Why I Cried....
beautiful sadness
I went to a wedding this weekend.

When I was a kid, I wondered why there would be women at every wedding (real and in movies) who would say, "I can't help it. I always cry at weddings."  It didn't make sense to me. I thought weddings were supposed to be happy, celebratory; why cry? And when I asked, I was told they were "tears of joy." When I was a kid, that never made sense to me. Why cry when you're happy?

Now I understand it's something you just can't help. It hits people sometimes and I'll tell you, younger Self, why I cried at the wedding:

I was fine throughout the biblical section of the wedding, in the church with the traditional dress and the passages of Paul being read, again, and how it was explained, again, how both the man and the woman submit to each other, bla, bla, bla. I laughed inside about the part of the "One True God" when that same God has so many names and there really is no competition anyways. I smiled to myself and thought, "My wedding will be nothing like this."

And I was uncomfortable in between the wedding and the reception when we went to the pub w/ some other uncomfortable wedding guests who wondered what to do with the 2 1/2 hours between the wedding and reception, but it didn't actually bring me to tears as such. I just missed my friends and felt like an outsider even though the people were friendly enough in their ways.

But at the reception, after the toasts about how wonderful the bride and groom are, after seeing the note that they donated to NAMI in honor of the wedding, and being reminded that they work with autistic children day in and day out, which was how they met. After being told over and over by various people that they are the type of people you can always ask for advice and get good advice that makes you a better person, the type of people who will always be there for you when you need them, they type of people who are gracious and accepting me into their family even though they just met me, I was still ok, but thinking it was sweet. I heard about how they have been friends with these guests for almost their entire lives. After pointing out to myself and those at my table that it is significant that both the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom are still married, that they seem like wonderful people who are happy together, I was still ok.

Then they announced that the Lakota community has always been an important part of the groom's life and the next section is to honor those traditions. Then the Native singing and drumming started as the couple was wrapped in a handmade quilt and walked around the circle of their families and tribe people to announce the joining of their families. It was so beautiful, the tears just started.

And they didn't stop. They continued to flow as I thought about the beauty of the song, the beauty of the support from their communities and their families, and the way everyone loves them because of their beautiful characters. I cried for the fact that at every wedding there is someone who believes and says, "this wedding is different. This one will last." and how sometimes that is true, even today. I cried that sometimes it isn't. I cried that the parents looked beautiful and happy dancing together, and I cried that my family history is nothing like that at all. I dried my tears and looked down at the silverware on the table and recognized it from one of the incarnations of my family and I cried that I couldn't remember which incarnation it was but I remembered that it didn't last. I remembered that my life was a jumble of transitions and broken hearts, people I would never see again and was better off not seeing again. I cried that each time, there were people who tried to make it work, people who put their lives into it and it only brought pain. I cried over that pain.

I cried selfishly that my own sense of community isn't as solid as the groom's, and I cried that I had recently moved away from the community I had built up over the past 9 years. I cried that I felt out of place in this new location and I cried that I will probably always go through that feeling from time to time. I cried that I felt empty and I cried that I felt loved. 

I cried that my ex-husband and I loved each other and now we're divorced and I cried that our love for each other wasn't enough to make me happy. 

I cried that I have the support of my mom and stepdad. I cried that my new boyfriend is everything I dreamed of and didn't believe existed. I cried that while I didn't believe in this miracle, I hurt myself and my ex-husband by trying to make that relationship be enough. I cried that I wasn't successful. I cried that I have this baggage to carry with me into this new relationship. I cried that he says and believes and shows me that I am all he prayed for too. I cried that I am happy and I cried that I am scared. (what if it really is a dream or if I'm wrong....?)

I cried that I feel so overwhelmed by emotion that I couldn't stop crying and I felt silly for crying so much. I cried that I couldn't care what others thought because the emotions were so intense.

I cried that my boyfriend was looking at me with concern that I was crying so hard and there was no way I could explain to him all that I was experiencing and I cried that the singing was still going on and it was still so beautiful.

I even cried that I wasn't part of the singing and drumming, which isn't really why I was crying, but my heart felt so empty and broken that at that point, I cried at every thought that went through my head, and every emotion tied to those thoughts.

I can't say anything about those other women, but that is why I cried. And I'm crying again just remembering.

