The saga of the cesspool

I’ve always lived in places with municipal sewer systems. Here on the Big Island, I have a cesspool. Hawaiʻi, one of the smallest states, has more cesspools than any other. A cesspool is a mysterious thing, dark, unknown, creepy, and until now, I had no reason to unearth the mystery.

Was the cesspool here?

Was the cesspool here?

But I decided to extend the driveway on the side of my house. For this, I had to know my cesspool’s location, because the weight of a car could crack the cement cover. But where exactly was the cesspool? Digging through an old file, I found evidence of its general vicinity off the back lanai. It might or might not be in the way of the extended driveway.

Or here?

Or here? Either way, finding it meant much plant removal.

I called in Paul at Bob’s Sweetwater Pumping Service. Like a doctor conducting a colonoscopy, he worked a small camera through our sewer pipes to locate the hole. It revealed many roots and a high “water” level, not surprising since we had just suffered six weeks of daily rain. “Might need to be sucked out. Find the hatch and we’ll take a good look.” Cesspools theoretically never need to be sucked, but there are exceptions. Crap.

img_1520Knowing the camera position didn’t tell me how far the cover extended, which was my real goal. So I set my yard guy and friend to the task. My husband calls Steve a “Force of Nature.” This 50 year-old has superhuman strength and endurance, running circles around even fit 25 year-olds. I showed him Paul’s brightly painted line on the grass that indicated where the camera had been. “The house’s main sewage pipe into the cesspool ends here. Dig down until you find cement. Then make a trench until the cement ends on both sides.”

img_1521Steve found it, about a foot down, and dug up the dirt a foot wide and about six feet across. He also removed the vegetation a good seven feet across, all the way to the fence line. I was alarmed at the carnage, but that was only the beginning. The foot wide path did not reveal the hatch.

About this time my husband decided to jump into the trenches (so to speak) with Steve. He’s a hydro-engineering contractor with a mainland utility company: a dam engineer, or a damn engineer, depending on my mood. I could see that for this project, it would be the latter.

img_1080With my husband’s “guidance” Steve dug up most of the cesspool perimeter. It showed the cover’s edge was a good two feet from the proposed driveway – Yeah! We also found the hatch and called Paul back. After his investigation, Paul declared the cesspool to be fine, but recommended we remove the large heliconia clump nearby (travelers palm or Ravenala madagascariensis) to kill the roots in the cesspool. Within a week, Steve and company had that part done.

All that was left was to update the house plan document to show the cesspool’s location, which my husband said he would do. He also pointed out that if we turned the cesspool img_1538into a patio, it would always be available, just in case we had to access it again. He was serious. I made it very clear that we’d be covering it again.

Steve was anxious to get it done.

“What’s so hard about drawing a circle on a piece of paper?” he asked.

“Just wait. You’ll see.”



This was my husband’s opportunity to use engineering toys and even buy new ones! On the weekend, I found a series of 21 fluorescent markings around the cesspool cover and 21 corresponding iron rods. (“Don’t take a picture of the uncapped rods. It’s probably an OSHA violation.”) Having spent seven years working on nuclear power plants, he was now in full triple-redundancy nuclear mode. God help me.

survey-measures-must-be-aligned-orthogonallyThe following weekend, he recruited me to help take survey measurements from each of the 21 rods to three different reference points in the yard. My job was to ensure that the reference pole was absolutely straight (I had to call out “the level bubbles are aligned” before each reading) and write down the measurements he called out. Then he brought out his good Brunton compass, and took additional multiple readings. Unfortunately it began to rain, so we had to stop before getting to the other two reference points.



Same deal the third weekend, taking measurements from the second reference point. Bored and cranky, I baited him. “Aren’t you incorporating error into your measurements by having the surveyor’s rope twisted?” I should have kept my mouth shut. Luckily it started to rain again before he could re-set the equipment without the twists. Steve stopped asking when he could fill in the hole.

img_1338On the fourth weekend and the third set of measurements with the third reference, I began to rejoice. So far we had taken about 120 measurements in seven hours, just to locate my cesspool cover, precisely and accurately. But who cares? Just draw the damn circle! Meanwhile, my new driveway was already cleared, grubbed and ready for gravel!


My husband informed me that we weren’t done. Today, we would also remove the hatch and take measurements inside. “This is like an archeological dig. You get all the data you can, because you might not be able to come back.” Not that I plan to come back.

img_1440He mentioned that I would need to take pictures from inside the cesspool. “No way! I’m not sticking my camera in there!”

“Okay, okay. Keep your pantaloons on. But bring your tape measure. On second thought, I’ll use mine. Might get shit on it.” Of course, he meant that literally.


