HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

I have a special guest blogger for this morning’s post, my brother and only sibling, Hilton Jones. On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 88th birthday, and the post below the picture is his “gift” to me and to all my readers. His words are important to all of us, regardless of the numbers we use for our age.

There are many responsible actions and decisions we need to make as we get old. Yes, I said “old,” not “older.” B.F. Skinner, the famous founder of behavioral psychology refused to refer to himself as “older.” He insisted on “old.”

I share this insistence. I’m almost 78, my partner is almost 80, and my sister is almost 88. We’re old. “Older” is just a subtle self-delusion.

Tibetan Buddhist monks sometimes practice meditating in charnel grounds, surrounded by rotting corpses being picked apart by carrion eating birds. It’s useful and clarifying to not kid ourselves about where we really are in respect to the inevitable.  

Some of the things to do in light of this situation are legal or medical and there are many articles about these things. Some are happily positive, as in enjoying life to the hilt: within reason, not being too restrictive in dietary pleasures. As my sister’s son said to her recently when she was fretting about her diet, “Mom, you’re not 60 anymore. At 88 I think you can probably eat whatever you want!”  

Or, within reason not being too stingy with oneself…as a dear, now deceased, Boston Irish friend was fond of saying, “Shrouds don’t have pockets!” Avoiding dealing with things that are scary only makes things worse; depriving oneself of pleasure within reason is counterproductive and just adds to your misery.  

The issue I think the old need to deal with before it becomes a problem is cognitive decline. This cause is near and dear to my heart. My partner has dementia.  

If someone resists getting professionally tested for cognitive decline, I suspect that resistance is an indication of a secret recognition of what the person knows to be true but denies out of fear. Sadly, denying something won’t keep it from being true.  

What my partner and I did to soften the fear and stigma and overcome our own denial was to go together for testing as part of a community health program about 5 or 6 years ago. It was a program held at various locations around the bay area by the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute (https://health.usf.edu/medicine/byrd).  

It was illuminative for both of us. I just barely “passed” the exam, but my partner’s results encouraged further testing by the institute which we did and resulted in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Part of that testing was medical, radiological, electronic, and road testing of driving. It’s this degree of professional evaluation that’s necessary.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking the results of a “test” you take in Reader’s Digest or Prevention Magazine or some website are of any value whatsoever. Get tested—togetherprofessionally!

Don’t attempt to be your own doctor or lawyer. Don’t attempt to self-medicate with some internet vitamin regimen or over the counter product claiming to increase your memory. Take the meds your doctor prescribes!

As my partner’s disease has progressed, we have lived through the early stages of this journey: denial, anger, agitation, confusion, getting lost when wandering, embarrassment, sadness, further decline.

Now, we’re in a quiescent stage of quiet times together. Now that the isolation of the pandemic is drawing to a close, we’re returning to the simple world activities we enjoy: orchestra concerts and occasionally dining out. I don’t know if we’ll be able to travel again, but perhaps.  Part of this stage is not fretting over what’s not possible; rather, enjoying what is right now and keeping the inevitable future at bay as long as possible.  

There are many forms of dementia. (Feel yourself saying, “But not me”??? Remember, that could be a sign you’re ignoring what you secretly know to be true.) As far as I know, none of the different forms are curable, BUT, as the neurologist reminds us at every appointment, the goal of therapy is to slow down the inevitable decline.

If you let things go too far, too soon, your legal options are diminished and others will wind up having to make them for you, better to act now while you’re (mostly) of sound mind and body.

But for me, the most important reason to deal with reality is that the earlier you catch the problem, the sooner you can slow the decline, the more time you and your partner, friends, and family will have together. The treatment exists to slow the progress of this miserable disease. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Pride? Fear?  

Take courage and get tested. As Marcus Aurelius said, “You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do or say or think.” — Meditations. 2.11 (Hammond trans.)

So, on that happy note…Happy Birthday to my big sister!
Hilton Jones
hiltonkeanjones.com

WASHBOARD TALES

This sequel to Shadowy Tales will be available in time to give as a Christmas gift to friends who enjoy mysteries- or as a gift to yourself. There will soon be a link available for pre-sales with Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other outlets.

If you haven’t read the first book in the Shadowy River Series (Shadowy Tales), now is the time to immerse yourself in the lives of the people who work, live, and love in Piney Falls, a small Mississippi town in Shadowy River County.

Washboard Tales, this second book in the community saga of Shadowy River County opens with the brutal murder of Beverly St. John, the wife of the Piney Falls Chief of Police. Her death triggers fear among the women in this small rural community.

Major changes are taking place in the lives of other familiar individuals of this town that intertwine with the search for the murderer. Through her own ingenuity and fast thinking, Pastor Frances Anna Keeton must save herself from death at the hands of the wily perpetrator or become one more murder victim.

Realizing rescue is not imminent, Fran creates a list of potential perpetrators and their possible motives for the death of Beverly St. John. This list prompts her to make another list consisting of triad romantic relationships, including her own.