What are you still carrying?
me with snoopy

During their journey, two monks come upon an awful woman who refuses to cross a river because she does not wish to get her silken robes wet or dirty. The older of the two monks quickly picks up the woman and carries her across the water. Many hours later, the younger monk is very upset and visibly angry about his friend helping someone so disdainful, and he feels obliged to share his frustration with the older monk:
“That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Mom told me the above story and I think it's a good one. I constantly have conversations w/ D about this as we discuss the baggage we carry and how to discard or transform it. It seems there is so much packed in there that I can't even find anything when I'm looking for it, and sometimes I forget it's all there.

In my dream last night I traveled to the realm of the past. When unpacking my dream, I came to the conclusion once again that the trauma of seeing others suffer is the most difficult and emotionally painful experience I have ever had in this life and it continues to happen and continues to cause me distress. "So why am I a social worker?" the inevitable question repeats itself. Of course, it is because it is harder to see suffering and do nothing about it, or even if I don't see it as often, to know my life is empty when I am not helping others. When I do what I can to help others learn coping skills, at least I am doing that much and I can feel comforted by knowing that is what I am meant to be doing.

So, what am I still carrying? 

My Intro to the Wii
beautiful sadness
I was at a friend's house and wanted to play boardgames, but she has mostly American games and I like mostly Euro-games, which she did not feel like being introduced to, so she asked, "Would you like to play on my Wii?" I hadn't actually tried one before, so I thought I'd give it a try. She helped me create my Mii, which is fun and makes me laugh out loud, something I need to do more of. That alone was fun!

Then we played Wii Fit Plus and I learned how the balance board works and everything and I decided I really like that game! It gives feedback about what I'm doing when I exercise and will keep track for me of what I do and the progress I make, which is very attractive because for some reason I don't do well enough keeping a workout log and I end up needing more to motivate me, especially when I'm working out alone. This game might motivate me to move around more even when the weather isn't friendly. I started to plan my purchase shortly thereafter.

I decided it would be my birthday present to myself and if anyone wanted, they could chip in, so I have one after shopping online for a while. I didn't know they would still be difficult to find. I thought it was only at Xmas time that they'd be out of stock everywhere, but actually, they are still out everywhere except select online retailers, and even those overcharge because they can because the demand is higher than the availability. 

So, at first I only have the Sports games that come w/ the game console and it was more fun than I expected. I have been having fun w/ it even though it tells me I'm not very good. I do get incremental improvements even though they are tiny increments and sometimes I can't even tell I improve.

Honestly, one of the first things I did was start creating Mii's. If you're not familiar, a Mii is the character, or avatar, for when you're playing a game. You decide what it looks like - you make a cartoon of yourself or what you want to look like as a cartoon. It's fun to play w/ the options, and you can make characters that look really like people, too! There are celebrity Mii's and you can definitely tell who they are intended to be - I created a Captain Jack Sparrow Mii because I didn't see that one on the Popular Mii Channel (celebrity or character Mii's that others have created and submitted online). I submitted it and later saw another one someone else made, maybe theirs was even better, but I'm proud of myself for creating it anyway.

You can download Mii's that others created so you can play as your favorite celebrity - I play as Snoopy, Capt. Jack, Jackie Chan, the Pink Panther, sometimes as myself, whoever I feel like being. I wanted Mii's of my friends too, even though most of them are far away, so I created Mii's that look like some of my closest friends and I think the resemblance is uncanny! It makes me happy to feel like I'm playing games w/ my friends even when they aren't really here in person. (Is that sad? Well, You can say what you want, but it makes me happy, like I said.) When I play baseball, for example, it gives me a team of Mii's and my friends are on my team, and so I can play baseball w/ them all. It's cool.

So because I was all excited about this birthday present, my mom and stepdad are pitching in toward the gift - cool, because it was kind of expensive and I was hoping they would. Now I can afford the Wii Fit Plus, which is the reason I bought the Wii in the first place. :)

My boyfriend is buying me two games: Animal Crossing: the City and Rune Factor: Frontier. I picked them out and they're being shipped because they weren't in stock locally either. What is it w/ the supply not keeping up w/ the demand? And they're still marketing like crazy as if they need to. Well, anyway, I am very excited about those games and also a little afraid I will be addicted to the game for a long time, but I think it will be fun!

I can't find The Wii Fit Plus anywhere except Amazon and Ebay and both places are charging about $150 for a game that is MSRP at $99, but they can charge as much as people will pay. Bah! It will be a healthier addiction than many, actually getting me to exercise, even though it might not be as strenuous as some my marathon-running friends.

