Happy Birthday!


HILTON'S EGGPLANT
My brother sent this picture to share his amusement. He and I both tend to have the same weird sense of humor most times. He couldn’t resist taking this picture at the Gulfport, FL Tuesday morning market.

Today is his birthday! I send him oodles of love and hugs. No, I won’t tell you his age, but even though he’s almost eleven years younger than I am, he will always seem like my “big brother,” not my “little brother.” I look up to him in so many areas. I’ll describe just two of those.

Technology – Whenever I get stumped on a computer glitch, he comes to my rescue. He continually tells me I know more than many women my age, but next to him, I do feel like a klutz. Thank you, bro!

Music – We both started out life in a musical family where everyone played some instrument or sang well. When he was five years old, I gave him his first piano lessons. Although I am a fairly accomplished pianist and musician in my own right, he left me in the dust. He became a professor of music composition, a concert organist and pianist, and too many other areas to mention. Check out his website and listen to some of his music. (I have a sister’s right to brag!)

Happy birthday, “little” brother

from your very proud “big” sister!

A hui hou!

Remember Typewriters?

When I recently found myself bored with my current writing projects, my brother suggested that I start something completely new, and set aside all the “old” stuff I’d been working on.

He said “You don’t need to suffer the discouragement of being rejected. After all, you’re a different person now and a lot more experienced.” How true!

Back in the day of typewriters, ribbons, and carbon paper (yes, I’m that old), sliding a fresh sheet of paper between the rollers always gave a sense of new possibilities. There were times I used one piece of carbon paper so long that it was almost in shreds. And a new ribbon with freshly cleaned keys (remember the smell of that cleaning fluid?) made the manuscript look crisp.

There is something cleansing to see a pile of wadded up paper on the floor after numerous fresh starts.

When word processors finally came into being, there were many articles in writing magazines about whether that would change the way authors write. The consensus seemed to be that it would take away our creativity! There may have been something to those worries.

I love having a legal-sized yellow pad handy beside me in the car for scribbling down notes as ideas pop into my head. That is still the most reliable way for me to capture those fleeting thoughts. Sure, I have a cell phone that takes notes when I’m not near my laptop, but nothing beats the old-fashioned convenience of a pen or pencil and paper.

There is at least one book I’m reading in each room (or in the car or in my purse) accompanied by a small notebook and pen for seizing inspirations.

Sometimes starting a fresh new page is the necessary impetus for many things in life, isn’t it? New curtains, rearranging the furniture, or even a new house brings new energy. Each new semester of school brought hope of brilliant and eager students, although I enjoyed most of my “old” students, as well. Fresh soil in planting beds brings anticipation of new growth.

Perhaps someday, I will return to the “old” written stuff and recognize its worth – or its worthlessness!

As the year 2021 draws to a close, what of the “old” do we need to set aside to allow room for the “new” to flow into our lives?

A hui hou!

Season of Light

During the month of December, there are many celebrations from various cultures, faiths, and events to remember.

Many of these are linked to the winter solstice, which has been celebrated throughout history as the “rebirth of the sun.” The natural rotation of the earth was not known in earlier times, so the shortest day of the year (December 21) and the gradual lengthening of days afterward took on a meaning that has largely been forgotten.

We don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus, but over time, his birth was also associated with this “birth of the sun,” or many say “birth of the Son.” Early Christian celebrations were generally observed on days that were already holy days, such as the solstice, to help make the transition to Christianity.

…Shab-e yalda, the rebirth of the sun, was an ancient Iranian ceremony that reflected the basics of goodness and light against evil and darkness. (from Suite 101 – see link)

There are many other interesting days of celebration listed on that last link, including The Festival of the Wild Women!

Because I spent many years in Arizona, and Tucson in particular, one of my favorite December traditions is Las Posadas. This procession is a reenactment of the trip Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A group dressed as angels, shepherds, and the holy couple go from house to house seeking shelter. The word posadas means “lodging” in Spanish. At each home, these “pilgrims” are served various foods, including tamales.

There are many other dates to honor during December, but three stand out for me as a special way of honoring this season of lights. They are World AIDS Day on December 1, Pearl Harbor Day on December 7, and Human Rights Day on December 10.

Mele Kalikimaka!

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!

How Do You Dance Your Life?

Some of you may know that among other things, I love gardening, writing, reading, traveling, and much more. What you may not know is that I am a recently retired college associate professor and a retired United Methodist minister. When I served a church in Tucson AZ, many of the funerals I conducted were victims of AIDS.

Because of my close connection with this population in my church, I have a special place in my heart for those who suffer from this disease. It is in honor of those who have the disease, as well as in memory of those I have buried, that I write this blog.

There is a special dance from the early church community called the TRIPUDIUM. I learned about it nearly twenty-five years ago when I took a workshop from Doug Adams who was a professor of religion and the arts at the Pacific School of Religion.

