Sunday, May 31, 2015

Back in the Mountains

It has become the mantra:  One foot firmly in the California mountains,the other firmly in Hawaii.  Not yet ready to give up either one.

Hawaii is home.  My roots are there.  My identity -- or a large part of it.  That identity needs the support of a set of cultural values unique to our little islands in the middle of the Pacific.  We are , with good reason, proud of our history and traditions.

Yet I am forcefully reminded each time I return to California that I have roots here, too.  It is not the cities or the coast that call me.  It is the farmland, the ranching country and the forest of the Central Valley and the Sierras in central  California.  My adult memories are here.  I recognize the orchards, remember when they will bloom in the spring and fruit later in the year.    I commented to myself this year that  certain pastures had been turned to vineyards or planted with young fruit or nut trees.  I mourned the loss of the forests obliterated by the Rim Fire of two summers ago, but celebrate the return of meadows in their place.

Had dinner with friends last week at the Iron Door in our little town of what?  Two blocks plus the adjacent recreational community complete with golf course and airport?  Had known the mother of our waitress -- who herself was several years older than my children.  Faces change, but the memories are constant.  So is the spirit of this place.

Yes, it was 102 in Sonora yesterday.  But the heat is dry so not oppressive, and welcome after last week's cold and damp.  More rain will be welcome, so long as it comes without lightning and threat of wild land fires --  although with so much fire damage around town, there is not much left to burn.  On the down side, the California Buckeye, the first shrub/tree to brown out in preparation for fall, is already beginning to turn in some spots on the New Priest Grade.  That's mid-August weather, not late May.

Clarkia, the wildflower also known as Farewell to Spring, is in bloom along the roadsides and hillsides.  I noticed its lavender blanket on the Hetch Hetchy power line right of way up Moccasin  Peak.  This is its season.  The dogwoods are still blooming in Yosemite Valley, and the golden-orange wallflowers are adding their own bit of color.  It is far too late for the lupine, meadow foam, and that little yellow wildflower that my friend Verna called pee-the-bed (use your imagination on that one!) which blooms in the spots where the shallow puddles form in the pastures and meadows.  Too late for the daffodils, almost too late for the Pacific Coast Iris -- either in the wild or in my garden.

Later this week I will drive up into the burn area, just to be there once, watching the cycle of destruction and recovery.

Don't forget to pray....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcoming 2015

Last year, New Year’s Eve was disappointingly quiet in Waikiki, a result of the newly active restrictions on fireworks use.  Either the City/State has relaxed some of their deep restrictions, or the general population is going back to our beloved Hawaii way of bringing in the New Year. I am sure that the fireworks for New Year’s is a tradition brought with the Asian immigrants, especially the Chinese, who came beginning mid-19th century to work in the sugar and later the pineapple fields.  Immigrant labor.  Hawaii’s variation on the theme of slave labor.    But that is another story. 

This year was a very different story. There were occasional pops and booms all evening, and the flashing blue lights of police cruisers were prominent on Ala Wai Blvd.  I was warned that The Hour was approaching quickly (much to my surprise; I’d become engrossed in a book) when the individual pops transitioned into the steady and unmistakable din of those tiny firecrackers that come in strings of 100 and boxes of 1000. To the west, the Ewa side (towards down town Honolulu and Pearl Harbor) the commercial display at the big, public party at Kaka’ako Park lit the sky.  It was readily visible, but a bit distant.  Much closer to home, but partially obscured by the overly tall hotels and construction cranes now dominating the Waikiki skyline, was the display in the vicinity of the Halekulani, the Outrigger Reef and the Sheraton-Waikiki. Nothing from the Hawaiian Village – they have a brief fireworks display every Friday evening.   There were a few much smaller aerials from the vicinity of the yacht harbor and the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Park.  Someone in the building next door fired off a lone roman candle from about 15 floors up, aiming it outward so it cascaded over their swimming pool.  The air began to fill with the smell of gunpowder that I always associate (positively) with New Years and lots of fireworks. Much more satisfying than last year’s quiet or Kahala’s relatively new dependence on the show at the Kahala Resort hotel, audible but not visible from the middle of Kealaolu Avenue. Much more satisfying.
I remembered standing, wrapped in a blanket, on my grandparents’ house lot sized lawn in Waipahu, age about 6 or 7 or 8, listening to the noise and watching the sky fill with the offerings of what seemed like hundreds of private celebrations of fireworks around the plantation community. I remembered other years, with my dad shooting off sky rockets and roman candles in our back yard in Kahala, us kids relegated to the “child safe” sparklers – with oft-repeated admonitions to hold only the skinny end, not the hot end! I remembered the smoke, nearly as thick as the spray-fog from the mosquito abatement trucks and much nicer smelling, enveloping the neighborhood. I remembered the year my mother, convinced that my father would forget, went out and bought a dozen or so boxes of those strings of tiny firecrackers to hang in the mango trees.  Then my father came home – with another dozen or so boxes.  We hung all his strings, too, then my father put the old metal garbage cans under the trees.  I don’t know if he was deliberately creating an echo chamber to maximize the sound, or if he really was trying to minimize his work of cleaning up all the red paper.  The back yard was still covered in shredded red paper the next morning, but oh, what fun it was to listen to those firecrackers exploding inside the garbage can!  

I remembered Ray’s amazement in 2005 as, from 23 stories up, a little farther up the Ala Wai and facing the mountains instead of the ocean, we watched the private celebrations on St. Louis Heights, in Palolo Valley, through Kaimuki, Kapahulu and Moili’ili.  He thought it was pretty exciting by 10:00.  At midnight, watching someone setting of strings of firecrackers over the canal from the sidewalk below our lanai, he commented, “This is like being in a war zone!”
To you, dear readers, I wish a blessed 2015 filled with friendships and family, old memories remembered fondly and new ones created.