A Typical Hawai`ian Winter

I first wrote about this in 2009 soon after I started writing my blog. It’s one of my favorite times of year here in Hawai`i, in what we call “winter.” The roads are lined with dazzling displays of poinsettias .

The highway I drive regularly is narrow and curving with almost no place to pull over, but I managed to get a few pictures. Some of the photos are a bit hazy, so there must have been some vog the day I took these (look up “vog”). Please enjoy these pictures that show a few of our winter scenes.

Yes, there is a difference between summer and winter here. Even in Florida, Southern California, and Arizona (all states where I have lived in the past), there is a distinct change between the temperatures in July and those in January.

Here, there is no noticeable change in temperature from month to month all year. From late November until mid-March, however, there is a change in what blooms along the roadsides and in our gardens.

Some places have huge embankments of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). “Pulcherrima” means “very beautiful,” and it is. There is no way to compare these with the little pots of poinsettias you might purchase in a local store.

Against our rich green forests, the brilliant reds are almost florescent. Then throughout March, I look for those little drops of red in the midst of jungle growth that keep hanging on. When they are all gone, I know that winter is over!

Poinsettias flow over onto the ground and almost seem to take over everything else. My first experience with poinsettias took place back in the early 70s when I decided to take some courses in the ornamental horticulture department of California Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo.

We made a field trip to visit the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, CA where over 70% of the poinsettias in the United States and over 50% worldwide actually begin their life. There were acres of greenhouses filled with poinsettia cuttings in all varieties and stages of growth. Please follow the link above to view the history of that ranch as well as the history of poinsettias in general.

I love the way they intermingle with the yellow hibiscus. Such a dazzling display of color!

This is a sight few of you will see at Christmas.

Many of the poinsettias have found their way into the wild tangles of growth alongside our roads.

Others are a featured part of a home’s entryway.

You can see why I’m obsessed with taking just the right pictures to illustrate this stunning plant.

Poinsettias are originally from Mexico and named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico in the 1920s.  During his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species.

In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. The rest, as they say, “is history.”

When I lived in Southern California, I remember how people would plant the small potted plants they bought at Christmas time. Many of their homes had nice stands of poinsettias, but they rarely reached the size of the ones here.

If you are interested in what to do with your Christmas poinsettia plant, look online to read about it. You will find good sites on how to choose and care for your poinsettia, and what to do with it at the end

I really do empathize with those of you who are suffering under ice storms and record-breaking snowstorms. I have lived in Alaska, Illinois, and Rhode Island, so I know what you are experiencing. But I could never go back to it, now that I’ve lived in Paradise for close to 30 years!

Whether you are celebrating Hanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, or any other festival at this time of year, poinsettias are a celebration in themselves!

Mele Kalikimaka
[Merry Christmas in Hawaiian]

WASSAIL

This recipe has made its way through several generations and I’ve passed it on to my own children. My oldest daughter said she’s already gone through three (maybe more) batches this holiday season. I’ve also given it as gifts to friends and neighbors.

Just smelling it as you walk into the house is enough to put you in a holiday frame of mind!

Wassail Recipe

Juice 2 oranges and 2 lemons. Set juice aside to add later

Slice rinds and boil in 6 cups of water with 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 T of cloves, 1 cup sugar (for alternate, see note below). Simmer for an hour.

Add citrus juice and 1 gallon of cider or apple juice. Warm it – don’t boil.

Note: In place of sugar, I use Monk Fruit or Erythritol. You might want to use maple syrup or honey, too.

Enjoy!

A hui hou!

Queen’s Bath

The idea of an outdoor shower is one of those notions that stays in my mind, and perhaps yours, too? Maybe someday I’ll finally get to put one in my own home. I’ve had friends who included one in their building plans.

The Hawai`ian queens took that notion one step beyond my own fantasies. Can you imagine being able to walk out your back door, saunter down a steep incline, and take your bath in a warm tropical pool? No doubt they had a few servants to scrub their backs or to help them dry off.

The photo of Queen’s Bath above is one I took on a trip to Kauai quite a few years ago of such a place. For a look at the hike we made down to the pool, check out this You Tube from last year that shows just how treacherous yet fascinating that hike can be. The video is about 20 minutes long, so you don’t need to look at the whole video. Watch enough to see the difficulty of the hike.

With the mobility issues I have today, I could never make it again, but walking down that path was an experience I’ll never forget. Be careful, however – it can be dangerous!

A hui hou!

Kwan Yin

I made my first visit to the Far East in 1966. If there is such a thing as a past life, I discovered it there. There are several events that have stuck with me for the past 50-plus years to validate those happenings.

One of those uncanny situations revolved around statues in various forms throughout my travels. It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Hawaii, that I discovered the significance of Kwan Yin (Guan Yin, Quan Yin) in all her various poses.

I am not of the Buddhist faith, but there are elements that I find valuable and incorporate into my own faith.

I offer you Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, a bodhisattva who continues to teach me more about being a spiritual female.