I had no idea that Doug had left this earth until I looked him up on Google. According to articles I read about his death, the memorial celebrations outdid Doug in creativity.

The following information on liturgical dance is something I learned from Doug that will stay with me always.

TRIPUDIUM actually means “three step” or “jubilate” in Latin. Later, dance in church was suppressed as being too sinful, and thus it came to mean “the Jubilation.”

It was a style of processing to church, symbolizing the progress of not only the individual, but of the whole church and community.

It is a process of three steps forward and one back – three forward and one back. Often someone could call out three signs of HOPE on the forward three steps, then call out one sign of SETBACK on the backward step.

In other words, the SETBACK becomes part of the dance. It isn’t outside the rhythm.

HOPE – HOPE – HOPE – SETBACK

HOPE – HOPE – HOPE – SETBACK…

We don’t want to include the back step in the dance. But it’s all part of the dance! It gives us a more optimistic spirit, helps us see setbacks in the context of life, of ongoing progress.

Another interesting fact is that this dance was not done in single file, but in processions with many abreast with arms linked, row after row. It is done in community – not alone. It is a deliberate moving forward.

The people would move through the streets and into the church and around in it during the songs of the service and back out through the streets as a recessional. The dance was a communal act of worship and celebration.

The Greeks believed in an afterlife, so they danced a ring dance to make safe passage for the deceased. The Greeks appreciated dance as an aesthetic experience. Everything was a dance for them – victory processions, weapon dances, displays of power, ball games, wedding processions, and funeral processions!

The early Christians drew on this custom. They circled the grave with lively funeral dances to celebrate the person’s birth into everlasting life. Rose petals were dropped on the open grave, as they sang, “Ring Around the Rosie…Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

When life and mortality seem difficult, I invite you to put on some music and dance the Tripudium, shouting out three signs of hope for every setback. This particular version of Lee Ann Womack’s song “I Hope You Dance” seems appropriate today.

A hui hou!

Act of Human Kindness

Since many of you are new readers to my blog, I have been updating older posts from over ten years ago. Today’s post is on the theme of MITZVAH. In an earlier post on “Mitzvah” I talked about the many young men going through their Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall of the old Temple in Jerusalem.

The top photo is one a colleague took of me standing at the Wall, offering up my prayers. You can tell I’m the tourist by the backpack!

The photo below is one I took while there quite a few years ago on my first visit to the lands they call Holy.

The best meaning for Mitzvah I can find is that it means “to express an act of human kindness.” What a wonderful theme for today’s world! I think need as many acts of human kindness as we can provide, so I’ll do my share!

It is said that prayers written on a tiny piece of paper, folded, then stuck into a crack in the wall, are received and answered by the Almighty. If you want to know the origin of this, read this.

Every faith has some form of prayer. Even those without a faith are praying when they say silently (or aloud), “I hope I pass this test.” I believe that any desire or need is received and acted upon. Words that are commonly used for the receiver are God, Holy Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Great Spirit, Universe, Almighty, Energy Flow, and so many more. Regardless of the word we use, the meaning is the same.

To me, prayer is not so much what we are asking for, but listening to what we are to do. It is when I stop the “asking” that I begin “hearing.” Someone once reminded me that the answers we receive are either “yes” or “wait, because I have something better in mind for you.”

When I stood at the Wailing Wall, I was listening. When I worked on the lava field that was my home on the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was listening. When I stand before my classes, I hear. Every sound in nature is telling me something. Every word uttered by another person is the answer to a prayer, whether I recognize it as that or not.

If more of us listened before we spoke, it might be a better and more peaceful world.

A hui hou!

Thoughts for the Day

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was not only a Jesuit priest but he was well known as a palaeontologist. Among other accomplishments, he was involved in uncovering the skull of the Peking man. As someone with a mind of both the spiritual and the scientific worlds, he has inspired me in several ways.

A birthday can be a good time for reflection, so it is on this occasion I think about one of Teilhard de Chardin’s primary concepts. The way I understand it, we constantly are evolving or spiraling to a higher and higher state, which he called the Omega Point. He described it as a “transcendent centre of unification,” a convergence, rather than a divergence.

As I apply that concept to myself, I see that I have evolved over the past decades, although perhaps starting that process later than I might have wished. As he put it, in my life there was “a clear pattern of a rise of consciousness…a continual heightening, a rising tide of consciousness.”

Like his description of Time and the Universe, “in any period of ten million years Life practically grows a new skin,” I, too, have grown a new skin throughout my own quest. More than ever before I am aware of how my action or inaction affects my traveling companions, aware of the world around me and of its cyclic nature. It is my personal evolution – “a condition of all experience,” he would say.

There is another quote attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, although I’m not sure which of his books it is in. I use it as my own mantra.

“Our duty as men and women is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist.”