Lately, I'm still working only one day/week, although I'm applying to various other places around to help fill in the gaps. Mom has been sick ever since before I moved up here in November, different things at different times causing her pain and fatigue and coughing and whatnot. I keep hoping she's on the mend and then something else happens to her. :(  But this time I really truly believe she will get better if only for a while. I want to be able to do some of these fun craft projects w/ her that we keep talking about - there are ever so many wonderful things we can do w/ the fabrics, patterns, ideas and talents we have, but I want to do them together. I'm not too interested in a solo project right now...

Except my felt animals I'm hand-sewing. Those are downright adorable and I am addicted to sewing them. For some reason it's exactly the project I want to be doing even though there are ever so many to choose from in this house. Ah, well, I'm doing what makes me happy for now knowing that other things are on the horizon. Life is beautiful - I have a lovely family, a wonderful boyfriend, a lot to be thankful for, including the sunshine and Spring on its way! Today the weather felt PERFECT. If only it could stay that way. :)

Riding the Rails
beautiful sadness
Last night I had a dream that could be interpreted many different ways and rather than interpret it here, I just wanted to relate it - because my spiritual teacher recommended that I record it before I forget the details. He tells me not to discount my dreams because there may be more meaning than I realize.

So it was that I was walking along with friends - don't know who they were - and they pointed out a building that was for sale for a very low price considering what it was and the condition it was in. I was trying to answer the question of why it might be such a low price and realized I didn't know the answer. So I decided to investigate. The building was stone and very institutional-looking. It looked like a place of business. And the feeling and comment made was that something creepy might have happened there, perhaps the seller of the building needed to get rid of the association to things he had done there.

As I went to investigate, I stepped onto an escalator. When I was about halfway down the escalator, the scenery around me changed. Instead of being a stone building surrounding me, there were brightly colored carpets and walls and decorations and loud music and ambience. There was a concession stand and there were lots of people w/ brightly colored clothes. It looked like the lobby of a movie theater and I wandered into the room and looked around but I didn't know anyone and didn't know what I was doing there, so I turned around and got on the escalator to return back to the sidewalk.

But the escalator didn't take me to the sidewalk. It took me to another dimension where there were pirates and pirate ships in the distance and I was in a pub of some sort and I didn't know what I was doing there and didn't fit in, and was a little unsettled. I just wanted to get through there without being assaulted or anything else bad happening to me.

Then I was back on the escalator and I noticed a woman on the escalator going the opposite direction. She was attractive and polite but not helpful and not approachable at all. I later found out she was a hostess and it was her job to ride the escalators and make people feel welcome. There had been other hostesses too, but they had all been fired and she was the only one left. I don't know why.

I got off the escalator on another floor and there was a sign stating that the point of that place was to have free symphony concerts. The man next to me was excited and got off on that floor and stayed, but I was cautious and learned that it was not a good thing to be there because the effect of the concert was that it lulled people to sleep and then they were taken advantage of by other people. In fact, while I was on the escalator going down from that place, I saw a man run away terrified from the concert hall and he was so scared that he jumped halfway up the escalator in one leap. It was not a safe place.

None of the places the escalator visited seemed safe to me. They all had lots of people and there was always an eerie feeling about the places it went. Whether I went up a floor or down a floor, there was always something to avoid, and always something unsettling about the places. The people riding the escalators with me were a mixture of people who were just curious, lost, riding for the excitement of the adventure, or afraid. Some people called it "riding the rails" and did it for fun for hours or days - no one had control over how long it would take to get back home and there was always the possiblity you wouldn't make it back home. It wasn't my idea of fun and I was afraid, but I had to continue exploring to try to find my way home. I couldn't just give up.

Some of the places were airports - a lot of them seemed to be airports, actually. And I didn't even get onto those floors when I saw what they were. I didn't want to risk getting so lost I wouldn't be able to even find the escalators.

Other floors were beaches or waterfronts. There were ships on some of them.

Some of them were full of pickpockets or people who were untrustworthy and there was a feeling of unsafety - "Just don't make eye contact and just keep walking," someone next to me said.

On one floor, there was a glass shelter, like you find at bus stops and it was along side of the rails. There was a path to the waterfront and there were only children and ducks when you got to the water. It was a strange combination of things that should be peaceful but were not. The children were like Sirens and it felt like if you fell for their charms, you would be overtaken and never make it out of there. It was one of the most compelling and frightening places I went on the escalator last night.

