Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mahalo Maui, Installment 8

It’s been raining and no higher than 50 degrees since we landed in Portland on Sunday nite. Talk about shock. My Maui vacation is becoming a memory even as I write. I trust that the days of sun and naps and ocean and having my hoosbondi all to myself will sustain me until summer. I remember our Costa Rica adventure last January and the story told by many a native there – “God created the world. And then when He looked down at it, He said, ‘Hmmm, something’s missing. Ahhh, I know what it is!’ And he took a piece of heaven and put it on earth and He called it Costa Rica. And it was good.” I think this story applies to the Hawaiian Island chain also. It’s all good.

Our last few days were filled with beautiful moon rises and spectacular sunsets. We took a nice long drive in the yeppi to the north and got to see more of the valleys that Maui is so famous for. We drove past the PGA courses and into the areas the locals go to surf. Brave souls, surfers. We saw every color of green in the valleys and every color of blue in the sea. Huge, Jurassic Park looking plants. Butterflies, birds, red clay rocks and soil. At one area off the drive path, we got out to walk around and gaze down the cliffs to the ocean. We were treated to more whale show – breaching and pectoral fin slapping and flukes lifted. From our high perch we could see for miles and miles. The air was clear and clean. Seemed like heaven to me.

I have a recipe:


Go into galleries to see all the fabulous art.

Look up the artists on line.

Send them an email.

Ask where they show more of their stuff.

Arrange to meet.

Rendezvous under the Banyan Tree.

Have a blast.

We were SO fortunate to get audiences with Michael Stark and Janet Spreiter. We’d been admiring both of their work all week and were so pleased to have conversations and “talk story” with each of them. Michael has had many lives previous to this one as a popular Maui painter – he’s been a press person in Samoa, a marine biologist, an adventurer with a bit of the archeologist and sociologist thrown in. He used to swim with whales. No shit. Is my jealousy showing? Blond hair, blue eyes, tanned howle skin, beautiful smile and wonderful perspective on the world which he paints colorfully and with liveliness. We got three of his prints and I can’t wait to put them on our TriCities walls. A red fish figures predominately in much of his work. Looking at it makes me happy. I also got a poster of one of his originals of whales frolicking in the sea – 25 percent of the activity going on above the surface and 75 percent of the action under the water line. I swear I can almost feel what its like to be in that world – I’m a whale wanna be. I listed it before, but if you haven’t already, check out his website, We got to hang with Michael as he showed his paintings under the Banyan tree right off the Harbor in the middle of Lahaina. The breeze was blowing, someone was playing slack key guitar and singing Hawaiian music (see next paragraph for this story), people milled about quietly. The air smelled like plumeria.

Ingi and I went over to sit on a bench and listen to the guy singing and playing the guitar. I had one of those experiences you have in the presence of raw talent – when he started playing I just knew we were in for a treat, and then when he started singing, the skin on my arms warmed up and I broke into a spontaneous uncontrollable smile. What a joy. His voice was baritonish with a wide range, melodious and strong. He sang in Hawaiian with a sweetness that could melt your heart. I’d have followed him anywhere – the pied singer of Maui. After several songs I approached him in between and asked if he had any CD’s to sell. He said, simply, “No, I just work in a hospital.” Ok then. He seemed like a gentle healer in a singer’s body and he certainly offered healing through his music on that afternoon in Lahaina. I didn’t even get his name. Typical of me, and of my culture, I wanted a piece of that day to take home and listen to, yet I will have to rely on memory alone to conjure up the experience. Somewhere in there is a lesson – something to do with lilies of the field and of not grasping and of cherishing the moment fully without having to keep some concrete representation of it. When I was readying, a couple of years ago, for surgery, I was listening to a CD of perhaps the most widely known Hawaiian singer, Izzy K, and my nurse stopped by to start my IV. She was Hawaiian, asked what I was listening to, and I shared my earphones with her. Her eyes twinkled, and she accused me of trying to make her homesick. And she said something that has always stuck with me. “You know,” she said, “there are artists just as talented at Izzy all over the Hawaiian islands. They’re everywhere. All you have to do is slow down to listen.” I slowed down. I listened. I heard. Wow.

The same day we met Michael under the Banyan Tree, we also got to meet Janet Spreiter. (see I had seen a painting of Janet’s in a gift store earlier in the week, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was labeled Lahaina Shacks II, and in it was old Hawaii (with a couple of cane houses), new Hawaii (with a more contemporary hale), four surfboards resting against a wall (which I learned later were representations of the boards of Janet, her two sons, and her companion Albert’s), and the central queen of the canvas, the West Maui mountains. The colors of the mountains are spectacular, and Janet has done them justice. Janet’s paintings have so much life to them, color and light. She’s a California blonde, blue eyed beauty all grown up, yet having retained her love of fun and sense of adventure. Some day I’m going to write a story about Janet and Albert. They were childhood friends, he a resident of Lahaina and she a regular vacationer to Maui with her family. They went on to have their separate lives, she in California and he in Hawaii, and they’ve now reunited and struck this amazing partnership. We got invited to their house on Front Street to see more of Janet’s paintings and we spent a charming late afternoon looking at her art and chatting and relaxing. Albert and Ingi ended up in a couple of chairs in the yard, swapping stories of Hawaii and Iceland as they drank beers while Janet and I looked at and talked about art and their amazing “compound”. Their property is large, with several outbuildings and a good sized house that has/is undergoing renovation. Very Hawaiian – tile floors, lots of windows, beautiful woods. Janet has a huge tree growing in the middle of her studio – its actually part of what’s holding up the roof. It will be so cool to see and hear how this property develops. It feels like the land has ideas and a spirit of its own. It once belonged to Albert’s Mom and, until Janet and Albert put up a sturdy rock wall and a gate, it was peopled by folks who wandered in or drove in and camped out or came in to look around. I may have some of my facts wrong here, but you get the feel. So very interesting and beautiful and steeped in lots of history, personal and island. Albert and Janet try to surf every day. Can you imagine? Janet says that if Albert doesn’t get his gills wet on a regular basis, he begins to feel uneasy. Their place has tall coconut trees and big palms and ferns and chickens all over. We were there at dusk and witnessed the chickens as they flew/hopped up to roost in the trees. What a ruckus and a delight. Albert and Janet must be in their fifties, but they look like teenagers with their tans and their surfer’s bodies and their happy smiles. Janet, generously and graciously, gave (yes, GAVE) me two of her small paintings – a couple that were sitting in the not currently for sale pile. They are amazing studies of the landscape, mountains and ocean and coconut trees, and I will cherish them forever. I’ve already started my savings for a giclee of Lahaina Shacks II, or perhaps one of her newer work “Surge” (which Ingi calls Brim – roll the r hard. Brim means surge in Icelandic). Surge is a view of some volcanic rock being plummeted by the ocean – the blues and the blacks are intense and alive. Ingi says it could easily have been painted looking at the Atlantic off an Icelandic cliff – it would just have to be a bit grayer than the Hawaiian Pacific blue. If I win the lottery I’m gonna buy her out. Anywho, we felt gifted by Janet and Albert’s genuine Hawaiian hospitality. We stopped by their place on our way to the airport on our last day and dropped off some of our excess groceries – beer and poke and fruits and veggies – and were even able to pass on some Icelandic chocolate. From one volcanic island peoples to another, the gifts were given and received.