He lay down on the cesspool cover. “Take my visor. I don’t want it to fall in.” Then, using a new toy, a Bosch GLM 35 Laser Measure, he stuck his arm up to his armpit into the hole, and called out a series of numbers. I was busy writing when I heard him cry out and swear. “Sorry. Nearly lost my glasses. Caught them with my other hand.” Ick! Later we measured the distance from his hand to his armpit (22 inches) so he can adjust the measurements. I don’t make this stuff up.

img_1452Are we done yet? No. He saw something odd down there. (I never did get confirmation that turds float in cesspools.) So he fetched his 1500 watt halogen construction light, tied it to a tether and stuck it down the hole. “Write this down. At the west point, there is a vertically standing pipe, about 3 inch diameter. The open end is about two feet from the top of the cesspool and clogged with dirt.” He was clearly more intrigued with this new mystery than I was.

img_1484Finally he replaced the hatch, but expressed great concern that now there were some gaps around the edges. Sensing another engineering project, I told him to use Great-Stuff to fill the gaps. “Let the record show that it was YOUR idea,” he said. “This will make it very difficult for the next person to get this hatch out.” I pray that it is not me.

As he cleaned up his tools, he reflected that “we have learned some things. It appears to be a hole dug straight into the dirt…”

Our kitties enjoy playing with the survey equipment

Our kitties enjoy playing with the survey equipment

“That’s what a cesspool is!”

Ignoring my interruption, he continued, “…and my measurements show that it’s about six feet in diameter.”

“That’s what Paul told us four weeks ago.”

“Yes, but we have confirmed it.”

Sigh. “Can I tell Steve that he can fill in the dirt now?”

“No. Not until I crunch the data, in case we have to repeat something. Then we’ll put heavy-duty plastic on the cover and THEN Steve can fill in the dirt.”

I wonder how long that will take.


img_1439If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in Adjusting to Hawaii, home, Honoka'a, husband, learnng new things, working in my yard | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Come dance a meditation – Ecstatic Dance in Honoka‘a, HI

ecstatic-dance-posterLet’s dance! Ecstatic Dance. It’s “a moving meditation that develops a direct body-spirit connection,” and is not as odd as it sounds, though it does have guidelines. Guidelines for dancing? Yup. Check out the  website.

The first time I heard about Ecstatic Dance was two years ago. Suelang and Eden, who operate the vegan café in town, started offering this opportunity on the third Sunday of the month. Where? The Honokaa People’s Theatre, of course!

img_1203Unfortunately, the time overlaps with my Mindfulness Meditation group. We do occasionally take fieldtrips, so I raised the possibility of attending Ecstatic Dance, right down the street. We’d have time to do our 25 minutes of seated meditation and the 15 minutes of walking meditation. All we’d have to do is exchange our hour-plus discussion with a mindful dancing meditation. They weren’t buying it. I don’t blame them – this was a bit outside of my comfort zone too.

description-of-ecstatic-danceSo I put off going, even though I know the lovely couple who sponsor it. They are the exact opposite of judgmental and they assured me that the whole point of Ecstatic Dance is non-judgment and getting into yourself, not paying attention to other dancer/meditators. That is probably the underpinning of Guideline #2: No talking on the dance floor. It’s a place to meditate, not socialize.

Then the holidays at the end of 2016 cracked open an opportunity. Ecstatic Dance moved to a Monday in December due to a conflict with a special event. Now I had no excuse not to attend.

Eden is the usual DJ at Ecstatic Dance.

Eden is the usual DJ at Ecstatic Dance.

When I entered, the dance was already underway. The lights were low, with only stage lights changing from red to blue to purple, and a side door opened to cool the space letting in a bit of brightness. Eden is the usual DJ, and he plays world music. As I removed my shoes and found my way to a spot on the dance floor, participants accommodated my presence and gave me space. I tried to avert my eyes from the other dancers, respectfully providing them their bubble of privacy. (Guideline #3: Respect yourself and one another.)

What I vividly remember most from that first time was the feeling of exhilaration that flooded through me. I was DANCING again!  With the exception of a nephew’s wedding and a couple of work Holiday Balls, the last time I had gone dancing was on an early date with my husband – in 1988. That’s 29 years ago!

im-dancing-againHere I was, dancing as Spirit moved me, wilder (perhaps “non- standard” would be a better descriptor) than ever before in public, eyes closed, attuned to the music, literally feeling the beat in my chest. Elated, joyful, excited, just me and the beat. I played with moving closer to and farther from the giant speakers. When standing in front of them, I felt the floor shake – another dimension to the experience. I was totally hooked.

We are lucky to have Suelang; she and Eden do so much for the community.