In his Hymn of the Universe, he writes “Happy the man [sic] who fails to stifle his vision.”

For the next several decades, I want to continue an upward evolution without stifling my vision!

A hui hou!

Too Old To Dream?

In the mid-thirties, The Night Is Young, a movie with Nelson Eddy and Irene Dunne, featured the song “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.” I suspect that most of you reading this will remember that song. I was a mere babe in arms at the time, but I know the song from having heard it over the years by various artists, including my parents.

That song floated through my thoughts the other day as I approach my birthday, and I decided Romberg and Hammerstein had those words all wrong!

The textbook out of which I taught a Human Development course at Hawai’i Community College categorizes the “young old” as 65 to 74, the “old old” as 75 to 84 and the “oldest old” as 85 and above. I won’t discuss my calendar age here, although I do admit to being over 65! In terms of the great site Real Age,  my physical age is about 10 years younger than my calendar age. Another fascinating site is Living to 100 where I learned that based on my health and lifestyle, I will live to 104, and with a couple of minor changes, I could increase that to 108.

So do you think I am too old to dream? Are any of us ever too old to dream?

I don’t intend to stop dreaming until they sprinkle my ashes over the ocean. And who knows? Maybe I won’t stop dreaming even after that.

Please! Let us not stop dreaming, just because we think we might be “too old to dream.” The world is full of dreams just waiting for someone with our talents, our openness, our persistence, our love – no matter our age.

Just for fun, here is the front of the old sheet music for the song.

A hui hou!

My Cookbook Addiction

I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.

My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.

The shelves of cookbooks shown above were in my kitchen/dining area when I lived in Ocean View, and I had another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I’ve even been known to borrow cookbooks from the library to read!

When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!

I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.

Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!

Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!

So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.

Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company; I think I inherited it from my great-grandmother. Several of my books date back to the 30s, and many of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman in 1955, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.

I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. You wouldn’t believe how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! One recipe from that book is “Shrimp Creole” and someday I’ll post that because I make it often.

I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!

Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.

The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.

As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find vegetarian/vegan books, low-fat books, low-carb books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still read and sometimes use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.

Even though I still buy new cookbooks, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading my cookbooks like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for more cooking.

Now I’m anxious to go find a new recipe to try for you!

A hui hou!

The Singer

Today’s post is a bit of my short fiction.
From time to time, I will post from my
Feral Fables and other sources.
Photo of lava flow taken at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai`i Island

The Singer

A primal aurora gives birth to color, from muted blues through brilliant sapphire to a deep azure, until the horizon is thick with cloudless black indigo. The awakening valley is surrounded by rough crags, whispers of creation are heard. Throughout the realm, the gauzy wrap is shoved aside to reveal an unimaginable panorama of fluid rock.

Pele, feral Goddess of the Volcano, pushes her creation process across the distant edge of the world, slithering forward over the solid ground, hot and bloodthirsty, greedy to expand and own a solid empire. Her pleasure sends vast fields of melted ash, smooth swirls of licorice fudge that can only be eaten by titanic warriors and calls it pahoehoe. Her raging and mercurial lunacy ejaculates nuggets from Her bowels, heaps them along the path and names it a’a.

The forlorn music of the harmonica drifts over the wind, telling tales of the legendary yet carnal Goddess. The watcher appears through the mist and haze to witness the birth of new land. This witness drops the harmonica on the promontory, lifts his head to sing, becoming another voice on the wind. The stories are heard by villagers beyond the fresh terrain.

“Let us go to see this virgin affair that has come to pass,” they murmured to each other.

“Yes, we must organize a quest to see the achievement of our savage Goddess,” one said.

“Who will coordinate the preparations for our journey?”

“How shall we research this phenomenon?”

“Who will finance such an enterprise?”

The Singer hears the confused deliberations and weeps for the paucity of their perception.

“No, no!” the Singer calls. “This quest must emerge from your hearts, from your intuitive and individual Self, not from your structures or formal institutions. Let the fire of the Goddess be your guide. Give yourself over to Her for strength and sustenance.”

“But She is a jealous Goddess,” the villagers cry out. “She will destroy us all.”

“She is a Goddess of Love,” the Singer reminds them. “It is She who created you, it is She loved you into being. It is She who loves you enough to make a new land for you so you can produce vineyards and forests.”

“And why does She seem so angry?” a leader asks.

“Love and anger are not opposites,” the Singer says. “If She did not care about you, She would not be angry with your lack of initiative, your abuse of talents, your shortage of foresight. It is Her way of providing a new opportunity to once again belong to Her, to be Her children. Bow down before Her and let go.”

And so it was that the land cooled and began the centuries of decomposition providing fertile fields for their needs. Each morning as the day breaks, the Singer once again calls Her forth with his music. Each evening, the Singer praises Her with song, and She calls it good.

A hui hou!