I am a retired United Methodist minister who uses meditation in several forms. So I feel free to let Kwan Yin guide me in my inner evaluations.

When I need to hear it, she reminds me to be compassionate with myself as well as others.

She reassures me that unconditional love, what we preachers call “Grace” is for all people, including myself.

She is a constant reminder that the blessings of human kindness, or Mitzvah, connect us all.

Most of all, she reveals the feminine face of God, and allows me to experience my faith in ways that are more meaningful in my life, ways that are real.

As I travel throughout the world, it is hard to forget that we are all One, all needing that touch of human kindness and compassion that Kwan Yin offers.

A hui hou!

Inspired by Shakespeare

I have always been an Anglophile, with an interest in traditional English culture and the monarchy. My senior paper in high school focused on the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II, so I imagine that’s when my love affair of England actually began. It’s hard to believe that we are now celebrating her Platinum Jubilee. In college, I focused on English literature, and more specifically on the language of Shakespeare’s time. Even though it was basically “English,” it was like learning a completely new language. Knowing the meaning of the words changed my whole perspective and understanding when I watched his plays.When I did my geneology for membership in DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) I discovered that my “patriot” had come over on an early ship from England and settled in South Carolina. He fought under Francis Marion, known as the “Swampfox.” So I had a reason for being so interested in anything British.

I had a chance to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2005 and loved it. I also visited the Globe Theatre in Bankside, London. I will intersperse a few pictures from beautiful Stratford, as I tell you about the Hawai`i Shakespeare Festival of 2022.

The season in Honolulu will perform three live, in-person shows for the first time since 2019. Check it out at hawaiishakes.org and sign up for their news. The shows are performed at The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nu`uanu Ave. on the corner of Nu`uanu and Pauahi, one block south of Beretania near the historic Hawaii Theatre.

I plan to fly over to Oahu from the Big Island (my island of Hawai`i) in August for their gender-reversal showing of The Taming of the Shrew, one of my favorites. It will be fun to see how they manage to portray a male Kate and a female Petruchio.

I went to many plays at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego when I lived there. Even if you don’t understand all of the language, you’ll love the drama. I suggest finding a synopsis of the story line so you’ll know what is happening.

I stayed at the White Swan Hotel, named for (I suppose) all the swans on the Avon.

A hui hou!

My New Career

Friends often ask how I get so much writing accomplished. The answer is simple – I finally retired from my last career.

I was in the field of psychology for several years, then I spent several decades as a full-time pastor and counselor in a mainline denomination. As I finished up my last few years in a local church here in Hawai`i, I began teaching part-time for our community college.

By the time I retired from ministry, I was teaching fulltime at the college and didn’t stop until September 2021. I was an Associate Professor of psychology when I retired eight months ago.

The first six months of retirement were difficult for me. I had never been without a job or career of some sort since the age of sixteen. Perhaps many of you can relate.

I was lost. Who am I? Now what? Is death the next step? What is life about?

Recently, I was looking through old journals to find something I thought I needed. I don’t even remember what that was now, but a phrase in my journals kept coming up over and over: “I just wish I could stay home and write.”

I had been writing bits and pieces here and there, and then I would put it all aside to grade a stack of papers or prepare a sermon, see a client or prepare a class lecture. By the time I retired, my computer held several novels and bits of books and articles, plus notes on other work, and I had published a self-help e-book online. In my mind, none of that counted for anything.

Retirement gave me the opportunity to put it all together and get published. The e-book is now in paperback form, and I have serious notes on the next two books of my mystery series.

I tell this story to remind you (and myself) that little bits of writing here and there do add up. Take those few minutes you have on the way to work, or early in the morning before the household wakes up, or instead of watching TV, or while you are nursing a baby, or whatever else you do. Those things are important, but so is your writing habit.

It doesn’t need to be quality time or quality writing at this point, but it needs to be something. If you are a writer, then write. You can edit and put it all together later, but all famous authors remind us to write something every day.

A hui hou!

It’s All A Fantasy, Isn’t It?

I started this blog in 2009 when my head and my life were in a different place. At the time, I wanted to give readers an idea of what it was like to live on an acre of lava on the south end of the Big Island of Hawai`i. Over the years, I included a variety of other topics – gardening, travel, recipes, stories, and much more.

I’m in a different time, place, and head space now, and I want my blog to reflect that. So, lately, I’ve been pondering other areas for my blog. I still may update some of those old posts and use them for variety from time to time. For now, as my topics seem to dance around, I want to write more about writing.

I was looking through some of my old journals and discovered that I have been wanting time to stay home and write for several decades. Even my dreams were about writing. Now that I’ve retired from all my other careers, I finally have time to write. So here I am, writing full-time at last!

Mystery writing has filled my mind lately, and if you want to find out more about that, check out my homepage for this blog (lavalily.com). I have one mystery published (Shadowy Tales) and you can find it (pre-sale) as a regular book or an e-book on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The sequel is on the way and may be out before the end of 2022 (Washboard Tales).