We are lucky to have Suelang; she and Eden do so much for the community.

The music has a structure over the two hours of the event. The DJ designs it to beat faster and louder with time, hitting a peak, and then slowing back down. It’s sort of like an aerobic workout session, but for another purpose, that of connecting with yourself in this physical meditation.

sometimes-people-dance-together-in-ecstatic-danceWhile this is not a social dance, friends acknowledged me with a smile and a nod when our eyes met, and a few people danced together and then separated again. It was so liberating to know that I could do any moves that inspired me. That’s Guideline #1: Move however you wish.

This month, with Ecstatic Dance moving back to its normal Sunday schedule, I decided I must go anyway. So I went to Mindfulness Meditation, stayed for the seated and walking meditation, and then explained that I was headed to the People’s Theatre to dance mindfully. They asked questions, curious about my experience. I told them that people our age were very well represented. Perhaps they are opening to the idea. Maybe one day I can get them to come as a fieldtrip.

Even the family boys participate in the Ecstatic Dance Events, staffing the admissions table.

Even the family boys participate in the Ecstatic Dance Events, staffing the admissions table.

If you’re here the third Sunday of the month, 4:30 – 6:30 pm, come dance. It will be the best $7 you’ve spent in a long time. And you can feel good about it because they donate their portion to some worthy community group every month!


(Note, all photos are from the January event. I was given permission to take photos of specific people.)

BTW, Suelang and Eden put out a newsletter covering all the events they sponsor every month. Sign up to get it at :



If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in Being present, getting out of my comfort zone, Honoka'a, Honoka'a People's Theatre, learnng new things, Meditation, music in Hawaii, Personal growth, Small town life, Things to do on the Big Island | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Manifesting an Awesome New Year

Many people are happy to see 2016 in the rearview mirror. But 2017 is not likely to be any better for us personally, unless we take matters into our hands/hearts/minds to manifest intentions for the New Year. Those intentions may be choosing new habits, deciding to put more adventure, kindness, patience (fill in the word that fits YOU) in your life, or adopting new attitudes. Note the verbs – intention setting requires action.

winter-solstice-clip-artWe’ve had several special opportunities to embed these intentions. There was, of course, the Solstice. Here’s what Anita, my dear friend and yoga teacher, sent out.

Tomorrow we celebrate Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a time for honoring the birth of a New Year and manifesting our dreams or visions for the year ahead. Solstice is a magical, contemplative time on the darkest day of the year. The darkness allows time for spiritual reconnection and rituals. Solstice is a time to celebrate renewal, plant seeds for rebirth, and set those intentions to the coming light ahead.

When darkness happens, we are forced to look within and change our course or direction. Solstice is the perfect time of year to create a ritual, one that asks us to tune in deeply, listen to our intuition and trust that inner voice that is guiding us to change or manifesting. We can use the Solstice as a time for deep meditation to reflect on what has been working in our lives, what has not and where to make changes. 

I wanted to share some ideas, for making your own Solstice ritual. Invite light in your life for the coming year!

  1. Find a cozy quiet space in your house to set your altar table. Grab a warm tea and notebook.
  2. Set six tea lights in a circle on that table. This is where you will place your intentions.
  3. I like to invoke my contemplative time with a mantra. A simple mantra for manifesting is “Sa Ta Na Ma” that we have been doing in class. This mantra allows the creative energy to flow and creates changes in your reality. Use the mantra with music and chant along with it to create a sacred energy feeling. Either way, close your eyes and repeat the mantra for at least eleven rounds, visualizing a clearing of energy.
  4. Now take time to contemplate what you want to change or manifest in the New Year ahead. Let your inner voice guide you. After you write these down, hold them in your hand and infuse them with love and trust. 
  5. img_0456Place those written intentions in the circle of light, close your eyes and visualize the feeling of them manifesting. Invite a sense of calm and belief in yourself as you are setting those intentions into the universe.
  6. Bring your hands to your heart and give gratitude for the universal guidance you received and allow the universe to support your dreams. Breathe and release through your exhales, the movie behind your eyelids (the story you continually tell yourself).

I wish all of you a magical Solstice celebration filled with courage for change and celebration for those visions in your heart! – Anita

Anita always finds ways to inspire me. This ritual certainly did. But if this is not your cup of tea, make up a different one.

Dianne and Anita

Dianne and Anita

Just because you didn’t do this on Solstice doesn’t mean it’s too late to set new intentions. Last week was also the new moon, a time of setting intentions for the next month. So Dianne held a New Moon, New Year gathering where we wrote out our intentions for the next month and the New Year (Dianne always thinks expansively). We planned to burn them in her fire pit, but it was raining. I saved mine and will either burn or plant them as soon as the weather dries out a bit. During this gathering I added verbs to my intentions.