As I remember more of my adventures during this particular Hawaiian trip, I’ll add them to the blog later. For now, I’ve ridden my once again bumpy plane home to the northwest, folded myself back into my work, and am preparing myself for the big move from our Portland condo on the Columbia to our Richland house on the 16th hole of Horn Rapids. There is much to do, and I hope I can maintain my footing as I scurry through my days. I’ve got brudda Iz on my ipod, plumeria lotion on my skin, visions of Hawaiian quilts to make, and Maui art to hang on my walls. If that’s not blessed, I don’t know what is. Live Aloha.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Maui Morning, Installment 7

I think Mike has a bit of OCD. I like it. I got up around 6:30 a.m. this morning and padded out to watch the light arrive over the pacific. The moon was setting right over the sea and I took some pictures with both Ingi's camera and mine. I have a feeling neither camera will be able to capture the beauty of the scene, yet I tried. Mike, the condo caretaker, was quietly and efficiently vacuuming the pool in the dawn. Then he hosed the deck area, lined up the lounges just so, and squeegied off each chair, first swiping with the rubber blade and then wiping them dry with a cloth. He moves gracefully, almost meditatively. No humming, no missteps. He must be over 60 or maybe even close to 70, but he reminds me a bit of an adolescent puppy -- big feet and lanky limbs. His presence and his carefulness with the property is somehow comforting and soothing to me. I hope he's not anxious inside and it's not fear that drives his precision. I hope its just an appreciation of order that makes him so clever in his daily tasks. Entropy drives his day and night. Replacing chaos with neatness each and every day. Could be a satisfying endeavor if it wasn't mind numbing repitition. Hope it is for him. Satifyfing, that is. As with all things, what ends up mattering is one's choices around personal perspective, yes?

Yesterday Ingi and I went out once more with the Pacific Whale Foundation, this time on a three hour tour (are you humming Gilligan's Island with me?) in the later morning (9 to noon) to chase dolphins this time. We were not lucky in our dolphin pursuit, but spotted bunches more whales, and got to observe a whole checklist of whale behaviors. We happened on a couple of juveniles who were practicing their pec slaps and their breaching, getting ready to enter the world of the male adult who will eventually compete to become a female's escort. We also found a mama and her calf -- very sweet. The baby was clumsy in his imitation of her tail slaps and breaches, and a joy to watch. It made our whole boat laugh and clap. Mom is the size of a big yellow school bus and baby, an SUV. No small creatures, these. All throughout the horizon you could see blow spouts from whales, whales breaching, showing their humpbacks, waving their pectoral fins. What a show it must be underwater!

I'm sure I'm not the first one to feel this, and it's almost dangerous, yet I know I would not succomb to the strong urge to throw myself off the boat and into the water to be with "my tribe" -- even tho the longing lives in my core. I know these are wild animals and a different species from me, yet I feel so drawn to them. I don't know if it's just my tendency to anthropromorphosize or the influence of my culture of if I was born with some DNA coding, but I love whales. I love their song, I love their look, I love their migrations. I'm curious about their thoughts (do they have them?) and their feelings (do they have them?). I tried, perhaps for the first time, to listen clearly to Ingi about his perspective on these magnificient animals. As a native Icelander, he saw many whales in his ocean as he was growing up. They were hunted and eaten, and this fact has been so anathema to me since I've met him that I've figuratively and sometimes literally placed my hands over my ears and hummed "nananananananana" whenever the subject has come up before. But somehow this time I felt desirous of learning about his cultural perspective. "It's just what we did," he said. He remembers going to a processing plant once for whale meat and whale blubber, remarking that the smell was overwhelming. He remembers being on cargo and passenger ships in the Atlantic, seeing whales swim and breach all over the place and not thinking much of it. He says whale meat tastes a bit like pork. He's learned not to tease me about this, and it's actually been decades since he tasted whale. I've introduced him on a deeper level to the animal world in general in our last 8 1/2 years together, and he has opened his heart to our cat and dog family. I told him that eating whale would be, to me, like eating our golden retriever, Sailor. Or, even more intensely, like carving out Ingi-ka-bobs or roasting up an Ingi chop. He hears me when I make these comparisons, but I'm not sure this is a cultural chasm we will ever fully build a bridge across. He did say yesterday that he is opposed to Iceland's continuing to whale, especially since there is no real economic or cultural need to do so any longer. And he does, of course, think that whales are awesome animals. I think this clarifies our differences -- he thinks of them as animals and I think of them as family.

