodness no blood) – found once more my core of “spirit in the life of the land.”
    Your blog “enlightens” me. Thank you (& the tender Bearded One) for sharing your life in this Universe with all of us.
    Love you dearly.

    • Oh, dear Christine, what a lovely message. We, you and I, did turn to words. In an almost life-or-death kind of way, at least for me. And now, in addition, we are turning to the land. You are 10 years older than me, which boggles my mind as you run miles and groom the land in the desert heat. Mahalo, and much aloha to you and Den. xo

  4. There you are, not writing a novel, just writing all our collective frustrations into one beautifully prosed ‘how to get soulfully happy’ manual! I love BO! He is so quietly understanding and supportive……… I love how he leads and follows and nudges and waits for you to get to where you need to be and then is there too, cheering you on. What a man!!

    I was looking at my two furled bark fronds that BO made for my dangler of international happiness yesterday and thinking of you, wondering how you were doing now all the excitement of baby Cy was done and dusted so to speak. I am so happy to know you have taken yourself in hand and are creating your very own purposeful Hawaiian aina connection. Isn’t life wonderful Christi? Arohanui xoxo

  5. Still identifying your place in the scheme of things and post “Tutu” Ms Christi. Good on you for remembering the basest of life lessons, the “get up and get going” lesson. If you are stuck, depressed and embuggered, get yourself up and just “move”. Get out there into it and “do something”. It inevitably takes your mind off whatever you are thinking about and gives you a physical release for all of that tension. You might not be able to move in 2 days but whatchagonnadoeh? BIG hugs and SOOOOOOOOOOOOO jealous of your “yard”. It looks like tropical paradise! I will trade you 1 acre of our frigid cold frozen tundra for a teensy bit of your mosquito ridden tropicality…deal? As always the B.O. is your Yin-yang opposite. You had the luck of the Irish when you met him Ms Christi 🙂

    • A wise lady, Ms Pimblett! And I was sore to my bone marrow…but not hurt. No injuries, some scratches and spider bites (on my boobs! arg) and lots of cleansing sweat. I’m glad I don’t have to do it every day, thankful that I can rest when I need to. Both Keith and I are paying more attention to that after his back was out for a month. Growing old together, yin-yang. I am sooo lucky, I know this. Aloha to Steve, Earl and Besial, too. xo

  6. HAHAHAHAHA! I spy you in the rear window of your truck Ms Christi taking elevated shots I see 😉

  7. Brilliant depiction of Maku‘u Market. Captured it to a T. https://laaupaina.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/more-makuu-market/

  8. Just what I needed to read today; thanks, Christi. You know. when my friend Mrs. Crafty feels down, angry, stuck, whatever negative thing is besieging her, she CLEANS!! That impressed me so much when I was staying with them late this past winter that I decided to make that lesson to heart. It’s working quite well, too. And if I had a garden and a barn, you know where I’d begin, don’t you? 🙂

    I love the photos; baby Cy is the cutest wee bug around, isn’t he? And the BO’s drawings are as captivating as ever.

    I’m so impressed by your sweet hippie fruit-drying machine, too. I wonder if you put a stove near it and hooked up a big hose, if it would serve as a fish smoker, too?

    Haven’t seen any news for days now, so wasn’t aware of the ‘chance of hurricanes’ in your forecast. Glad they missed you and nice to know you were well prepared. If you have your library books, you can’t go far wrong, eh?

    I agree with Narfie and Pauline when it comes to dealing with things and even more with their comments on the BO; you are blessed. But then, so is he . . . 🙂

    Big hugs to you both; I’m looking forward to seeing that bit of ‘aina as it becomes fruitful again. ~ Linne

    • Mahalo Linne! And I sooo know about CLEANING when negativity strikes. It runs in our family. My great-grandmother got charged for floor damage once because she scrubbed it so much! lol This time, I still cleaned, I just took my rake instead of my broom. I worked all this weekend outside this weekend, too. We’re still hurricane-humid, storms 300 miles out, no big threat. Thanks for the lovely comment, and I truly know how blessed I am with the Bearded One. He makes me laugh every day, about something. I think of you and your mom often. Are you getting any of the smoke from the Washington fires?? Hugs and love, Christi

      • I noticed the other night that the setting sun was that odd shade of red, and later the full moon was very dark red, too. I’m assuming it’s the fires. We have quite a few in BC, too and some may be from there. Two are in Rock Creek (where my sons’ dad and I looked for land once upon a time and near Oliver, where I have lived up in the hills twice ad where Mum and I would be living now (well, not in the hills this time) if Dad had been able to finish renovating their last house before he got sick. They were planning to move to Oliver that year (’99). I feel for all the poor people who have lost their homes, cars, animals . . . such a hard time . . .,
        Love and Light to you, Christi my friend and to the BO, too. Laughing is good . . .

