omg…the sun’s out!!!

View of Mt. McKinley of the Denali National Park.

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Here in the Seattle area, the sun rarely comes calling. This winter it’s stayed away even longer than usual. Is it still lazing in the tropical Hawaiian skies, or warming the high elevations of Mt. McKinley, or is it just refusing to pick up and move? If I were only as agile as the young man in Greek mythology, Icharus, I think, who rode his chariot up to lasso the sun, dragging it downward, closer to earth? Or was it a young Hawaiian boy who did that, housing the sun permanently in the dormant volcano, Haleakala? Sometimes too much education can be confusing. Although this particular myth may have its home in both cultures. Will have to check.

Icarus and Daedalus

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Being unprepared for such an event, especially when the electricity has been out for about 12 hours, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I don’t know where to go or what to do first. Too many choices, not enough time before darkness settles in again. What am I saying…it’s always dark around here.

I think I’ll just keep blogging until September when the sun is REALLY here!

an arthritic hawaiian who’s like a “fish out of water”…literally……… …..hugmamma.

Looking into Haleakalā Crater

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homage to a selfless sister-in-law

As I grow older and more reflective, people come to mind who inspire me. Such a person is my sister-in-law, Pat. Her husband, my brother, follows my blog.  He’s probably bug-eyed right now wondering why I would shine the spotlight on his quiet, unassuming wife of many, many, many years. How many anniversaries has it been, Ben?

Pat was born in a small town in Maui, at least it was back in the 50s and 60s. Makawao was considered “up-country,” although not as far up as Kula, home of Haleakala, the dormant volcano. We had to drive through Makawao to visit aunts, uncles and cousins in Kula. Because we rarely stopped in Makawao, I’ve very little childhood memory about that hamlet. My only recollection is that during high school, I would cheer for our teams, the St. Anthony Trojans, when they played against the Maui High School teams, from Makawao. I don’t even remember what they were called!?! Modern day Makawao is now a tourist mecca, which I probably wouldn’t recognize if I were ever to stop, enroute to Kula.

So my fondest memory of Makawao is Pat. From the first time I met her when I was probably a pre-teen, until I saw her a couple of years ago, she has always been welcoming, warm, and unpretentious. A broad smile is always at the ready, or a concerned look that deepens her brow is just as quick to comfort. I’ve had the benefit of both, during the few years when we saw more of one another.

Once I spent 3 weeks or so visiting with Pat and Ben. My husband was out of the country on business. While my brother worked, I found it easy to be in my sister-in-law’s company. Never a person to fuss over people or things, we would just putter all day, eat, chat, fix beds, chat, watch TV, chat, gossip, chat, and intermittently check to make certain their pet beagles hadn’t burrowed their way under the chain link fence, to wander off down the road. On rare occasions we went shopping, mostly to the supermarket. Pat was one of the most frugal persons I ever knew, still is probably. My brother probably spent more, in fact I know he did, on his penchant for hobby airplanes. At one time, he had a garage full of unopened boxes. Did I mention that my sister-in-law is a saint? A requirement for sainthood, at least in the Pacific Islands, must be some Portuguese, as well as some native-Hawaiian, blood. Both my husband and Pat fit the bill, and I believe they’re both saints.

If my sister-in-law was ever upset, I never witnessed a blow-up, ever. There were times she was quiet, but that was the extent to any alteration in her usually upbeat demeanor. I think she lectured, like most moms do. But again, her voice never seemed to change in pitch or volume. Pat was, and still is, a good fit for my brother. She anchors his “flights of fancy,” cools his blood pressure, speaks in normal, everyday language as he expounds on world politics in the manner of a scholastic. I’ve borne witness to it all, and have had more than my share of belly laughs in the process. They remind me of my husband and I. He does for me, what Pat does for Ben. Opposites do attract,… I guess?

In reflecting back upon time spent with Pat, I use to wonder how remaining within the confines of her home, day in and day out, as a housewife, didn’t drive her crazy. She seemed defined by her family. What could she lay claim to, as her very own? How could she be happy in her own company, surrounded by inanimate home furnishings, and a few pets, 24/7? Didn’t she have dreams, unfulfilled? Didn’t she want more from life, than others’ leftovers? Who was she, if not wife, mother, housekeeper, caretaker? 