As Fran struggles to help solve the murder of Beverly St. John, challenges mount in the “coming of age” story of Allie Bolger, the expectation of a new heir to the wealthy and influential Capriano family, the success of Glory Bautista’s newest book, and the disruptive arrival to Piney Falls of a visiting professor from England.

A hui hou!

Lucy

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!

Honoring My Daughters

I love to honor my children, especially as we all get older. My two oldest daughters have birthdays this month, so I wanted to wish them both a very happy birthday. They were born two years and three days apart. This opening picture was made on Easter, 1958.

They love to visit me here in Hawaii, especially when they can cruise around in their mom’s blue Miata.

Showing off their new Hawaiian bags for flying.

And the most recent picture of their Christmas tamales. They get their white hair from me! Or did I get mine from them?

Mahalo for being two of the most wonderful daughters a mother could ever have. I look forward to your visit in November!

Happy Birthday!! I love you more than you’ll ever know!

A hui hou!

P. S. I’ll honor my two sons in another post soon.

Orange Sauerkraut

Those of you who have been following this blog since its first post  may wonder why I’m reposting some of the old ones. I’m in the middle of selling my home and buying another, so while my time is taken up with house-hunting, I probably won’t be creating many original posts.

If you are new to my blog, then I hope you enjoy these posts and recommend me to your friends.

I first made this recipe back in June of 1964. How do I know? I always date my cookbook recipes the first time I try it and give the family rating. This one rated very high with everyone!

How do recipes become our own? After so many years, we tend to add, subtract, or substitute from the original. Who knows at what point they become ours and not something from a cookbook?

I adapted this one from an old cookbook I had featuring recipes from Luchow’s German restaurant in New York, first published in 1952. You can see the splattered pages. The real name of the recipe is something more sophisticated, but my kids named it “orange sauerkraut” because of the color it turns out to be.

Even people who don’t think they like sauerkraut seem to love this recipe, probably because the sour cream softens the sharp tang of the kraut. Try it yourself and see what you think!

ORANGE SAUERKRAUT

2 pounds of lean beef cut into small 1-inch squares
4 tablespoons of butter (I substitute olive oil)
2 cups sliced onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste, although sauerkraut usually has enough salt
1 15-oz. can tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chopped caraway seeds
2 cups sauerkraut

Sauté beef in butter or olive oil until lightly browned.

Add onions and cook 5 minutes.

Add garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, plus enough water to barely cover the mixture.

Cook slowly until meat is almost done and the sauce reduced, usually about 30-45 minutes. Stir frequently.

When sauce is cooked down, add sour cream, paprika, and caraway seeds. Simmer ½ hour longer.

Mix in sauerkraut and cook until everything is heated to the right temperature.
Makes a wonderful family meal served with steamed red potatoes, or traditional German style with mashed potatoes.

A hui hou!

Meditative Bonsai

BANYAN BONSAI
I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in the beautiful Japanese art of bonsai. It was probably in the 1960s, when I traveled to Japan on four different occasions. On one of those trips, I climbed Mt. Fuji with friends, an exciting story for another time.

At the hotel where we stayed the night before our climb, I was quite taken with their bonsai garden. Many of the trees there were over 100 years old with an incredible history. I vowed then to learn how to create these for myself. I brought home many of the “bon” or trays in which to plant the trees. They have survived many moves since that time.

JAPANESE BONSAI POTS

Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know how to pronounce the word “bonsai.” I’ve heard it called everything, including “banzai,” which is the suicide attack word used by the Japanese during World War II. The correct pronunciation is a softer sound of “bone-sigh.”

On one of my favorite sites, you can discuss issues with other bonsai enthusiasts, order supplies, buy bonsai books and tools, learn new techniques, and so much more.

The American Bonsai Society, Inc. was founded in 1967, around the same time I visited the bonsai gardens in Japan. Their official site has many beautiful pictures of bonsai.

CAROLE'S BONSAI

MORE OF CAROLE'S BONSAI
I think you can tell from these pictures and from the websites I’ve listed that bonsai is the art of miniaturizing a tree or group of trees. Land is so precious in Japan that often the only way a person can experience nature or go into a forest is to kneel silently before a “grove” of bonsai trees in a tray. In this way, we can simply let ourselves melt into the tiny landscape and imagine walking among the trees, or be drawn into sitting at the base of an old tree. It’s difficult for me to describe this type of meditation, but it is a very effective way to put yourself into a peaceful setting, if only temporarily.

If you can imagine this pot filled with a miniature grove, then you have the ability to create one of your own. The Wikipedia site on bonsai has many beautiful pictures of not only groves and forests, but of other styles that can be produced.

SINGLE FLAT POT

There are a variety of ways to begin a bonsai. What I talk about here is one of the methods I was taught in the 70s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The roots of a bonsai are trimmed and secured to a pot or bon with a wire threaded through a wire mesh and tied around a twig underneath. This is one of my pots from an old bonsai that didn’t live. As you can see, there are many sizes and shapes for the trays, or pots.

POT SHOWING BOTTOM MESH
Once the plant is secured in the pot, soil is pressed around the base and roots. Try to find bits of moss, carefully lift it up and transfer it to the top of the soil. This helps to keep the soil from washing away, as well as helping to create an illusion of age.