After the sun and the motion of our morning boat ride (it was choppy and rolly and I LOVED it), we came home to nap. I have been looking all over the island for quilt stuff -- authentic Hawaiian quilts, materials, patterns, fabrics, and I found an advertizing for a quilt shop that is in the Ka'anapali Hyatt. We headed that way in the later afternoon and found, happily, the free self parking. The grounds of the Hyatt are stunning, and I was glad I was wearing my fancier flip flops as the attire of much of the folks there was a couple of notches up from island casual. We found the shops with no problem, and I lost myself for half an hour in the small but very beautiful collection of hand made Hawaiian quilts. They are stunning and stunningly expensive. The king size one I'd like in my home was well over $3,000. Instead, I bought a book entitled "The Hawaiian Quilt: A Spiritual Experience". The early missionary women taught the Hawaiians to quilt, and the Hawaiian women took elements from their own religion and legend and island beauty and turned them into fabric art for their own edification. Poakalani (the author) writes: "As their culture and traditions were being stripped away and replaced with Western lfestyles, these (Hawaiian) women sat in sewing circles and stitched the fabric of their history into the delicate patterns of the Hawaiian quilt." Interesting beliefs related to Hawaiian quilting are peppered throughout the book -- "Never design or make a quilt with human figures. It was believed that the figures would walk at night." And, "After completing your quilt, sleep with it for one night and then present it to the one you made it for. This will bind your spirit and love into the quilt." And, "Different varieties of flowers or foliage on one design was unacceptable because God and nature never intended two different species to grow out of the same root." And, "To give someone an original Hawaiian quilt pattern was considered a sign of friendship; but, to actually give that person a completed quilt made by yourself is the greatest symbol of love." I now feel sufficiently informed and inspired to begin the process of making a Hawaiian quilt of my own. I suspect I'll start with small blocks to make pillows and eventually graduate to lap size and larger. I wonder if there are any quilting groups in the TriCities with any Hawaiian quilters in them? Stranger things have happened.....

We had interesting encounters with the Hyatt sales people, specifically two sales ladies. The Hawaiian quilt store woman is white, older, and, at first was not at all welcoming or friendly. She was sitting at a round table in the shop, eating her microwave dinner when we entered. Ingi joined her at the table to read a newspaper as I wandered around the store. I had to pry information out of her about where things were in the store or what the prices were of items. She was curt in her replies, and then kind of brash, not eminating much love or even interest in her job. As I lingered and Ingi also chimed in to engage her a bit in conversation, she warmed up a bit and suggested we try the Hyatt restaurant "Sonz" down the hall for dinner. We took our meager purchases and her recommendation and scored a table at the restaurant right on the waterfall of the huge water feature. Ingi had delicious opakapaka fish and I had shrimp cocktail and a very savory chopped salad (with avocado and smaller shrimps and hearts of palm and organic tomatoes and Maui onion -- are you salivating yet?). It was a tasty (albeit expensive) evening, and served as the one spendy dinner out that we allotted ourselves. During dinner, cranky quilt store woman showed up at our table with my shawl in her hands -- I'd left it in her store and when she discovered it she sought us out to return it to me with a smile. Go figure. Then, after dinner, I stopped in another store to ask a different woman for her suggestion about where to find a particular charm I've been hunting for all vacation. She barely looked at me and barked out, "Try Maui Hands down the aisle" and looked so sour I thought she'd just eaten a lemon. I did try Maui Hands, and they DID have what I was looking for, so on our way out to the yeppi, I stopped by her store again to thank her for her direction. This time, only maybe 10 minutes later, she broke out into a broad smile, said she was very glad for me, and actually waved, yes waved, at us. These two encounters with these women could have gone down in my memory banks as unfortunate and negative Hyatt experiences, yet they were transformed by simple kindnesses and additional contact. Hmmmmmm. Hope I can remember the lessons.

It's been unusually hot here this winter. It was 88 yesterday. I have felt the heat. I prefer 70's and low 80's. Our other winter trips to other islands have been cooler, especially Kauai. I hope my body can adjust back to northwest winter temps. I'll look at my pictures to warm my hands and my soul as I move through January to May in Portland and the TriCities.

Happy New Year's Eve. I love spending this particular holiday season in the tropics. The bulk of my childhood and adolescence holiday time was spent in primarily cold climates and primarily steeped in family dysfunction. Although I've washed most of the trauma and drama of this from my bones, I still find it lovely and cleansing to be in this place that feels so different from my history yet feels more like my natural home. I will look up at the full moon tonite from my Hawaiian island and wish all good things for all my family and friends, for all nations, all peoples, all living things. Maybe I'll run outside at midnite and stick my head in the water to hear what the whales are singing. For me, this is bliss. I wish you yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News from Maui, Installment 6

Aloha again from Maui-licious. We hear its snowing right this moment in both Portland and the TriCities. I bet it's beautiful. So are my Maui waves and blue skies and breezes and 80 degrees. I will not be smug, I will not be smug, I will not be smug.

Yesterday we had wonderful adventures. Had to get up very early (4:45 am) to get down to Lahaina Harbor by 5:30 am to wait in line for our Sunrise Whale Watch cruise with Pacific Whale Foundation. They told us to be in line by 5:30, and like the good little citizens we are, we were dutifully there. So were perhaps 30 others, so we didn't feel like the only sleepyheads. In fact, we waited in line for an hour until we could get on our catamaran, but even waiting in line in Hawaii takes on a lazy, unstressful tone. We had a nice rock wall to sit on, people talked quietly or sipped thier coffee, and we watched the harbor come to life. The Sunrise Cruise catamaran holds 150 guests on it's two stories, and we were only 50 total, so we had lots of room to manouver around. Our captain was Becca and she steered that big boat like she'd been doing it forever. She was aided by Laura and Anna -- our strong all women crew took us bravely out into the Pacific to scope out some whales. Here are some Maui whale facts -- 99 percent of the whales in the water now off Maui are humpbacks. You may find a stray Orca, but it's predominatly humpback season. There are approximately 1200 humpbacks wintering now around Maui. They've come in these shallow warm waters between Lana'i and Maui to breed and calve. There are about 4 males to every 1 female, and we got very lucky and chanced upon a "competition pod" where the boys were all vying for the girl's attention. There were 7 whales in our pod to the one female who kept slapping the water with her side fin. Amazing. The boys breeched and rolled around and showed their backs. We were able to stick with this pod almost the whole 2 hours we were out. Boats can only come within 100 yards of the whales because they are protected and twice we had to actually stop engines because the whales themselves came within the 100 yard boundary. Once when we were stopped, Captain Becca lowered a hydrophone and we could hear whale song. She said what we were hearing was probably from another pod more than a mile away because the pod we were with was most likely not singing. When there is a competition going on, the whales are very concentrated on their posturing and they don't do much vocalization. When they fight for the attention of the female, they don't fight to the death, but they get pretty dang beat up -- ramming into each other and shoving and pushing. It's all very intense. It was awesome to be so close and for the early morning to be so clear. We came back to shore feeling awed and blessed by our cetacean ohana. I hope Ingi's pictures turn out.