I now know the secret to Pat’s life back then, because as an empty-nester whose spouse is still very much entrenched in his career, I’m a housewife, working within the confines of my home most days, surrounded by a houseful of stuff, 3 cats and a dog. But I love my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for fame, fortune or fabulous fun! What I missed most in childhood was the lack of a loving family, no home to call our own, no financial stability, and feeling like my life wasn’t my own. With age and an inventory of life experiences I’ve learned to count the small blessings, the intangible ones that will make a difference to me when I finally cease to be. The world “within” is of more value than the world “without.” What we think and feel seems more important than what we acquire, or how much we acquire. An inner calm can help a young housewife, or an empty-nester, like the life she lives. But it doesn’t mean she’s not open to change.

Pat now happily works outside the home in a major department store, a not-too-thrilled husband having taken over household duties since he’s retired. I think she’s enjoying the ups and downs of a career, lady friends with whom to commiserate, and the opportunity to dress in business attire. Though her circumstances have changed, my sister-in-law remains the same person with whom I can joke and laugh, and just be me. She’s always liked me exactly as I am. In fact, she’s always been one of my most ardent supporters, even when I was a young goof-ball. In that respect, she and my brother are exactly alike. They’ve always loved me, no matter how zany or off-the-wall my antics.

and i love them…just as they are…hugmamma.      

 

been there, done that

Media coverage of President Obama’s recent vacation has put Martha’s Vineyard “on the map.” Not that it wasn’t already there. According to the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal “The release of  ‘Jaws,’ the 1975 movie about a man-eating shark, first drew the masses to an island that had been a some-time presidential retreat since Ulysses S. Grant. Celebrities such as Carly Simon, Meg Ryan and David Letterman own homes on the island. …President Bill Clinton’s frequent visits in the 1990s brought another surge of interest…” Though not celebrities, my daughter and I visited the island about 7 years ago. She had auditioned, and been accepted, to dance with “Stiefel and Students.” Because she was apprenticing with a ballet company midway through the summer program, Ethan Stiefel allowed her to attend the first 2 of the scheduled 4 weeks. She was delighted to train with an icon of the dance world, and have a great job lined up for her future.

The compound which housed “Stiefel and Students” was specifically built for the program. The owner, a wealthy contractor, was a patron of ballet, his teenage daughter dancing with a private studio in their home state of New Jersey. Because he’d guested as the Nutcracker prince to their daughter’s Maria, Steifel became a close family friend. Two beautiful homes sat on a couple of acres of prime land near downtown Edgartown. Each had several bedrooms and, baths, huge kitchen with living space, large patio and a sizeable dance studio. The student dancers, including my daughter, were in one house, while the instructors and guest dancers from NYC lived in the other. I don’t recall if one or more of the 4 chaperones lived with the students, or if they all stayed in the other dwelling. Needless to say this was  one of the best “dormitory” situations of my daughter’s summer dance experiences, which has included Banff, NYC, Atlanta, Chautauqua, Jacksonville, Portland, and Irvine.

Viewing this as the opportunity of a lifetime, and it was, my husband and I decided I should summer in Martha’s Vineyard while our daughter was there. So for 2 glorious weeks I lived among the rich and famous, and the middle class, myself being one of them. Having done extensive research, I settled upon a bed and breakfast called The Lighthouse Inn. The 1 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchen-living room combination was charmingly decorated and conveniently situated in the heart of Edgartown. My husband and I hoped he’d be able to take time off from work and fly out for a respite. But it didn’t happen, so flying solo, I poked around my environs leisurely, and with relish.

Being from Maui, I’ve never cottoned to the idea of vacationing on other islands. It isn’t so much that I’m a snob, although it might seem so, but there are other parts of the world which I’d prefer to visit before opting for an island vacation, other than returning to Hawaii to see family. Having said that, Martha’s Vineyard is an island for sure, but nothing like the tropical ones with which I’m familiar. The houses, churches, store fronts, flora and fauna, and yes, the people are a total reflection of New England which, of course, is where the island is located.

As with all popular vacation destinations, the population on Martha’s Vineyard swells to overflowing during the hot summer months. On days when cruise ships are in port, there are longer lines everywhere. Traveling alone was advantageous for without an entourage, I was seated for a meal more quickly, I could wend my way through a maze of people on sidewalks and in shops more easily, when to start and end the day was my choice as well as HOW to spend it. And having 2 weeks meant I could do everything without feeling hurried. Living like a local is always my idea of a dream visit.