Then the process begins of trimming the tree itself to a size and shape you desire. This is not to be done in a hurry. The entire process is quite meditative and I can get completely lost in it all.

MORE BONSAI POTS

There are many ways to proceed. One trick in getting the gnarled effect right away is to buy an aging root bound plant from a nursery, like a Juniper that is no longer really any good for planting in your yard. I love the ones that seem to be growing around a rock. The roots have been secured in such a way that the tree appears to be sitting on top.

When I start talking about bonsai, I don’t know where to stop. There is so much to say. All I can suggest is that you get a book from the library to start out, find a nice flat tray, get a plant and just try your hand.

Before COVID hit our island, there was an annual show put on by the Big Island Bonsai Association, but I couldn’t find anything that says whether it continues.

I promise you that it’s extremely addicting. Once you start, you may never be able to stop. Why would you want to??

A hui hou!

After the Rain

My family loved to backpack in the high Sierras. One year, after a refreshing afternoon rain, my youngest child, about seven at the time, looked down at his feet and picked up something shiny. It was a perfectly formed arrowhead of black obsidian. Evidently the rain had washed it out from an ancient hiding place. What a treasure the rain revealed!

In Hawai`i, we have the saying “no rain, no rainbows.” Too often we concentrate on the rain and neglect an openness to the treasures afterward.

What riches or inner resources have you discovered after the rains in your life?

A hui hou!

“This Land is Our Land…”

Second-growth redwoods

“. . . from the redwood forest . . .”

Is there anyone among us doesn’t remember singing along and feeling proud of our countryside? It was an era of protesting the educational system, the government, the war, the “establishment” in general, and anything else we could protest, but we loved our land – the unique geography that makes up these United States.

If they ever want to change our National Anthem to something more sing-able, I cast my vote for “This Land Is Your Land.”

It was explained to me about the second-growth redwoods. As you can see here, there is a cluster of trees around a bare piece of ground. The original old redwood was either logged out over 150 years ago or could have been hit by lightning. These new “baby trees” sprouted up around where the mother tree had been.

The first photo at the top of this post gives another perspective on a grove of second-growth trees. These magnificent trees may be relatively young, but they still take my breath away – and make me proud that they are a part of my country.

The tops of the trees just seem to reach toward the sky for an eternity!

There is a lot about California I miss. What I do not miss is the traffic, which has gotten worse since I left. I’ve become too accustomed to a more casual lifestyle. Still, I intend to keep visiting whenever I get the chance.

Today, we could write more verses to add to this song that would include our island state of Hawai`i (where I now live) or our northernmost state of Alaska (where I have lived in the past). All fifty states are worth going to see! If you have never been to California, it’s worth braving the crowds and traffic to see a special part of our incredible country.

If you love the redwoods as much as I do, please visit https://www.savetheredwoods.org

“This land was made for you and me.”

Happy Fourth of July!

A hui hou!

The Purple Chrysanthemum

Today’s post is one of the fables in Feral Fables. In the book, you’ll find suggestions for reflection at the end of the fable.
Photo taken at Kalopa State Park, Hawai`i Island.

The Purple Chrysanthemum

Chores never cease, never subside. Menacing dark corners tower above and below her, dusty and dank. Driven here, thrust there, the woman frantically toils in vain. In every quarter of the luxurious home she unearths wads of shabby rags, inside bureau and closets, beneath tables and beds, over shelves and bookcases.

There is no seclusion here. It is no longer her home. Aliens invade, then abandon her in chaos. Serenity is shattered in the assault.

In a frenzy, she searches for one spot, one haven of beauty where she may hide from the muck and gloom, sludge and shadow. She is imprisoned and enslaved by the moment, shaken and disenchanted by infinity.

Others chart her headway as she labors, then regresses. Despondently she presses onward, now advancing, now reversing in an endless non-dance. Joy pales as the obstacles flourish in neglect. Song is stilled, light fractured, until she spots an overlooked box, unobtrusively tucked away behind the bureau.

In dismay, she lifts the lid, supposing it to be filth-filled, or barren at best. A small packet sheathed in foil rests inside, dormant yet dazzling in its obscurity. From the crumpled edge of the opening there protrudes a long green stem, crowned with a large purple chrysanthemum, blossom of her soul. An abundance of petals, long and delicate, unite around a pollen-filled golden center.

Tears fall as she recalls the moment she clipped the bloom from its parent. Tenderly she had placed it into nourishing water where it could take root and grow. Now long forgotten, the chrysanthemum has flourished, alone and in the inky obscurity of the ragged box. Surely it was withered and dead by now, for many moons have passed. Other celebrations have come and gone, but the blossom remains.

She pauses, then meticulously peels back the foil covering. That which was dormant for so long has burgeoned with fragile and lacy roots. What once was a flower, cut off from its source, has sprouted in the dark, unattended and ignored.

Weeping, she holds the hardy segment of beauty in the palm of her hand. The tiny bit of life, buried in the pit of her soul, is resurrected and retrieved. The purple chrysanthemum will never perish. She will survive.

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!