We were starving upon our return, exhausted by our whaling, so we found the Pioneer Inn right by the Harbor and bellied up for some really good eggs benedict. After that we came home and showered the sweat off , took a nap, and got up to go roam around Lahaina again. Lahaina changes almost hourly with the flavor of the crowds -- sometimes the cruise ships are in (we saw a Holland America ship, the Zaandam, and Princess Cruise line's the Golden Princess) and then Lahaina perks up with lots of disembarking gawkers and shoppers; sometimes the streets are overrun with kids intent on partying; sometimes the sidewalks are filled with strollers and sleeping hot babies with pink cheeks. We found the local needlework shop (which had very low inventory and not very good stock at that) and we continued our art's walk in earnest. We've learned now about the Giclee (pronounced gee-clay) process (a way to make prints of originals with computers -- the process produces amazing copies), about limited editions, about plein air local painters, about the HUGE Maui art community. We were told more than once that Maui is the third largest art sales (of works by living artists) locale in the world -- second only to London and New York. After all the art galleries we've been trudging into, I believe it. It's been an exciting and unexpected part of our time here. I am listing our faves and where you can find them on websites, but first a bit more about the art community here. It's very eclectic, yet there is so much inspiration in the environment, that there is a riches of Hawaiian and tropical oils and watercolors. Many painters have had galleries of their own, or have shown in the big resorts, but what has happened in the last year or so with the downturn in the economy is that artists have taken to showing their work in parks and in their own garages or homes. When gallery space rents for tens of thousands of dollars a month, it makes sense to make the shift to a cheaper way of showing. We've been invited into several artist's homes, and may even take them up on it later. Anywho, here's our current list. All are living except Eugene Savage. Eugene painted the menu covers for cruise ships in the 30's and 40's (I think. It may be later) and I love his colors and style. We got a giclee of a luau that he painted that is really interesting and colorful.

Jill Ireland
Michael Stark
Monica Sweet (photographer)
Janet Spreiter
Kim McDonald
Suzy Papanikolas and then click on her name
Rik Fitch and then click on his name
Darrell Hill
Leohone (Shari Leohone) and click on her name. She's the one who paints the ancestor paintings I mentioned being so moved by in my previous blog.

Anywho, there is a plethora of beautiful art here. I know I've said this previously, but its true -- it's overwhelming as sometimes can be the sun and the sea and the colors of nature that are everywhere you look.

So, exhausted again from our mad dashes from painting to painting, we tucked ourselves into a table at the Lahaina Fish company on Front Street and feasted on calimari and mahi mahi. It was delicious. Home to bed.

This morning we arose in a more leisurely fashion, but did manage to get out the door by about 9:45 (9 am was our goal, so 45 minutes post goal is pretty good for Hawaii time) and we steered the yeppi up first south around the west Maui mountains and then north to Wailuku. We'd been told to check out the Main Street Bistro in Wailuku (about a 35 minute drive from Lahaina) as it was touted as having the best food on the island. I was skeptical as we entered. It was sans any nice decoration or art, the acoutrements of serving food were piled up within patron sight -- cups and fridges and silverware sitting on tables below the long window where you could see the single chef/owner slaving away. No pretty chairs or tablecloths, no real ambiance whatsoever. I thought perhaps the place had changed hands since the folks who recommended it to us had been there or perhaps this was another symptom of economic disaster on the islands. However, everything seemed clean and there were already several guests seated before us. We had no water view and it was warm inside (the restaurant is right next to the concrete and brick courthouse) but everything shifted when the food came. It was BEAUTIFULLY presented and some of the best, tenderest, yummiest food I've ever had. No joking. The guy used to be the executive chef at Sensei and some other fancy pants places in Hawaii. He's now got his own gig going in this rather unassuming spot and wow is it a gig. Ingi had mahi mahi that had just jumped out of the ocean and onto his plate, served with rice that tasted like candy and lightly fried and crunchy artichoke hearts, asparagas and a white sauce. We both had locally grown organic tender greens with sweet cashews and I had a 3 sampler salad that was pan seared ahi tuna, a terrine of eggplant and goat's cheese, and chicken with some sort of asian crunchy noodles. We ate moaning and rolling our eyes at each bite. The bill was $27.00. Total. It's worth the airline ticket alone to eat here. Come on over and we'll met you for dinner tomorrow. What a treat.

From Wailuku we drove another half a hour to Makawao (pronounced Mack-a-wow), which is upcountry at the base of Mt. Haleakala. Green and pretty, paniolo country. Another arts town, welcoming and small. You could walk easily from one end of the main street to the other in about 15 minutes, but it takes much longer if you go in every store to peek about. We ended up at Viewpoint gallery and happily found a large giclee of Suzy Papanikolas' that was enough discounted that we could afford it. It's actually the piece that's on the cover of the current Maui Upcountry Guide -- Suzy has named it "Wahine Looking Left" and it's a neck up portrait of a lovely Hawaiian woman, her head graced by a lovely lei po'o. Ingi and I are quite entranced and will be extremely pleased to have our Wahine in our home. We will look at her and think of the islands in the years to come.