My daily routine, more or less, would begin with rising (not too early), breakfasting at some quaint nearby eatery, and then going for a walk. Some days I wandered different paths through town or residential neighborhoods, other days I strolled barefoot along the quiet, sandy, white beach a few blocks away. But wherever I went I always spent my days people-watching, a favorite pastime. Just glimpsing passersby, their differences, similarities, relationships, habits, is always interesting. New England’s culture could not be further removed from the Hawaiian culture in ethnicity, spirit, dress, food, religion, architecture, and perhaps, sensibilities.

Of course the first thing I noticed was the predominant, if not quasi exclusive, presence of White, Anglo-Saxon Americans. Although my complexion is brown, I’ wasn’t “put off” because by then I’d lived and worked amongst Caucasians for 26 years, having moved to the mainland in 1977. While more formal than Hawaiians, there was a semblance of relaxed informality among those who dwelled in Martha’s Vineyard. Of course there’s no mistaking a New Englander by the way he or she dressed. More than likely they’d be striding along in loafers, sandals, or sneakers with socks, rarely flip-flops. If in shorts, they’d be like the bermuda shorts of the 60’s, often topped by Izod, Hilfiger or Calvin Klein. The ladies wore coordinated knee-length skirts in small prints and blouses in white, or some other solid color. Designer purses or pretty colored totes hung over their arms or on their shoulders. Perfectly combed blondes and brunettes sported ponytails or loosely coiffed hair that caught the ocean breezes. They all wore sunglasses, probably also having lotioned themselves with sunblock beforehand. Children were dressed like replicas of their parents. The only ones who may have digressed from the traditional New England “look,” were the teenagers. There were some in cut-off jean shorts, barely-there tanks, flip-flops or bare feet, and unkempt hair as if they’d just awoke.

From my recollection, the food was pretty good, but probably pricey since everything had to be shipped in. I remember dining  in a family style restaurant, cozy B&B bistro, fine Italian eatery, hamburger joint and a diner whose concerns for food safety seemed a little sketchy. Their late hours dictated my daughter and I choosing to eat there once, against our better judgement. We left full and satisfied, so the place suited our needs just fine. Sometimes I prepared my own food, enjoying a comfortable evening in the apartment, dining on a home cooked meal while watching a good television show. Perhaps my solitary time on Martha’s Vineyard encouraged my fledgling habit of speaking with waiters and sales people. They were companions of sorts, if only for a brief interlude. I’m glad I’m still very much in the habit of treating strangers like long-lost friends.

One weekend, a best friend from Redding joined me for some much-needed rest and relaxation. She always worked too hard, still does. It was a pleasure having her along on walks, sitting across the table at a restaurant, and perusing shops for souvenirs. But our ongoing conversations about everything and anything, as though we’d never been apart, were the best part of our shared time. Sometimes talking into the wee morning hours, we were able to scurry out the door in time to greet the dawn. Huddling against the chill morning air, we planted ourselves on the sand dunes revisiting our previous conversation, or we’d just as likely drift onto another topic. But we were always wowed by the brilliance of the rising sun. We didn’t need to make the long, arduous trek up Maui ‘s dormant volcano, Haleakala (“House of the Rising Sun”) to see what we beheld on a beachfront, steps away from our front door. After my girlfriend’s departure, I never saw another dawn on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m never awake at that ungodly hour, if I can help it. But I will always associate sunrises on that New England island with Laurie, my forever friend.   

Nothing screams New England more than its architecture. Martha’s Vineyard was no exception. Stately churches standing tall and erect on tree-lined country roads in residential neighborhoods, where traditional homes with rocking chairs on wrap-around-porches, sat alongside salt-box homes in shades of blues and grays, fronted by English-style cottage gardens. Everywhere I turned was like looking at a postcard with pictures of idyllic, pastoral scenes. They took my breath away. Though an island, Martha’s Vineyard is of a different breed, one that this islander could truly appreciate for its unique beauty. I don’t think my first visit to that charming location could ever be improved upon unless, of course, I returned with my husband and daughter. But then there are other places I have yet to visit, and so…

been there, done that…hugmamma.