Then there’s the traditional opportunity of New Year’s Eve. I planned to attend the Hongwanji Temple’s New Year’s celebration with meditation (an opportunity to reflect on intentions), incense burning, temple bell ringing and of course, the fireworks display. But when the rain picked up, I opted for spending time with my daughters at home.

While I, and perhaps you, may have missed a couple of these special intention setting opportunities, there’s still plenty of time.

tut-2017-30-day-programIt’s one thing to set intentions and another to manifest them. So I am again doing the 30 Day Project through Notes from the Universe to cement this year’s intentions. It takes 28 days to create a new habit, so doing this 5-to-10-minute-a-day project is perfect timing. Try it.

There is never a bad day or time to set intentions for one’s potential. Just do it.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in asking the Universe, Meditation, Personal growth, Serenity rituals, yoga | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

I kissed a sea cucumber – Sea Discovery Center in Poulsbo, Washington

I sometimes get talked into doing stuff that would not otherwise occur to me, like kissing a sea cucumber . . .

img_0239When we visited Seattle last week, my daughter and I explored Puget Sound with Chris and her daughter. Even the rain did not keep us from standing out on the deck of the car ferry as we cruised across the Sound to Bainbridge Island.

downtown-poulsboFrom there, Chris drove us to Poulsbo, a charming village settled by Scandinavians in the 1880’s. What better way to spend Small Business Saturday than wandering here – not a big box store in sight.

sluys-bakeryThe downtown is pure Little Norway, and the shops are delightful: Boehms hand-made chocolates (some of which left with us in little bags), Sluys Bakery with gingerbread houses for sale in the window, and the many vintage clothing, antique and thrift stores!

For lunch, we took window seats at The Loft, right on the waterfront. I risked offending my companions by ordering the garlic-y chicken tortilla soup: delicious, spicy, and perfect for the weather.

SEA Discovery CenterThen we visited the SEA (Science Education Aquarium) Discovery Center right across the street – a chance to be inside when the rain intensified. An outreach of Western Washington University, the center offers a hands-on experience for creatures you might encounter in Puget Sound tidal pools. The touch tank sits right inside the entrance. We immediately oohed and ahhed over the creatures including sea stars, and I jokingly said, “There’s Patrick!” (of SpongeBob SquarePants fame). “No, I’m Patrick,” said a friendly voice behind us.

hands-on-tidal-poolPatrick is the Aquarium Director. He welcomed us to wash our hands and then stick them in the tank. Everyone else wanted to do it, but I wasn’t so keen on the idea. “No? Well look around and come back. Maybe you will change your mind,” he offered. We explored, then watched an excellent film Secrets in the Sound by diver, Florian Graner in their theater.

Finally, we stopped in the restroom and my companions duly washed their hands without soap as Patrick has instructed them. I did too, more to warm my hands in the hot water. We returned to the tide pool.

touching a sea anemone“Ready?” asked Patrick. “Let’s start with the Painted Sea Anemone.” He looked right at me. I’m a good student, always trying to please the professor, so I put my hand in to feel the waving tentacles. It felt strange, and I backed off.

“You don’t need to pull away. Just put your fingers close. Don’t put them in the middle. That’s the sea anemone’s mouth and anus.”

“Okay,” I said warily, and offered my fingers to the swaying tentacles. They felt a bit like Velcro, sticking to my fingers. “Cool!” I meant it literally too – the water in the tank was about 50 ̊ F. No one else wanted to try it.

touching-a-sea-urchin“Now how about the Red Sea Urchin?” I instantly told him about my friend Dianne who had stepped on urchins at Anaeho-‘omalu Bay this summer, and was picking spines from her foot for a week. “No worries,” he said. “Those are poisonous urchins. These are not.” With that assurance, I did as he instructed, placed my finger between the spines so that the urchin could “hug” it. Indeed, the spines closed in on my finger – felt weird. Chris touched it too, but the girls declined.

hands-on-with-a-sea-starThen on to the Giant Pink Sea Star. They used to be called starfish, but they aren’t fish. I was surprised at how hard each arm was, yet the sea star moved them readily. Patrick explained that they had plates that move relative to each other, which allowed the arms to move. But moving arms is not how the sea star travels. Patrick turned the sea star over to show me the tube feet that extend from the arms. There are hundreds of them! Now that was cool!

We went to another part of the touch tank and Patrick picked up a different sea star, called the Leather Star. As he rubbed a spot between its arms, he explained that this sea star emits an odor to ward off predators. “Here smell it. What does it smell like?” I took a good sniff but could not smell a thing. “Do you do any cooking?”

smelling-a-sea-star“Yes, all the time,” sniffing hard this time. Still nothing.