After Makawao, we headed back north and west to the coastal town of Paia, the town that was taken over by hippies in the 60's and 70's and who are still (supposedly) there. I thought I would like Paia a lot, and I actually didn't find it that appealing. I liked Wailuku and Makawao much better. The traffic was horrible, the shops were not that terribly interesting (or perhaps I'm just shopped out), but we did get some fabulous lilikoi and coconut and pineapple gelato. By the end of the day, Ingi's feet were killing him from all the walking we'd done and my eyes needed a rest from all the beautiful things we'd been looking at, so we headed home before it got too terribly dark. We wound up back at our Lahaina condo around 7 pm, which is just after when the sun has truly disappeared over the horizon. Tired, full, and satisfied, we're both sitting in the living room on our computers, listening to the waves and the Slack Key Hawaiian guitar music we've put on the CD player. It's alllllll goooooooooood.

What have I learned in the last few days? Don't wear any shoes, no matter how cute they are, that don't fit right or support your feet for walking. Jeeps have nice seats but a very bumpy suspension, even on smoothish roads. A down economy makes for chatty salespeople. The light in Hawaii makes greens greener and blues bluer than seems even possible. Never underestimate the wounding power of cruel words or the healing power of a smile. Iced tea tastes really good when you're really thirsty. Gas is too expensive. Hawaii IS actually a part of the United States -- I keep forgetting this.

Ingi said this morning that he (jokingly) thought no one should be able to live like this (referring to the pacing, the beauty, the sounds of this environment). I said to him, "I think, in fact, you mean EVERYONE should be able to live like this." So in closing, I wish you your own version of whatever paradise means for you. Aloha.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Maui Report, Installment 5

Aloha on this fine Sunday morning from the Valley Isle. We're up late this morning as we were up late last nite at the Magic and Comedy Show "Warren and Annabelle's". It was fun. Neither Ingi nor I are usually much for magic, but this intimate setting (78 chairs) of sleight of hand performance was neat. No big disappearing tigers or women being cut in half. Card tricks, coin tricks, hat tricks, jokes. Warren is great with a crowd, and made us all laugh. He even managed to make fun of people in the crowd without being shaming, which I think is quite a feat. He asked people to shout out where they were from and we heard a "Kennewick, Washington" (another small world encounter) and when Ingi declared Reykjavik, Iceland, it stopped old Warren in his routine. He said he'd never had anyone in the crowd (in 20 years) from Iceland. It is so very interesting to travel with Ingi. We give this show a thumbs up.

We walked around a bustling Lahaina after Warren and Annabelle's (Annabelle is a ghost who plays the piano) -- Ingi remarked that it felt like a little Las Vegas. Not all, but most shops open quite late, lots of aloha greetings, many things to enchant and separate one from one's money. And then to come home to a lanai right on the Pacific, not see a soul, and hear only the waves as they break was a 180 in terms of environment. One of the things I love about travel is the shift in consciousness that comes along with a new locale. I feel more aware of my body in different ways here -- I'm consistently warmed up, I'm always sweating or on the edge of a sweat unless I'm in the pool, my skin feels moist and salty much of the time. My face is a bit tingly because of the sun (no burn, just pink) and I'm nursing a few blisters on my feet. None of this is uncomfortable for me, and in fact, my body seems to like the tropics quite a bit, blisters be damned.

The last couple of days have been quiet and slow for us. On Friday we drove up north to the resort areas of Ka'anapali, Honokowai, Kahana, and Napili. On the map it looks like a fair distance, but it's only maybe 25 miles from Lahaina (which sits near the middle left coast of the island) to the top of the island. We saw the beautiful Ka'anapali Golf Course and walked around the big resorts, stopping at the much touted Whaler's Village Shopping Center. Whaler's Village is populated by upscale shops and restaurants in a beautiful setting on a lovely long beach. However, what impacted Ingi and me the most was how many people there were everywhere. This shopping center has it's share of empty stores also, yet this was the first real crowd we felt we were in and I didn't like it. I can imagine that my feelings are just a shadow of what indigenous Hawaiians may experience as they watch the throngs of tourists slam onto their beaches and build their mega resorts. We had enough after about two hours and we slunk over to the ABC store to buy something to get our parking validated so we could avoid the $2 per 30 minute parking fee. I know everybody has their own financial boundaries, and mine are often drawn around when I feel I'm being nickled and dimed. We learned that at these expensive resorts that it costs extra to get a sun umbrella or a beach chair and that you have to pay rent on a beach towel. I just think if they're going to charge you over $300 a nite they could throw in some big towels and sun protection. And there were signs all around Whaler's Village that this was a no parking zone for beach go-ers -- shoppers only should leave their vehicles there. Sheesh. Doesn't sound very aloha to me. At any rate, our drive revealed many little tucked away smallish condo buildings that cater to tourists who like a smaller, more personal environment -- many names I recognized from my hours and hours of investigation on Vacation Rental by Owner ( when I started planning this trip in 2007. Napili Point, Honokeana Cove, Kahana Sunset, The Mauian. All sound wonderful, eh? The Hawaiian language is so melodious to me.

We had a more positive impression when we drove south and east yesterday. We saddled up the yeppi and trotted down the coast to Kihei (pron. Keyhay) and Wailea. I had originally looked at staying at Kihei, but for some reason I can't remember now, we ended up in Lahaina. We quite liked Kihei as we travelled through. We didn't stop there long, but saw many lovely beaches and altho there were some butt ugly large prisonish looking resorts that were probably built in the 60's and 70's there were also lots of sweet low rise buildings and areas with local crafts fairs. We got a good feel for Kihei, and then a great feel of Wailea. Wailea, like Ka'anapali, has some big destination resorts, but somehow in our opinion they pull it off better. We walked around the Grand Wailea Shops, parked in their FREE parking, and were welcomed into the fancy art galleries with warm aloha. For those of you who've ever been to Princeville on Kauai'i, you'll get a feel for Wailea. Beautiful grounds. Lovely vistas of the sea. Warm breezes and muted tones of people talking or soft music playing. We wandered in and out of galleries with absolutely gorgeous art and salivated over the colors and textures of Hawaiian paintings, crafts, and sculpture. A feast for the senses. This whole island is a feast -- everywhere you look there are rich colors and a variety of sounds and textures to take in. Sometimes I think I need to sleep just to block out the sensory overload. Maybe there can be too much of a good thing!

