So Commences Paradise..

Pohoiki Road

This is from yesterday:
Puna is dry. Dry dry dry. The yellow bamboo along the drive needs to be on life support. The big bamboo clusters in the upper yard and at the neighbors are nearly denuded; the lawn is littered with their dessicated leaves. Large yellow palm fronds bend from the trunks of their parent, aching for the ground and the compost heap.

Things live. Things die. In their place come new living things. A dried spiky frond from the queen palm lays on the ground like a skeleton, grey and spent. She still carries the shape of her former life, though, when she was frilly and green and the wind was blowing and the only care in life she had was to watch the sea in the distance and draw in water from the exuberant nighttime downpours that bathed her.

All things die. Even the universe. One die I will die, fallen from my family like the withered bract of a palm tree. In my place there will arise others to replace me until the family stops growing, the tree falls asleep forever and begins to decay, and mushrooms arise from what used to be our homestead.

Advance 12 hours:
The seminal rains of nine years ago, which deepened sleep just as they awoke us and incited metaphors for comfort, now cause me anxiety: the gutter on the back lanai is missing a brace; the wooden lanais are at risk of rot; the outdoor furniture needs to be restained… When it rains heavily, as it is now at 5am, I can hear the water rolling out like a waterfall, hitting the carport tent and splashing in the direction of the generator. I tried to jury rig it in October but the rigor wasn’t there; to boot, the ladder is too short to get up there. I need the proper tools and attachments.

Raise its priority on the to-do list.

albizia, puna hawaii

The carnage of fallen albizia trees lines the driveway. The orchard, as we call it – really a collection of undernourished and scrubby wind-blown citrus trees – is littered with the debris of one of the several fallen albizias. Two fell randomly within the past few months; four came down a week or so ago in a freak windstorm from the west, on Valentine’s Day.

The place looks worn down and in a state of upheaval. Unless it’s my frame of mind.


Day one is always Attention Deficit Disorder Day. From tea and yogurt to compiling this trip’s to-do list:

  • The leaking rain gutter
  • Yellow light on the solar inverter
  • The weed whacker set down on its side, gasoline seeping out onto the porous cement floor
  • Review of journal entries from this date, roughly, from 2007 til now, to assess the journey traveled and remind myself that I’ve made progress, slogging though things may seem. Even though I still awake tabulating my ever-growing debt, my attitude has improved over time.
  • Where am I on The Punatics? (I need to insert half a chapter I think)
  • Who is it that has cleared the land below us, and what sort of people are they?
  • What were the neighbors doing up at 5am with all their lights on – escorting friends out? A paranoid might think they’re burglars.
  • I’ll never make do on a contract that’s only 15 hours a week.
  • Need to schedule a bunch of Punatics social posts, raise awareness, find an agent…all the usual stuff..

So commences Paradise.

Day one.


pohoiki road, after Iselle

Pohoiki Road, after Iselle Sep 2014

Heading topside

Koa the Mule

Buzzy saddling up Koa at Ali'i Muleskinners of Moloka'i

Saddling up

Most vacations aren’t usually ripe with metaphors for living. Typically they offer a peaceful respite from the grinding mundane, which is followed then by a pang of longing when the vacation is done. Beyond that, there are hundreds of digital images to mostly ignore, a few mild stories to share, and that’s about it.

What fortune, then, when 3 days away re-aligns your mind (regardless of what it’s doing to your spine).

Your own 2 feet or the seat of your ass

Mule train to Kalaupapa - from 1600'

There are only a few ways to get in and out of Kalaupapa: hiking. boat. plane. mule. Kalaupapa is the former leper colony on the Hawai’ian island of Moloka’i. Created in 1865 as a dumping ground for Hawai’ians infected with Hanson’s disease – or suspected of being infected – the settlement was later moved from the eastern side of the peninsula (known as Kalawao) to the western side, known as Kalaupapa.
The view “topside”

In Kalaupapa, a Belgian priest named Father Damian and an entire community of helpers took care of residents of the colony, bringing humanity to a geographically isolated group of people who were forbidden to venture away from their peninsula. Kalaupapa is surrounded by 1700 foot cliffs on one side and by strong ocean currents on the other sides. Everything above Kalaupapa is known as “topside.” Before treatment for leprosy became available in the mid-20th Century, being sent to Kalaupapa was a life sentence: once there you could never leave.

The view to Topside from the Kalaupapa peninsula

kalaupapa cottage and cemetery

A lifetime in Kalaupapa: the resident of this home buried his family in the yard

The allure of “there”

Imagine living in a place like Kalaupapa – an outcast – and never having the opportunity to go topside. For those of us who live topside, imagine seeing something ahead of you – a goal, a career path, a longing – and always yearning for it from a distance, never taking the steps to achieve it. It’s disturbing that those of us with opportunity often fail to take advantage of it, as though it were more enjoyable to stay mired in the notions of “then”, “when” and “there”. We deceive ourselves that the 1600 foot cliffs we have in front of us are simply a few steps through time, not an arduous journey, and somehow the path will fall under our feet instead of us striking out on the path. Worse, what we fail to remember is that our version of “there” – our dream or ambition – is accessible. Unlike topside to the former patients of Kalaupapa, our topside is not a forbidden destination.

There (Kalawao Valley)

Jumpstarting the present

An irresistible, if trite, caption for the airplane: “Get on board.” There’s been a subtle but meaningful shift ever since Kalaupapa: “there” has become “here”, “then” and “when” are “now”. Like the slow, sturdy mule heading up the path from isolation to topside, success is achieved in steady steps. But it’s time to kick things into a higher gear: this mule needs some wings.

mokulele airlines

hurry up; the plane between Honolulu and Moloka