“Anyone else want to try?” he asked, looking at the others. Both girls took a sniff and made unpleasant noises, wafting fresh air into their noses. “It’s a garlic smell!”

“Oh, well that explains it. I had a very garlic-y soup for lunch,” I said, surreptitiously smelling my breath.

patrick-proffering-a-sea-cucumberFinally we moved to the California Sea Cucumber and Patrick picked it up and held it out for me to examine – a large purplish fleshy blob.

touching-a-sea-cucumberI have never liked snakes or even worms. My sister used to chase me around the yard with worms, me screaming all the way. So this fat sea cucumber held no appeal for me. “Go ahead and touch it.”

“No, I don’t want to,” I grimaced.

“Why not? It won’t hurt you.” I thought about it, wavered, and then decided this was the time to face my irrational fear. So I reached out one finger to touch it, and then several fingers to stroke it in a kind of horrid fascination. It was unexpectedly firm. Patrick pointed out the five longitudinal sections that showed it was related to sea stars.

kissing-a-sea-cucumberThen he said, “Now you have to kiss it.” Slowly, he pulled the blob to his lips, kissed it, and proffered it to me. With a very strange attraction, I pursed my lips and sort of hypnotically bent over . . . and kissed the damn thing. What the . . . !

Aaack! I whipped away quickly. “I can’t believe I did that,” I sputtered, wiping my lips.

ack-i-kissed-a-sea-cucumberHe laughed. “I can’t believe you did that either.” My daughter was staring at me with wide eyes. All I can say is that Patrick was so engaging that he mesmerized me with his teaching. I definitely got a good dose of biology that day.

Then we returned to the restroom to wash our hands again, though my companions had mostly wimped out. We left and headed back down the main street to find coffee and a snack before leaving town. Personally, I could not eat a thing.

SEA Discovery Center Aquarium Director, Patrick MusI highly recommend an excursion to Poulsbo if you visit Seattle, and definitely explore the SEA Discovery Center if you find yourself there. Just watch out for Patrick . . .


sea anemoneIf you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in learnng new things, Tidal pools, Travel, travel as a transformation tool | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Seattle Beachcombing

img_0148When I learned I’d be celebrating Thanksgiving in Seattle with my daughter, I immediately sent word to my beachcombing buddies who live there. Who wants to go to the beach on my free day?


Seattle beachcombing gang June 2016I had enjoyed a lovely time beachcombing with these gals in June, and looked forward to a second opportunity. Sherri had to work and Leslie was maternally engaged (new Grandma!), but Chris and Lynn were game. Of course, living in Hawaii where seasonal changes are subtle, I intellectually knew, but did not internalize, how dramatically the weather changes from June to November at higher latitudes.

img_0216Wednesday morning dawned sunny, apparently an anomaly. As I waited for Chris in front of my flat, I regained the knowledge that sunny can still be brutal. I went back in for more layers, and began to wonder if perhaps my friends gave up beachcombing in the winter months and they were just humoring me. No chance of that, both ladies declared later. Beachcombing is a year-round obsession.

bundled-upWe returned to the spot we combed in June. As we left the tree- sheltered parking lot and headed to the left of a lighthouse, we saw more clouds than in town, and the force of the wind off Puget Sound hit us full force. Luckily, we were all pretty bundled up. It was not quite as fierce as Damon Point where we met at a beachcombing conference more than a year ago. But it did rip the tears right out of my eyes once we made our way to the beach. I’ve learned to partially overcome that by walking with my back to the wind, in this case, backwards. It’s very difficult to beachcomb when you can’t see.

perfect beachcombing glovesChris noticed that my hands were in my pockets, so she handed me the perfect pair of mittens for beachcombing with the fingers exposed. Unfortunately, over the course of the morning, I found myself using them to wipe my sniffles. I’ll have to take them home and wash them before I can give them back to her.

some-of-lynns-bone-collectionAlmost immediately Lynn started finding bones. She’s been beachcombing for 10 years and has collected everything from glass to fishing bobbers of all colors and sizes. So she was happy to add to her bone collection.

Chris is currently collecting driftwood. There is a plentiful supply here along the Sound; the beach is littered with tree limbs and whole tree trunks. We even found a carved trunk. img_0157Upon closer inspection, we could see that the carvings had been painted a reddish color at one time. Both gals said it must be a recent beaching, as they had never seen it before. They follow some excellent beachcombing advice – know your beach. That way you recognize an anomaly when you see one, and you know where to find specific things. For example, on this beach, there’s a section where clay babies are plentiful. I saw some wonderful shapes among the concretions and picked up several, along with some driftwood.

img_0163At one point I thought I spied a red marble among the rocks, and shouted “Marble!” My companions quickly came over. But no, it was a hard berry.