Before we went into Lahaina yesterday, we stopped by a little beach restaurant for food -- The Aloha Mixed Plate. The following is from their menu: "In the early days of the sugar plantations, lunch was a simple affair. Plantation workers gathered in the fields for their mid-day meal. The Japanese laborers would bring teriyaki beef with rice and pickled vegetables. Seated next to them might be their Filipino neighbors with the traditional dish adobo or perhaps a pork or chicken stew. The Koreans had their kalbi or marinated ribs and the Chinese a rice noodle and vegetable dish called chow fun. Hawaiians were known for their kalua pig, roasted in an undergound oven called an imu. It wasn't long before they began to share their foods with one another and the mixed plate was born." Rice and macaroni salad accompanies the savory meat dishes to provide the backdrop for the distinctive flavors. Suffice it to say, it was yummy yummy and they also soothed my environmental sensibilities when I learned that altho they use paper plates and lots of other paper products, they are all biodegradable. They call it "Malama Aina" which means to care for the land and environment. Good on 'em. I'm sure we'll be back there this vacation. If we time it right, we might even get a table in the evening next to the beach where we can catch the music from the neighboring Old Lahaina Luau. Ahhhhh, bliss.

There is one item of great sadness we have to report. We got word from Iceland that Ingi's Aunt Olina Kristinsdottir died on Christmas Day. Aunt Olla, as she was known by me and others, was just shy of her 88th January birthday and had suffered a massive stroke in November, from which she never fully regained awareness or independent use of her body. Aunt Olla was Ingi's Mother's sister, and was an important pivotal part of Ingi's parent's lives. Ingi's first memories of her are when he was four and he was cared for by her for a bit while his Mother was in the hospital with pregnancy complications (with Ingi's youngest brother Kiddi). Ingi has many, many fond memories of Olla -- she was very dear to him. I remember meeting her for the first time in December of 2001, which was during my first visit to Iceland. She impressed me as being this compact fireball of a woman, independent and strong, vital and creative. She loved to travel, and took a lot of international vacations in spite of speaking only Icelandic. She was fearless in her travels and in meeting foreigners, speaking rapid Icelandic to anyone and seemingly just assuming that what she said was understood. In my subsequent visits to Iceland, I know that I would be treated at her lovely apartment to a sumptuous display of traditional treats and sweets, topped off by a hearty cup on fine china of thick and rich dark hot chocolate. She gave us hand made cards and the occasional ornamant every Christmas. Her son Gulli and his wife Kolla have always treated us like visiting royalty. She was (at least) a weekly visitor to her sister Gunna and Torfi's (Ingi's parents) apartment for a meal, and Gunna and Olla talked on the phone many times a day. Her loss is felt by us all, and we mourn her passing. I can conjure up a smile when I think of her as I protect my skin from the Hawaii sun -- Olla was quite fond of deep tanning and loved her days of "getting color" in the Portugal shore. Bless you Olla, and all you leave behind.

On that note, I'll close this particular blog. Hug your friends and family.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning from Maui, Installment 4

Gledileg Jol and Mele Kalikimaka. I'm still a bit sleepy eyed, yet sitting with a full tummy as my Santa hoosbondi just made us omelettes with avocado, toast and stout coffee. What a nice Christmas present. We ate slowly and quietly out on the lanai, listening to the breaking waves and watching the sun creep across the sea toward us. I can see how some people actually might not like being this close to the water -- it is loud and you can feel the power of the ocean coming right at you. I remember hearing once that my Mother was not fond of the noise and the energy of the waves when they lived at Ft. Ord, CA in the 60's. She would have been in her 40's with two children under 10 -- I wonder what she felt about her life in general at that time? What I would give to have her blogs from her travels, her thoughts, her frustations and joys. I miss my Mom. I loved her dearly.

My neice and nephew, his wife and their children, my sister and all their associated family are together in Northern California this holiday. My in-laws and their relatives are in Iceland. Ingi's girls and our grandchildren are in Vancouver, WA. His sister Beta and her husband Reed and one of their visiting sets of children and their grandchild are in Albany, OR. Beta and Reed's son and his wife are in Michigan. Ingi's two brothers and their families are in SoCal. My (last, dear) Aunt Ruthie is in Colorado. We are scattered far and wide. What binds us? Blood? Shared history? Culture? Surely it's not primarily geography, or our associations would have long ago been lost. It's easy to know what makes us family but harder to know what keeps us family. I have no biological children and my parents have both passed on. Ingi called me an orphan yesterday, sad that I did not have a long list of people to call on Christmas. Yet I do not feel sad or orphanish. I feel deep connections to all of my friends and family, a deep love of my animals, a deep desire to care for and comfort all children, all flora and fauna, all living things. There certainly have been times when I've felt friendless or family-starved, but it's been many years since those feelings have haunted me. For whatever reasons, whether they be years of therapy or study of spiritual material or experience or just aging, I have come to see that we are never alone. Along that line, there are some really neat Hawaiian paintings in the fine art galleries here in Lahaina. I don't know the artist, but will make sure to note it during my next visit. They depict scenes of everyday life -- a boy tossing a fishing net, a man in a outrigger canoe rowing heartily against an angry sea, a young girl making leis. Standing around each of these people are the faint outlines of ancestors, showing how to toss the net, rowing along with the kane, sewing with the wahine. I'm not usually fond of fantasy paintings, but these move me deeply. Especially the one of the canoe rower. He is seated in the middle of the canoe, bent over and exhausted. In front of him and behind him are the ghosts of his ancestors, taking over battling the waves as he rests. We are all carried sometimes. We are guided and held and supported, even when we don't know it or feel it. This knowledge sustains me. I think that's why I'm so moved by these paintings -- they represent a truth of our human experience. Perhaps this is also why I feel so akin to the Hawaiian culture -- in their hearts we are all ohana, all family.