  9. Wonderfully energising blog Christi 😄. I love your conquest of the jungle to reveal the hidden places. Beautiful photos too.

    • Mahalo Cathy! I dragged bromeliads all this weekend, too; the job is done, at least that part. The space feels so good I just want to keep on clearing. The birds are flying under the canopy now where I can see them. 🙂

  10. How gorgeous is that photo of bubby! Lovely. So glad you feel better after all your hard work in the garden 🙂

  11. Hard work is wonderful therapy. I love the digging, chopping, pulling, dragging kind of outside work. Sweet photo of baby Cy, too. Love his beatific smile.
    As you prepared for tropical storms, Washington has been on fire. So very sad – over a dozen major wildfires in E. WA. The smoke is thick even on the west side, and the sun has been blood red in the mornings on my way to work. Yesterday it was warm and the haze hung in the air until late in the day when the winds shifted. It’s clearing up today somewhat, but if it’s bad on this side, how much worse is it over the mountains? I pray for the fallen firefighters, homeowners having to rebuild, and folks who have no place to live now, and I pray for those brave, dogged souls fighting these fires day after day.
    Anyway, I love that you’ve dug in, so to speak. And once again, BO’s wonderful illustrations are perfect. xoxoB

    • Aloha Becky, Oh the fires! The pictures are horrifying. Smoke blankets the whole state. I love Washington and hate to see this happening. I pray for everything you listed as well, and add to that rain. It’s time for Seattle to get rainy again. Mahalo for commenting. Hugs, Christi

  12. Love this blog Seestor! And, great work project. Tangible. I think that’s why I love mowing lawns 🙂 Great results. Great pics and drawings and love your and Bearded Ones supportive exchanges….love abounds in your tropical paradise xoxox

    • Aloha Seestor! Tangible is right. And even though I love mowing as you do (is this unusual?), I needed something a bit more permanent this time. The grass has grown back, but the bromeliads are still gone! At least for a few months. Everything grows back here. Love you xxoo

  13. Love the update. We live near a cemetery where the mosquitoes multiply in the flower containers of the graves. Who knew there was so much standing water in a cemetery? And when will we hear from The Bearded One? I wonder what his narrative voice would sound like. Is he up to it or is that a line in the sand that shall not be crossed? Cheers. Ross

    • Aloha Ross! Ha! Bromeliadish flower pots and urns! Same principle and makes complete sense. At least the mosquitoes leave in the fall/winter in Seattle. I wish ours would migrate. 🙂 I invited the Bearded One to guest blog, saying he has fans who would like to hear his voice! He declined. “I just draws my little pictures,” said he. And so he shall remain voiceless, but ever-present. Cheers back to you, Ross, and a few hugs, too. xo

  14. Christine Widman

    PS #1
    Just had to let the Bearded One know….his barometricky was a LOL for me! I have been thinking about it because we are having all kinds of monsoon madness here. Clouds building up in gargantuan!!!! white mounds of fairy tale magic & amazement before the storms.
    PS #2
    Your new kitchen looks so bright and welcoming.
    Oh…and PS #3 I always loved to mow the grass too! Curious.
    xoxo
    C

  15. Christi — I loved this post. You are such an inspiration. I am trying to so hard to connect to this 2 acres in North Carolina that am now living on but between the dense vegetation, the heat and bugs there is a whole acre I haven’t even set foot on yet. I cheer you and the bearded one on as you become “of Hawaii”. May the projects there keep you smiling!

    • Aloha Sherrie — and thank you! I’ve been thinking about you and your big move and enjoying your various thoughtful blogs about the process of transitioning to retirement and a country lifestyle. Heat and bugs, I hear you! We have discovered fire ants on the property now, ug. They’re an invasive species that’s been here just 3-4 years and are menaces Texans know about. I cheer you in your brave venture. Hugs from Hawaii!

  16. It’s always fun to read about what you’re doing. Even The day-to-day events and activities in your life sound like interesting adventures to those of us on the mainland.

  17. Hi dear, your sketches are so genuine and funny. Thanks for sharing and congrats for this interesting site ❤

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