Fantasy writing also appeals to me, and other genres, as well. Whatever I write is fantasy in the sense that it is something that hasn’t happened – yet. The characters I write about are all fantasies in my mind. They live ordinary lives, yet often they become involved in extraordinary mysterious events.

In case you think you might like to start a writing career, too, I will add a tip occasionally to help get you started. Grab a notebook and just start writing. Everyone has a story inside that needs to come out so others can enjoy it.

TIP: Look around you at the everyday people in your life. Fantasize about them becoming involved in solving a small mystery. Choose someone or something and write a scene.

A hui hou!

Writing Hang-ups

As an avid reader, I am fascinated with the many ways words are strung together to create a story or an essay, a poem or a play, a letter or a memoir. Along with my obsession for reading came my own need to start stringing words together. Almost as soon as I could spell my name, I started to write.

I have been writing this “Lava to Lilikoi” blog since May, 2008, and I wrote other short-lived blogs before that. In addition to blogging, I confess that I have written three novels, and have started a dozen others, not to mention outlines on another dozen or so, a memoir and several non-fiction books.

Other than the blogs, I have only had a couple of academic articles published and a self-published e-book of fables I wrote and used in my counseling practice.

I attended the Maui Writers Conference for many years, and the few years after it became Hawaii Writers Conference on Oahu, plus various other conferences for writers over the years. I even taught”writing intensive” class at the college for several of my regular courses.

But like many people, I love the creation, not the marketing. I’ve put in a valiant effort to get past that hang-up, and I honestly do know what I “should” be doing. So I read and study and read some more about marketing. I have subscribed to over sixty writing blogs over the years and there are many others I wish I had time to read. All of this is an excuse to avoid marketing!

This brings me to the real reason for this post. I want to start sharing my own journey toward being a published author. By making a “public” commitment, perhaps I’ll finally get off my okole (I doubt if you need to look up the meaning of that Hawaiian word!) and do some productive marketing as well as writing.

If you can suggest any good blogs or if you have any words of encouragement that would help me actually submit my writing to a publisher or agent, please do so! I need all the push I can get!

A hui hou!

Sea Turtles

For quite a few years, I lived right on the ocean. I was so close that the salt spray covered everything in my home. But the view was unbeatable. I watched the surfers at both Banyans and Lyman’s Point.

The salt did a lot of damage to my belongings, but I didn’t mind it for the years I lived there. The surf roared and crashed twenty-four hours a day, and I loved it. When I finally left, it took me a while to become accustomed to the silence.

Some days, I watched dolphins play in the little bay outside my deck. Other days, I had the pleasure of the whales on their journey. There was always something going on.

There was one bit of sea life I could depend on every single day – the many honu, or sea turtles that sunned themselves on the rocks. Sometimes there would be as many as eight of them on the lava rocks.

As the tide gradually came in and covered the rocks, they would slip away into the water, then return as the next low tide began. Watching them, I learned the personality of each one.

This big guy is in the water part way. He was funny to watch. As the tide crept up, he would haul himself just a little higher up the rock until he finally couldn’t stay above the water. Reluctantly, he would slip back into the ocean and swim away.

Many times, I had to shout at visitors who tried to touch them. The turtles are protected and don’t react kindly to being teased. So if you are visiting Hawaii, please stay away from the turtles. Take pictures from a distance and go away knowing that you are helping to preserve our natural environment and care for our endangered honu.

A hui hou!

Rollright Stones

Stones – or rocks – have an interesting background. Many myths talk about the petra genetrix, or the Motherstone, that births heroes and saviors. The stony deserts of the Middle East have been called the “Gardens of Allah.”

On a trip through the Cotswold region of England, I was impressed with the mythology (and longevity) of the Rollright Stones. The picture above shows a circle of knights with their king. Read more about them here. They were built by late Stone Age people over 4000 years ago.


One of the Knights close-up

Stones often represent obstacles or a certain barren quality. Yet those same “stones” can be viewed as a source of our strength and stability. I am reminded of scripture that talks about the stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone of something greater. Throughout ancient manuscripts we find that much of what we consider worthless, is actually valuable.

One of my homes in Hawai`i where I lived for about ten years was on an acre of a particular type of lava rock known as a’a, a lumpy, rocky substance that blew out of the depths of our volcano. I had no problem calling my “pile of rocks” (in which very little grows) a “garden.” But there are many nutrients in the seemingly useless lava that somehow can nourish our plants.


Rollright King

One weighty scripture says that if we are kept quiet, if we are not allowed to speak, even the stones will cry out! It is time for us to cry out for basic human rights.

The rocks in my garden were tossed out by Madam Pele,  our Volcano Goddess. I like to think she was demonstrating outrage.

When we feel the least valuable, when we feel our voice is not heard, when others cannot speak for themselves, we must become transformed, reclaim our strengths, and cry out!

A hui hou!

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