Our Christmas Eve service last nite was a magical moment. We ended up at the Church of the Holy Innocents, which is an Episcopal Church that has been serving the Lahaina community since 1862. It was filled with red poinsettias and white candles, red protea and koa wood pews. The side walls were opened up to the air and the ceiling fans created a gentle breeze. People came in aloha shirts and muumuu's, wearing flower leis and sandals. The choir wore silver leis which sparkeled as they walked down the isle and as they sang. The Rector, Bill Albinger, reminded me a bit of Ira Rosenbaum, my Aunt Ruthie's dear friend from their days in New York. Ira would be more inclined to be a rabbi than an Episcopalian priest, but the warmth and welcoming attitude and even the physical presence of Bill brought Ira to my mind. As in most Episcopalian churches there is a lot of congregational response, and it was neat to be drawn up into the service in this way. The Rector wore robes of finery, a beautiful plumeria lei along with his vestments, and flip flops on his feet. He called the children up front to talk to briefly about the Christmas story and then gave them crayons and paper to use to color on as he was giving the sermon. It was all very, very special and sweet. Some of the service was said or sung in Hawaiian, and I almost swooned. There was one particular Hawaiian family that looked like they could pose for the Maui tourism poster -- handsome and beautiful, dark and tall. It made me remember another thing Pu told us on our Hana tour. Although the US government does not recognize any of the living Hawaiian Monarchy, the Hawaiian people know who they are. I think perhaps we churched with Royalty last nite. Oh, and another Christmas miracle: A man from Alaska just showed up to the church the day before the service. He is vacationing on Maui and offered to play the trumpet during the festivities. And yowzer did he play the trumpet! Sounded like the horns of angels. We were truly blessed. Of course I cried throughout the evening -- it was just so touching and tender. As the master poet Rumi wrote -- when one is awake, one's eye's are always wet. Tears of gratitude are easy to shed.

Ingi and I opened our small presents to each other last nite. He gave me a lovely necklace from an Icelandic jeweler, a silver and gold peace dove. I love it. We bought books for each other too -- What the Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell for Ingi and Cowboy and Wills by Monica Holloway for me. We also opened our 2009 Icelandic Christmas spoon from Ingi's parents. I adore our spoon collection. This year's design is drenched in kismet as the handle is decorated with poinsettias. Our Christmas spoon from Iceland is filled with Hawaiian flowers. Go figure. Thank you Gunna and Torfi.

I took a 40 minute walk up the road yesterday. My hair is now three shades lighter after just that short time in the Maui sun. I'm not one to lay about the pool to tan, but I'm thinking now I might actually get some "color" through just walking about or being in the water. If I can avoid burning, I'll be glad. I have that Nordic skin that can actually brown up nicely if I don't burn first. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Maui, Installment 3

It's Christmas eve morning here and I in my caftan and Ingi in his shorts have just woken up from our long winter's nap. I keep pinching myself -- am I really here on this beautiful tropical isle? Yesterday Ingi greeted me in the a.m. with a "Good morning, Miss Coleman. We're in Hawaii!" He looked like a little kid that had just discovered a bicycle under the Christmas tree. Every day here is a gift and we are steeped in gratitude.

Did you know that the Kings Kamehameha were all very tall? King Kam III was over 7 feet tall. All of his wives (he had somewhere between 15 and 23) were 6 feet or over. The influence of the Portuguese and the Chinese and the Japanese on the islands has decreased the height of the original Hawaiian islanders. We saw some tall Hawaiian boys last nite next to some tiny women at Ulalena and I was reminded again of how many cultures have melted together here. Ulalena is a multi-media theatrical performance that would blow yours socks off if you ever wore anything but flip flops on Maui. A cast of dancers and singers takes you through centuries of island myth and story, from the creation of the world (Hawaiian perspective) through population of the island chain, in to the imperial age and ending at the more modern resurgence of Hawaiian culture. When the white guys came, Hawaiians were forbidden to practice their culture in any way -- no native speaking, no hula in public, no spiritual practices. Pu informed us during our Hana tour that through the hard work of many ancestors, the Hawaiian people have now recovered almost all their ancient ways, including medical treatments and navigation by stars. Ulalena tells many of the stories of this culture through drums and chants and dance and puppets and costumes and was a delight. We were entranced throughout the entire show. The only disappointment, and this is true of many things during this trip, is how sparse the crowds are. The chairs were only 50% occupied at most. We were an enthusiastic crowd, but small. We read in our book guide "Maui Revealed" that it's often impossible to get a parking space in Lahaina, and we had no trouble finding a spot on Front Street yesterday. In years past you'd have to line up your tours by summer to make sure you'd get one, and this year we could pretty much have our choice of whatever we'd like to do and arrange it today for tomorrow. The only thing in seemingly short supply is rental cars. Hilo Hatties (a popular Hawaiiana story carrying food, clothing, music, housewares) yesterday was like a ghost town. The Lahaina Center (retail outdoor mall) is only perhaps 50% occupied. Personally I'm rather pleased that the crowds are not crushing, but I recognize that tourism has become such an important part of supporting island people and this economy has really hit them hard. I will do my best to leave here what limited tourist dollars I have managed to save -- I feel it is my patriotic duty. Ahem.

We only saw a portion of Lahaina yesterday on our walkabout. We got some shave ice, we people watched, we went into several fine art galleries to gawk at the expensive paintings and sculpture. We went into a European antique poster store and asked if they had any Icelandic posters. They were stumped and said they'd never been asked for any Icelandic pieces before. It was fun watching them scratch their heads. We might return to Lahaina this afternoon -- I haven't yet seen the Banyan Tree which we hear is the largest in the US. I thought the one in Hilo was US's biggest, but who am I to challenge a tour guide's claim? The largest in the world is in India and covers hundreds of acres. I love trees.

I continue to marvel at how similar Iceland and Hawaii seem to me -- the differences mainly being forged by temperature. They are both volcanic, both have similar myth and story, both grew around fishing. Island peoples love to travel, they love the sea, they maintain a deep connection to family and home even as they trek the world. They welcome visitors, are curious about others, cultivate the arts, and have pride in their heritages. Weather wise, I prefer Hawaii, but if global warming continues then Iceland will either be totally under water or will become the newest tropical paradise. Lets hope neither of these scenarios come to pass.