We made our way down the beach to where it disappeared, and turned around, but found the tide was coming in. Skirting round the logs, I stepped ankle deep right into an incoming wave. The temperature of the Sound is around 42 ̊F at this time of year. Yuck, cold and wet socks and shoes. Oh well, one of the hazards of combing.

img_0165On the other side of the lighthouse, we found shelter from the wind, and the combing was different; still plenty of bones and driftwood, but no clay babies. Here the sand was soft and dry with fewer rocks and shells. About 40 seagulls hung above the water some 50 feet out and we wondered what they had found. Indeed, one of the best things about beachcombing is this opportunity to study nature.

img_0330I’ve become more discriminating in the sea glass I put in my bag. If they aren’t “cooked” enough, Chris’ expressive word for tumbled and frosted, I throw them back into the water to “cook” some more. A nice piece of sea glass can take 20 – 30 years to develop that patina. Pottery shards are another matter – anything goes. I scored a shard of blue pottery and two white pieces. The shard with the bumps is intriguing.


Along the way, Chris and I recalled our other beach-combing last summer. We went to Alki Beach on the edge of a busy shipping lane. Alki has a long history of being a dumping grounds, so beachcombing is good there and is a well-known site. The beach is mostly rocky, with the occasional piece of seaglass. Chris found a gorgeous large blue chunk.

can you find the marble?The beach also has sections covered in drying kelp and seaweed. In fact, that’s where I found a marble and a lovely piece of shell covered in a miniature seaweed composition. Can you spot the marble on the dried seaweed?

beachcombing in SeattleA gentle rain brought me back to our present adventure in November. No one said anything as we ambled along on the sand back towards to parking lot. About five minutes later, Chris said, “We better get moving before it starts raining.” I laughed out loud. This is the difference between unrepentant beachcombers, especially those who live in Seattle, and everyone else. As they said again and again, “There’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach.”


img_0327PS. Here’s what I collected while beachcombing in Seattle: clay babies, driftwood, pottery shards and sea glass.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in beachcombing, friends, Making community | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sure signs it’s fall in Hawai‘i

on Mamane St in HonokaaSeasons change very subtly in Hawai‘i. But after 5 years of living here, I can see the shifts. Fall is a mix of cool rainy days, often too many in a row, and warm sunny days often with low humidity. I relish those sunny days as the best of all the seasons. As I walk to yoga practice with Anita, I notice how far the sun has shifted, rising straight along Mamane Street. My long early-morning shadow reaches before me, and the sun warms my back as I walk.

On those overcast and rainy days, I start wearing capris, even pants, and a sweater over my shirt to yoga. No more shorts and sleeveless tops. I may even keep the sweater on for the whole class!

Honokaa People's TheatreAt 6 pm on Sunday when Mindfulness Meditation ends, it’s now after sunset and I have to walk home in the dark. Luckily, Honoka‘a is anything but scary. (For more, see A Safe Cocoon.) With only two restaurants open at night, the streets are mostly empty. The globes from the Honokaa People’s Theatre welcome theater-goers to the Sunday night showing, and I enjoy seeing their soft white light, beacons in the deserted street.

fall-crop-of-starfruit-and-orangesMy starfruit tree bears hundreds of starfruits, yellow- green to golden in the sun. Last year, Thomas and Kim lassoed the tall branches that were impossible to reach and bent them slowly, so that now almost all of the fruit are within reach. The last few I’ll be able to pick with a ladder. I took 75 to the Hāmākua Harvest Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning, and will bring another 75 this weekend. The good news is that if they don’t sell, they get taken to the food pantry. My little orange tree is also laden, but I save these for family and friends.

harvesting-macadamia-nutsMacadamia nuts litter Stacy’s front lawn and I get to harvest them for my own special roasting of mac nuts. The picking-up is just the first step in a long process of drying the nuts on my back lanai, removing the husks, drying the nuts again on the outdoor rack, cracking the shell off, drying the nuts again in the oven, and finally roasting. It will take a couple months before we taste them. At the moment, I have 100 pounds of nuts drying out back.

The Packers play football and some Sunday mornings or early afternoons I am lucky enough to watch them. Not all Packer games are televised here. The better their season, the more games I get to see, sitting on the couch with my coffee. Even for a Cheesehead, It’s just too early in the day to drink beer.

crab-spiderOn the downside, the crab spiders (they look just like little crabs) come out and spin webs everywhere. I have to wave a broom or dropped palm frond in front of me as I walk through my yard. They’re prolific little hard shelled arachnids.