I met some people who were friendly and felt safe for a time, but they always seemed to get off the escalator eventually and part ways with me whether it was after walking into a dimension for a ways and they wanted to stay, or when we were at the place they decided to get off the rails and I didn't want to - because none of the dimensions were home and I was really only interested in getting home where I felt safe. I wasn't really in the mood to explore anymore. I was tired. I hadn't intended to start out on this journey in the first place.

Some of the time I felt like I was a hostess and not getting paid for it, because i was friendly and quiet and smiled at people like she did, and because I wasn't getting off the rails onto the floors - just like I was working and that was my job. In fact, I started to look at it like it was my job, just to keep riding escalators and to not explore any of the places. It got to the point that I didn't even want to see what was coming up next because I knew it would be disappointing - it wouldn't be what I wanted and it would look deceitfully peaceful until I'd find out some flaw. So I kept riding the rails and staring at my feet until I woke up. And I woke up stressed.

Softball Game
I got to play softball last night w/ a friend who is on a team w/ her coworkers. It was co-ed and they're always looking for females to fill slots on the team. It was fun! I was nervous about not having played since I was 16.

But lately, I had been thinking it would be nice to play softball again, to be on a team, doing something that promoted physical activity and challenge to myself. I was thinking it would be fun to have the chance to see how well I could do and whether I'd be better at it than I used to be or at least be able to maintain the skill I had years ago.

It brought back memories of years ago when my mom would spend hours teaching me to play. I was not a natural athlete and it was hard for me. I had to really work at it and I tested her patience because she had been naturally athletic. My brothers were also naturally athletic and even at younger ages could outperform me when we were still kids. But I kept at it, even though I was put in right field when in the game at all and benched about half the game many times. I did improve over the years and learn to hit the ball - even on bad pitches. I still throw like a girl; I'll never hit a home run, and I sometimes let the ball get past me despite best efforts. But I get behind the ball and don't shy away from it. I hustle and I throw in the right direction even if I don't have the oomph it would need to reach far targets. So apparently, on this league, that makes me worthwhile to the team because they're used to not having enough women, which sometimes means they have to forfeit, or finding women that don't even know how to play just to fill the slots. So yay me! I actually hit the ball multiple times, allowing runs and I made it into home once, and didn't make any errors in the field! (Nevermind that the ball never actually got to me in the field, which is why I was in right field to begin with. lol)

So how exciting! I got all hot and sweaty and my heart was pounding and my knees hurt. I think I got dehydrated and that may be why I have a migraine today, but I did it! I'm all happy. It feels good. I remember why I played and I think I'll do this again.

Return to Cincinnati
I didn't take time to write about my last couple days in Hawaii. The biggest things that happened were that we relaxed some more, saw the Molokai Coffee plantation and a macademia nut orchard, where I found mosquitoes are in abundance. Because I had not anticipated them, they found me - didn't have DEET w/ me that day. Curses, you mosquitoes!

We went to Honolulu, where I decided it would be really great to see Diamond Head. Silly me! I could have been on the beaches of Waikiki on a beautiful day, but instead I decided to hike uphill to the peak of Diamond Head when I was already exhausted before the hike. Sometimes it's hard to understand why I make the decisions I make when you consider I'm not really masochistic. But I'm a geek and I've been through that experience and I learned more about volcanoes and the fact that I need to exercise more.

I slept pretty well on the flights back to Cincinnati and was excited to see my friends again. I had invited a few close friends to see pictures and receive souvenirs and spend time together and that was a nice thing to do.

I'm settling back in - I can't believe it's already been a week since we got home. In a way it feels like longer because things are back to normal and it's amazing how quickly that happens. I have mixed feelings about this because I'd like to hold onto that relaxed feeling longer. I mean, my chiropractor told me how nice and relaxed my muscles were on that Monday when I went to see her, but today I am so tense I can feel it - and that's even after a great massage I received yesterday. What is with my body and holding onto stress?! I'm not even supposed to have this much stress - I'm not even back at work yet, which in and of itself is a stressful fact, I admit.

Yet, I'm psyching myself up to getting back to work. I think it will be great to get a new routine when I finally go back - I'm supposed to have all new clients, which is something I have mixed feelings about, too. I mean, there are some that I really like working with. Plus, it feels good to know someone already and have some idea of their background and strengths and weak spots. It's going to be overwhelming to have to have all new clients all at once, if that is what happens after all. I may be able to negotiate somewhat. that remains to be seen.