We met the condo complex caretaker yesterday -- a tall, lanky howle named Mike. He does a fabulous job of keeping the grounds here clean and beautiful. He's up at dawn, scrubbing the pool, lining up the chaise lounges, tidying up. He's doing the same at dusk, plus patrolling the parking lot, giving out info to tourists, making sure the property is shipshape. He used to live in Oregon City, of all places. Another small world encounter.

Decisions, decisions await me. Another cup of coffee? A dip in the pool? Shall I begin reading some of the dozens of books I brought? A morning nap? Lest I gloat too much, I remain mindful that much of the northern hemisphere is blanketed in snow or cold rain and I keep my gratefulness close at hand.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Aloha from Maui, Installment 2

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. Ingi and I just finished our home made dinner and we're sitting in our Lahaina condo, listening to the waves roll in. The sliding door is wide open, the fan above us is circling slowly, every once in a while I can hear the low tones of fellow residents here at Lahania Roads talking. It's all very companionable. Ingi is surfing Icelandic websites as is his wont to do and I'm thinking of the last two days and how time is both flying by and standing still. Is this something that happens particularly on the islands? I'm trying to not wear my watch and I find my sense of time is undergoing some reconstruction (or perhaps deconstruction). Today we took an 11 hour tour and I alternately wished it would be over and then I wished it would never end. But more about today later.

Yesterday was our first day of true non-scheduled relaxation. We drove the yeppi in to the Lahaina Cannery Mall which is right down Front Street from us. We probably could have easily walked it, but we wanted to get groceries at Safeway so we took the vehicle. We toured the Mall a bit before grocery shopping. The islands have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and there were at least 10 empty stores, and not very many shoppers for it being the Christmas season. As many of you know, I've been attempting to pare down on all the "stuff" I have -- it's been a serious attempt in the last couple of years. However, I found myself excited once again by "stuff" primarily because it's Hawaiian style. I thought I was done with wanting any more chotchsky, but all those cheesy Hawaiian trinkets at the ABC store and all those carvings out of kukui nuts and all those plumeria patterned bags and towels and the Hawaiian CD's and the Hawaiian etc, etc, etc, called out my name. "Maaarrrrry, take me home!" I heard as I roamed the isles. To distract myself, I went into a gift store that carries mostly locally made crafts and overheard the sales woman talking to a young couple who said they were on a cruise ship and were in Lahaina just for the day. I joined the conversation and wished them a good experience. They asked where I was from and I replied, "Portland, Oregon". They smiled and said they had flown out of the Portland airport to begin their trip, but they really lived in eastern Washington. "Where in Wahington?" I asked. "A small city that's part of three", they responded, "Pasco". I laughed -- "We're moving to Richland" and we all had a small world moment. Here I am in Lahaina, Maui and I run into people from the Tri-Cities.

Anywho, we made it out of the Lahaina Cannery Mall without forking over a bunch of money and got some great poke at Safeway and came home to eat it and enjoy our view. For those of you who don't know poke (pronounced po-kay), you're missing out. We got tuna and it was delicious. Ingi ate his raw and I heated mine up a bit and it was still melt in your mouth tender. Poke is usually made from any type of fish and seasoned with lots of flavorful spices and marinated in lime juice or soy sauce. There are often a sprinkling of noodles and onions and garlic -- poke is great just by itself or over rice or with veggies. We had our first poke from the Kauai Costco several years ago and this Safeway recipe is as tasty as all get out. I'm sure there is more poke in our future this week. I took my first dip in the pool here yesterday evening and the water felt like velvet. The pool is actually a pretty good size for the small complex that we're at, and it goes up to 6 feet deep, which I quite like. One of my bucket list items is to swim some day with dolphins and I got pretty close last nite because the bottom of our pool is tiled with wonderful whale renditions. They're so realistic and beautifully done that when you're swimming and looking down in the water it's not too much of a stretch to believe that you're truly having a whale encounter. Lovely.

We slept well last nite and woke early to start our day long tour today. We signed up with Valley Isle tours to do the Road to Hana. We got picked up at 7 am by our van of 12 plus one driver and began our adventure around the island. I picked this company because they are one of the few that don't turn around at Hana but keep going clockwise around Maui to make a full circle. We had a great day, albeit long and conducive of sore butt syndrome. Our driver, Pu (yes, pronounced pooh) is a Maui born and raised woman in her early 60's. Long, long thick black hair and a smooth Hawaiian voice. The history lessons she gave us were amazing and very interesting -- I'm sure Ingi will be quoting trivia from her for years. It's really neat to get a tour from a native. We remember this from when we were in Costa Rica. There is just a certain love of the people and the land that comes through when a native is speaking of their homeland. Pu drove that van with ease and panache through all 617 of the Hana "Hi-Way" curves, making us glad we had left the driving to her. Maui is lush and green, green, green and we got eyefulls of waterfalls and plants and flowers. We stopped at a black sand beach, the 7 Sacred Pools of Oheo, and lastly the grave of Charles Lindberg. She pointed out Jim Neighbor's property, Pat Benatar's property, and Oprah's property. We saw fat, happy paniolo cows, nimble goats, tons of birds, a few horses, and lots of squatters and hippies along the unimproved hinterlands past Hana. There is a stretch of road that says "very bumpy" on the Maui maps; Pu says its only 8.5 miles but feels much longer. She's right. We survived and had incredible vantage points at every twisty turn of the ocean and Mt. Haleakala and taro fields and the hills -- elevations from 10.000 feet that were covered with clouds to clear blue sea level. We never would have gotten all the fabulous information we did nor would we have seen what we saw if we had driven it ourselves. We went through a couple of towns we want to explore later on our own (Paia, Kihei) and now we have a much better idea of what to do there and what to look for now that we've gotten a foundation of information. Pu dropped us off around 6 pm and I took a dip in the pool with the whales to wash off the sweat from the day while Ingi cooked up the mahi mahi. All in all, a pretty dang good day. See why I wish you were here too?