The ocean is also cooler and the waves can be bigger – often 10 to 14 feet! When that happens, prudence demands that we abandon our ocean bobbing. That’s okay; soon winter will be here, and instead of swimming, we can watch the humpback whales.

All in all, I appreciate the blessings of autumn, and am grateful for the eyes to see them. Being present and living in the moment can do that for a person. Aloha.



For more on macadamia nuts, see:

Watch them like a hawk

Macadamia Academia


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.


Posted in Adjusting to Hawaii, Being present, Honoka'a People's Theatre, learnng new things, Macadamia Nuts, Meditation, plants in my yard, Small town life, yoga | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Exploring Ka‘ū (Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach and Naʻālehu)

My sister asked me if I ever stayed home these days; I’ve been indulging my passion for travel, right here on the Big Island. These staycations have made me appreciate, once again, the wonder of living in Paradise.


Last weekend, Dianne, Julia and I traveled to the district of Ka‘ū, home of Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach Park and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. We stayed in a two-bedroom rental for $75/night – such a deal! The pool and hot tub were within sight of our lanai, as was a mesmerizing view of waves crashing into a point of lava.

pond-with-water-hyacinth-and-water-liliesOur first stop late Friday, was Punalu‘u Beach. I had been there last year with my sister and one other time many years ago with my family. But these were just quick stops on our way to somewhere else.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach ParkThis time we could really explore. To the left of the parking lot, there’s a large pond with invasive water hyacinths and water lilies. This pond is part of a wetland system fed by springs and small streams. A strange-looking duck strutted around nearby. It was so peaceful just looking at the still water, even though the surf was pounding just feet away across a small isthmus of black beach.

father protects/hold child in cold waterPeople reading books and snuggling couples enjoyed hammocks strung among the many palm trees. On the ocean side of the isthmus, there’s a swimming beach where a young father had taken his child out into the cold water, hugging him close as the waves tumbled to shore. It’s a small beach, but it’s the largest spot on the shoreline not lined with lava rocks. It’s also one of the few beaches on this side of the island.

basking sea turtlesI remember on my first visit being astonished to find actual black sand. When lava flowed in this area it exploded as it hit the cold ocean, pulverizing the black lava.

sea turtles basking in the waning sunAs we walked along the beach to the right, we came to a spot where Green Sea Turtles sometimes haul out onto shore to rest. They also swim 700 miles to nest here. Peak nesting season is from May to December. All sea turtles are protected by state and federal laws. My sister and I felt lucky to see one in this spot last year. So Dianne, Julia and I were astounded to find ten on shore, basking in the remaining sun. I knelt in the sand behind the rock demarcation line to watch these beautiful old creatures, enjoying the wind at my back and the retained heat of the black sand late in the day.

img_9769This south-eastern part of the Big Island is quite windy when the trade winds blow in across the Pacific, accompanied by large waves. Indeed, for the Friday-through-Monday trip, the wind rarely stopped blowing, and we even decided not to swim one evening because of wind-blown white caps in the pool! But for the most part, the wind was a welcome break from the usual heat/humidity here at sea level.

sunrise-and-sunset-at-resortThat evening and every other, we enjoyed watching the sunset while cooking for each other and eating outside. The lanai was a sheltered spot, so we didn’t lose our dinnerware to the wind.

The evening sky colors were calming. Sunrise was equally beautiful but energizing. Ka‘ū’ provides the vistas to see both. I don’t get to enjoy the horizon or sunrise/sunset from home because too much lush vegetative growth hinders the view. So I took this opportunity to relish these “vista” moments.

Sea turtle on swimming beachSaturday we returned to Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach and enjoyed the sight of a very large sea turtle basking right on the small swimming beach. He was quite the celebrity, with people taking his picture while maintaining a respectful (and legal) distance. I imagine that people who brave the rough water and swim there often get surprised by the occasional passing sea turtle.

the-water-is-cold-at-punaluu-black-sand-beach-parkI tried the water, but it was much colder than the beaches on the Kona side. Not that I would have plunged in anyway; I understand that the rip tides are strong here. Of course, this is the onset of “winter,” and even the Kona ocean has been cooler in the past three weeks.