I'm trying to learn how to maintain my own well being and focus on things that have been out of balance. First and foremost I'm turning to my social support system and spending lots of time with the people I love. I hardly spend any time alone - at least when I'm awake. And I read research that reassures me that is not only a healthy response to stress but that it is a typical response for women (much more so than for men). So not only is it instinctive and healthy, it is not actually abnormal, either. Cool. I like knowing there are at least some things about me that are not completely backwards.

In my strive for balance, I'm trying to tap into the self-nurturing/inward focus, thinking about what I need, want or feel instead of worrying about others all the time. Apparently, that is what the universe has been trying to teach me to do and I've been very stubborn about not learning it - or needing to relearn it frequently. It's a tough balance to have.

Another thing I'm trying to learn is to tap into my "warrior" aspects and be more self-sufficient. That is not very easy for me. I think I've started to become a little too one-sided, and that might be part of my problem. I need to get in touch with my "inner bitch" as one friend called it. I don't even know how to do that in an intentional way. Typically if I'm bitchy it's unintentional, the kind of thing that results from pain and feeling whiny, needy, snapping inadvertently at someone. But the intentional bitch is not at all that way, she is a warrior, focused, confident, and effective. Who is that? I know I have tapped into those powers in the past, but that was long ago in my recollection. How long ago? I can't even remember.

So it's taking a little more time before I'm ready to face being at work again. I'm steeling myself and getting ready to hold up in battle. It won't be MUCH longer....

Defense Against the Darkness
This entry is a retrospective - I wanted to type it last week, sometime before my trip to Hawaii, but somehow I never got into the frame of mind to accomplish something as sophisticated or as active as actually typing my ideas into the computer. In other words, I was really out of sorts and not at all well. I think I still have the memory of what I was thinking, and perhaps more hope and more energy, so now I can actually put the dark feelings into words.

[A note to J.K. Rowling: I apologize for using so many analogies from your stories, but if you hadn't made them so darn useful and close to my own experiences, that wouldn't have been so easy to do. As it is, I find it incredibly useful to use references from your books, especially the first one. Please try to take it as a compliment.]

[A note to those who have not read the Harry Potter books (at least the first one): sorry this probably won't make any sense. I relied heavily on references from the books to avoid having to describe things myself. I know, I've been told I'm lazy. I prefer to think of it as creatively efficient.]

I have always been attracted to healing because I needed it so badly. I found much of my healing through the help of encouraging, supportive and helpful people who appeared at various parts of my life when they might have been just extras in the movie. I grabbed onto much of the advice and wisdom, as much as I could at the time. I also decided early on that I wanted to be one of those people. During the Sorting Hat experiences of my life, I gravitated toward the ideas and occupation that I most value: emotional and mental and spiritual healing. I wanted to be a healer, not an abuser, bully, elitist, or anyone else from the House of Slytherin. In so choosing, I found myself in the occupation of mental health therapist, one of the very places I would find the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, even if it is one of the least glamorous.

It turns out that I was much better at shielding myself from the demons of depression and anxiety of other people's problems while I was working with them. I found myself happy and hopeful and able to cope better than others thought an empath would be able to do in the profession I chose. That was until an unexpected avalanche hit the agency and all the funding sources for the uninsured clients to receive therapy were suddenly depleted. I was devastated because most of my clients had been uninsured and I felt so helpless to stop them from losing the therapy they had been needing. I had believed in what I was doing or I would not have been doing it. I was in a bind.

Normally, I find it comforting to believe I am disposable in life, to remember the truth that Life will go on when I am no longer here. It helps take the pressure off. Nothing I do is likely to completely destroy or be necessary for saving the Earth or Life as we know it. For me, that used to be Death Therapy and it was very reassuring when I was younger.

But somehow, to those people I worked with, I did believe I was helping. I did believe I was important. I found it difficult to just accept the losses on their behalves. It isn't right. It isn't fair. I know Life isn't Fair, but this wasn't OK. I was fighting the Darkness and didn't expect that blow. It was really hard to go on. I don't know how this led to there being Dementors around every corner, but there they were in Cornwall or Amelia, wherever I turned. I got weak and shaky and the happiness was sucked out of me. I felt like I was about to lose my very soul. I heard Mom screaming. I felt the pain and the helplessness of watching it happen. And I was out of commission. I lost the golden snitch. I couldn't even stay on my broom. Home was my hospital wing, and chocolate didn't seem to be enough of a remedy.

I know the Malfoys of the world are probably smirking at me and think I'm weak because of all this. I cannot help that fact. Malfoy isn't going to understand and neither will his thick-headed sidekicks. I am happy enough when McGonagall shows support after seeming like she was so strict.

It turns out that I can't explain it to anyone who isn't willing to understand. I can't beat myself up about it. I am not a wizard and I don't have a magic wand. I don't know how to conjure a Patronus. If I did, things would be so much easier. But I am just me, a human without special powers. The closest I have is medication, and that is not the same thing at all. I have an achilles heel, probably more than one. If I didn't have a secret weapon, I don't think I'd ever make it through.

And when I think about what I decided to do, going into the field of mental health, sometimes it seems masochistic and quixotic. It feels like a fools' quest and I wonder what I was thinking. I do consider leaving the profession. I consider my other skills and talents. What could I do instead? I could probably excel in other fields, so I'm told, fields that pay real money and where people treat you with more respect. But then I remember my life's quest. As long as I'm in commission, as long as people can help me through this, it's worth it to live for my number one value, to help people find healing, to be a light in the darkness.

I know it's strange coming from a capitalist. What is a hedonist doing in a job that is practically volunteer work that wrenches the soul on a regular basis? How can I do this?

I keep doing it because I believe that it's worth it to defend against the Darkness and because I believe that Love and Hope make Life worth Living. 

That doesn't make me infallible and it doesn't mean I have magic powers. I am still working on healing and getting to the point where I can get back to work. I'm still messing up. Before my trip to Hawaii, I still felt like a zombie. My body was manifesting all kinds of ailments to let me know it isn't ok for my Soul to feel like it's on "Empty." I was unable to write this because I was too hurt to be productive, the clouds in my head were pretty dark, precluding clarity of vision or of thought. It felt like my head was full of mollasses and cotton balls.

Basically, it was hard for me to explain that after the first week and a half off work, I stopped feeling the intense emotional pain, but I was numb inside and unable to function. Even after two weeks off work, I was no longer aching, but was unable to feel any joy or belief in my life, healing or joy. It just wasn't in me.

After a few days in Hawaii, some of the Life started to return, I started to have feelings again that weren't pain and weren't numb. I still don't know if I'm whole. I feel more like ceramics that were broken and glued back together and broken again and glued back together again - I just don't want to test the bonds until the glue has more time to dry. I'm hoping it holds together by the time I get back to work.
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Tour to Halawa Falls

This morning we drove up the east coast again to get to the meeting point for the tour to the falls. It was really pretty and also quite twisty turny, once again. We didn’t stop anywhere along the way this time because we didn’t want to be late.

It turned out we were a little early, but that’s ok. Everything is so nice to look at and the weather just feels good to be in. Q enjoyed the fact that it is still quite windy today. He also informed me that there is a high surf advisory until Friday for the eastern side of the island. Looking over the water, I could understand why. It could easily be deadly, and we were informed yesterday that people do drown in the waves at Papohaku, which was not at all surprising.

Our tour guide introduced herself as “Sweetheart” and she was barefoot the entire time, though we had been advised to wear good hiking shoes. She agreed that we should. I was glad we did. We also had our sunscreen, bug repellent and lunch with us. We have not had any problem w/ mosquitoes this entire trip, but we were informed they are thick in the rainforest where we would be walking. That was true.

Sweetheart showed us her family’s land and the taro fields. She explained that there is a poi factory but that isn’t being used much anymore. And she had to explain that poi is what is made out of taro, which is a root vegetable, starchy, like a potato. Poi is what you get when taro is pounded into a paste. It is vital to the island and is what her family does to contribute to the well being of the island. They don’t sell it, but trade it to other islanders for things that they need. She also explained that they are being very careful to avoid the taro virus that causes the plants to rot called “apple smell” and that so far it hasn’t been found on Molokai, though it is on many of the other islands.

Sweetheart showed us that her family also grows many other fruits and shared some of them with us, including ones we’d never heard of before. There were Hawaiian oranges, mountain apples (which are red and pearlike), limes, mango, avocado, and a certain kind of cherry that is small and red like maraschino cherries but tastes strange – it was said to taste like a pepper.  They also have lemon trees, coffee, breadfruit (even though they rarely eat it), tobacco, and so many others that I’m probably leaving some things out. She made mosquito swatters for us out of ti leaves and also explained how different parts of plants have many uses.

As she walked along the trails and pointed things out, she explained about the culture and history and I found myself interested in things I hadn’t been actively curious about, including some of the traditions of offerings to the gods; asking the kahuna permission before doing anything; offering human sacrifice to the war god of a warrior from an opposing tribe (after the kahuna consumes the warrior’s eyeball, of course); and the tradition in Feb of their version of the Olympics, which is a time w/out war when there is peaceful competition.

I noted that the rock walls were well built and really neat looking. They were made of lava rocks and Sweetheart explained that each family had a job, something useful they offered to the island. Just as her family grows taro, there is a family responsible for building the stone walls. She stated she didn’t know how long the walls had been there but they were there to keep wild animals from coming in and grazing on their crops. She pointed out places where a pig dug up a lot of roots and made a general mess of things before the hunters were called in. The hunters obtained a hog and a sow, one was 400 lbs.

At the falls themselves, I was glad it was time to pause hiking – it had been a long walk and it was starting to get hot. She made an offering and floated some ti leaves to make sure it was good for us to swim. When I put my feet in the water, I was sure it was ice temperature, but was reassured it was not cold enough to cause hypothermia. I was determined to swim to the falls and back, which wasn’t far in that pond, but sure seemed like a challenge in that temperature. (I had been told the day before it was 60 degrees.)

I made it almost to the place where the falls hit the pond and realized I was unable to swim against the current to get all the way there. It was coming down hard from such a height. I got close enough that I could feel the splashes and the spray from the falls and swam around it a short time before I decided it was time to go back and get out the water. It was kind of a shock for my body – when I got out of the water I felt weak and wobbly, but I made it. I was really glad for a bite to eat, too. I didn’t realize how ravenous I had gotten and how lovely it felt to be warm and dry again.

On the hike back to the car, Sweetheart described more about the island, the culture, the reasons why the land is restricted to people who live on the island unless people go with a tour guide, and she talked about the Manson cult followers who had been found in the area back in the 60s or 70s.

She explained that the mongoose had been brought in to the island to be a predator for rats, but that hadn’t worked out so well because the rats were nocturnal and mongoose is diurnal. That explained all the mongooses we had found – they’re prolific and always seen crossing the road. They are a predator for chicken eggs, she explained. Chickens are everywhere on the island, but apparently on Kauai, the one island without mongooses, chickens are more of a problem.

The story goes that a crate of mongooses was sent to each of the Hawaiian islands, and when one of the ship workers on Kauai saw them, he thought they were cute and went to pet one, but it bit his finger off, so he became angry and threw the entire crate into the ocean, which is why they don’t exist on Kauai.

Have I mentioned how vociferous the birds are all over the island? I’m sure I haven’t paid them due justice. They are reminding me of that fact as I’m typing, in fact. The birds are pretty, too.


The North part of the island
sideways smile

Today we rested until late in the morning, actually until early afternoon. We played cards and then talked to a TAN representative who did a brief survey with us. It was interesting to talk to him because his family is from this island. I get the impression he is wealthy and that maybe most of the people from here are wealthy?

We drove up to the north side of the island but we had to stop where the road ended because Kaulupapa is restricted. We went to the lookout and read the posted signs about leprosy and Father Damien’s work and such. It was interesting to learn about the disease and great to learn that it can be treated these days and is much more easily controlled from spreading than people previously believed. The trees had really long soft pine needles that are like snake grass. It was covering the ground and make everything look soft. The way the needles blow in the wind is possibly the reason there are so many of them at that high of an elevation.

The cliffs of Kaulupapa are the highest in Hawaii and I was a little disappointed we couldn’t ride on them but the mule rides were booked full, and even if we could have gotten in, were quite pricy. Even though it is a National Historic Park, it is restricted and no one can go in except on special tours or if you’re visiting the patients of Kaulupapa by invitation.

We walked along the trail to see Phallic Rock. (Yes, it’s really called that.) It was a nice walk through the forest and we were able to find lots of large rocks near Phallic Rock. While there, we noticed offerings that had been made and realized it is a sacred site of fertility. Q expressed that it was cool because of the high elevation if nothing else. I felt like it was more than that. I also found the female partner of the phallic rock and noted that it hadn’t even been mentioned. Q didn’t find it significant and probably wondered if it really was meant to be anything special or was just a coincidence, since I also noticed rocks shaped like other things, like a turtle and stuff like that.

I noted that I still had sand coming out my ears from the previous day’s experiences in the ocean. I wonder how long there will still be Hawaiian sand in my body from this trip.

After returning to the hotel, we walked along the beach and gathered some coral, not much. We observed some small crabs and lots of coconuts and strange plant life. We found a coconut that sloshes when you shake it, which is how you know it’s safe to eat, and debated about the best way to get into and eat it or drink the coconut water. We ended up asking one of the people we walked by and he explained that it would not taste good to drink the water from it but that the meat of the fruit would be good to eat.

Q spent quite a while shucking it and then we took it inside to drill into the nut itself. I drilled into it and found that indeed the water did not taste good. Q broke it open and enjoyed eating the meat of the plant. It’s good fresh.

It feels like this day we didn’t do much, but we enjoyed our walk along the beach at sunset and we did go out and stargaze on the beach in the early night. It was really beautiful but cold. I decided to make it an early night because we had a tour scheduled for Wed morning.


West Side of the Island

Today we went to the western side of the island of Molokai. We were there to watch the sun rise and we took pictures of the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and we were unable to resist wading in the ocean as well. We soon discovered that you don’t wade at Pakohaku Beach without being prepare to get wet. It’s not the kind of place where you can take off your sandals and roll the cuffs of your pant legs up to your knees and expect your clothes to stay dry. The waves are much stronger than that, as we soon found out. After our jeans were soaked all the way up to the pockets, it was time to go back to the car and drive to town so my husband could get swim trunks. Yes, he actually came to Hawaii without a swimsuit, but that’s ok. They sell them here.

We visited the town and realized nothing was open yet (of the two stores that have not gone out of business). It was a little sad that so many buildings were boarded up. I guess that’s happening everywhere, but it means something about the dedication of people who are still against development when that is the case. Where do their kids find work? I think a lot of them are soldiers. Camouflage is common. I don’t know if that is just fashion, but it seems more than that.

Anyway, the Wind & Kite shop was open and he found a swimsuit. We bought a few souvenirs and stopped in the General Store before heading back to the beach.

This time we prepared to get in the water for real and we found you only have to go into the water up to your belly before the waves are sometimes over your head. It was kind of difficult to stand firm on the ground when a wave hit. There was a lot of force behind them and they knocked me to my knees more than once. After we went in further thinking that rather than fighting the waves, letting them carry you along and doing a little body surfing might be a better way to go. It’s a trick to not be scraped against the ocean floor but I think I got better at it in time. It was exhausting to try to fight the under currents. It wore us out to be in there for a couple hours.

After returning to our car, we drove the rest of the road on the west side. There were a few more access points to beach, but they were all rocky beach. I really enjoy the aesthetics of rocky beaches, but they aren’t so good for swimming and there was no shade in those spots. There was one small parking lot that was full of cars, which suggested a very popular beach compared to the one we spent the day at, which only had one or two other cars that belonged to campers. We decided to return to the less popular beach despite the fact that that one has probably a lot calmer waters.

When mid-day came along we got out of the sun and into the shade. It was a good thing, too. As we theorized, sunscreen is less effective when your skin is sand-papered off every time a major wave comes through. Evidence suggests this might be the case.

We watched the birds and other wildlife in the park, talked a little, relaxed, and played rummy for a couple hours until I became a little restless and we went back to the beach to walk some more, which meant getting back in the water because it was just so tempting and refreshing and fun. Also, I have this belief that the salt water will be good for me and have healing properties for things that are out of balance. After spending so long in the water that every mucous membrane was stinging from the amount of salt, I concluded that I probably tolerated it better because of my experience with the Neti-Pot, but it still was a little odd to have water go into my ear and out my nose.  I think that if this vacation doesn’t restore balance, it’s at least a good start. At some point I realized my nose was not running anymore. My skin may be clearing up, but that’s still not completely clear.

Despite efforts to plan our week, we’re learning that spontaneity is going to be really beneficial here, except that we found out we are too late to get in on the mule tour, which we both wanted to do. We didn’t realize it would get full and we needed to make reservations early. But we will still go on the tour to the Halawa Falls and tomorrow we’ll go see what we can of the things that are usually shown on the mule tour. So far, everything we see here is worthwhile and I have the feeling we definitely made the right choice to come to Molokai.

Tonight we’re supposed to see the stars again from the beach. My body is tired from the waves and walking on the sand but we’ll get rest soon, and it will be lovely.  OK, so I didn’t make it out of the room again till morning – I was too tired, but sleep was lovely.



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