Afternoon found us in the resort pool and hot tub, and then we took a nap. The wind in the trees made it easy to fall asleep. Besides, we needed to be alert for the evening, when we drove the 34 miles to the Jagger Museum Overlook at the Volcanoes National Park. We had heard that the Halema’uma’u Crater lava lake had risen again and was quite active.

glow from Halema'uma'u Crater 12 miles awayAs we began the ascent from sea level to 4000 feet, we began to see a red glow in the distance. At about 3000 feet, we stopped to take a picture. With the Jaggar Museum Overlook still about 12 miles away, and the glow so visible from the highway, our anticipation grew.

active-volcanoArriving around 9 pm, the parking lot was half full. The strength of the wind nearly blew us off the path. The crowd was mostly young people, many taking selfies of themselves and the lava lake. They may have actually got something this time, for I’ve never seen the lake so active. We could clearly see fountains erupting from three locations, though my camera was not capable of capturing the enthralling sight. Soon the weather got worse with sideways-driven rain, and even the shelter of the building wasn’t enough. So we dashed to the warmth of the car, talking about hot chocolate on the way back.

active-volcano-daytime-flamesThe next day, we decided to go back to the park to see the lava lake in the daytime. It was the first time I was able to see more than the billowing sulfur dioxide smoke. When the wind fanned the fumes away from the surface of the lake, I could see a speck of red – a lava fountain. It made my day.

the vistas of KauBesides active lava and the Black Sand Beach, I was excited to visit the sweet little town of Naʻālehu, the Southernmost Town in the USA. The route along Highway 11 passes through macadamia nut groves and small farms, with vistas of Mauna Loa, the ocean, and fields that had once grown sugarcane.

punaluu-bake-shopThe town itself has less than a thousand residents. But its bakery is famous as the “Southernmost Bakery in the US.” Punalu‘u Bake Shop and Visitor Center had many kinds of malasadas and other treats. Malasadas are a donut-like fried sweetbread without the hole, brought to Hawai‘i by Portuguese immigrants. Some places, like Tex Drive-In in Honoka‘a, fill them. In Naʻālehu I tried the malasada with lilikoi icing; it tasted like real lilikoi. When we arrived just before 9 am, a line of people waited for them to open. Overheard: “I caught your new malasada song at the festival. Loved it! Who in the band wrote it?”

“I did. It has a Dire Straits flavor.” These folk love malasadas.

And while I hesitate to mention bodily functions in the same essay with eating, I must tell you that they have modern, clean bathrooms in the Visitor Center part of the operation, something that might be hard to otherwise find in this remote part of the Big Island.

Hana Hou RestaurantHana Hou, a cute little restaurant down a side street, specializes in pies – two cases of them! We ordered coffee and shared a piece of macadamia nut cream pie – the best I’ve ever had. They make them and everything else they serve. If you order a burger, it’s local beef on a homemade roll. If the daily special is roast turkey or roast pork, they are roasting it in the back. Mashed potatoes are the real thing. Coffee is excellent Ka‘ū-grown.

hana-hou-pieA new friend, Lisa, told me that she camps in Ka‘ū every year at Thanks-giving, then comes to Hana Hou (which means again, encore, all over again, once more in the Hawaiian language) for the full Thanksgiving feast. One time she was driving with a visiting friend from Kona to Volcano. They kept holding off for supper, waiting to get here. When they arrived, the restaurant was closed for a family event. Disappointed, they turned to go. The restaurant owners knew there wasn’t anything else around for miles, so they invited them in and gave them a to-go container to fill with homemade stew, vegetables, rice and hot homemade bread. They each had a plate from the delicious family feast! This is Aloha at its best. I must come back here (hana hou) for a full meal.

church-and-theater-in-naalehuThe town has several charming churches and an old theater that didn’t make it. I am so grateful for our own Honokaa People’s Theatre, especially when I see the ruins of other theaters on the island.

tree-lined-cemetery-in-naalehuBut I think the most striking thing about Naʻālehu is the cemetery or “grave garden” as Dianne’s grand-daughter calls them. It tells the story of the diversity of Hawai‘i. You see Japanese graves with incense sticks in holders, graves with crosses, angels and the Blessed cemetery-in-naalehuVirgin, Native Hawaiian graves planted with canoe plants, and graves with gifts from buddies – bottles of beer and booze, some unopened and some empty. Brightly painted wooden boxes framed a picture of the beloved; small American flags whipped in the wind on others; one grave even had a large horse statue, perhaps a tribute to a paniolo. We spent many meditative moments soaking in the culture of this town through the stories we gleaned from these graves.

Kau VistaThen it was time to get back to the rental, pack up, and return to every-day life in Honoka‘a. But I’m sure I’ll be back to savor the food and small-town atmosphere of Naʻālehu, and the nearby turtles, lava lake, wind and solitude of Ka‘ū.


If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in black sand, eating in Hawaii, Hawaii beaches, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's melting pot - ethnic groups, lava lake, places worth seeing on Big Island, the nearby Pacific Ocean | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments