Just a girl rambling around the globe and writing about it.

Musings from around the block and farther.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pineapples: The Honor System

We came across this little stand on the way back from the blowhole.  It was just on the side of the road and boasted home-grown pineapples.  I was spellbound: here were beautiful golden pineapples, without tags or stickers on them and grown on someone’s land in Maui rather than in a country I’ve never been to, then shipped to Ralph’s before they’ve ripened.  And they were so cheap, we couldn’t pass ‘em up.

The girls got out and crossed the street barefoot, Hawaiian style, lured by the dogs on the property.  They spent several minutes sniffing the bottoms of the pineapples, turning each one over and allowing their eyes to roll back in their heads and the sweet, floral fragrance of tropical fruit infused their senses.  When they’d made their selections, Kendra and I each put our $2.50 into the jar and that was it.  I like this way of doing business.

When we returned to the hotel, Raf said he’d take the girls straight to the beach and the pool, rather than go upstairs, since we already had our swimsuits on.  Marlowe said she wasn’t feeling well, so she came upstairs with me. 

As soon as the door shut, she said, “Can you cut the pineapple? Maybe I’m just hungry.”  I did and she couldn’t eat it fast enough, letting the juice run down her forearms and licking her fingers and grabbing more.  She ate a third of it and then said, “Okay, maybe I want to go to the beach.”

I get it, girl, I do.  Sometimes you have to just do whatever it takes to get the first bite.

Our Brady Bunch

Tradition: Our "ohana" name in stacked rocks

It’s not easy to find another family that you can vacation with.  It’s a leap of faith; can you really get along for an extended time away from home and deal with all of the things that come up?  Like each kid’s quirks and food likes/dislikes, or each person’s circadian rhythms, or even just splitting the bill… These things don’t seem like a big deal until they come up and then you can see if you really are compatible… or not.

We are super lucky.  We’ve found our split-apart family, the one that completes us with their own 3 kids and super-cool parents, the one that brings out the fun in our dysfunction.  And even luckier, they are Hawaiian, and our trip to Maui is less like a resort-bound tourist vacation and more like visiting a good friend’s home, winding our way through the jungles and eating picnic lunches in unbelievably beautiful scenery.  The important thing is being together, wearing swimsuits all day long, having friends to ride with for the millionth time on the elevator, always being able to turn and say, “Oh my god, did you see that?” and that other person is right there, right with you, understanding. 

We’re like ohana now, family.  When we sat down to dinner at Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina on the first night (Shackoa, party of 10), the kids found their spots and argued, laughed, danced, joked like cousins.  “Remember when we were here the last time?” they said, as the sounds of the luau next door wafted through the night air. 

Yesterday, Kanoe turned to me and said, “We’re exactly like the Brady Bunch, if you include Alice and her boyfriend.  Or the dog.”  And so we are.

Thar She Blows

One of the highlights of our last trip to Maui was a hike down to the Nakalele Blowhole, a geyser-like spout in a lava rock formation that’s been created by the suction of waves for centuries.  It’s on the northernmost tip of Maui, but even that fact is a little too informational for me.  It’s just a really fun, daring adventure. 

First, you put on your ugly watershoes at the car – you have no idea where you’re going and it looks FLAT for god’s sake, but you trust your friends and wear your ugly turquoise plastic mesh-covered rubber shoes and trek down until you’re clinging to a cliff and slipping and sliding on the loose rocks that, if they give way or you lose your footing, can cause you to plummet a hundred feet down into the water.  If you’re lucky.  If you’re not, you’ll get impaled onto one of the spear-like lava rocks or a powerful wave will crash you into the aforementioned lava rocks.  And once you get down to the blowhole, you have to stand back; according to the locals, someone got sucked into the blowhole just last week, pulled through the hole and out to sea… Best to just take care and watch your step. 

When we got down there yesterday, we waited for Nakalele to blow.  I brought out our new waterproof camera and waited.  Nothing but sea spray and a little bit of bluster from the old gal, so we looked around the tide pools and took pix of the cool images we saw in the rocks.  And then it blew, gushing over our heads and pelting us with salty water.  My camera fogged up.  We laughed and laughed.  I couldn’t take enough photos or videos, but I know that when I see those fogged up images of our kids with their shoulders hunched over to brace for the cold shower of sea water, I’ll remember.

Marked By Maui

Photo by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine
There are millions of people who are fascinated by tattoos.  A few years ago, for instance, our family was devoted to watching Miami Ink, then dropped off when we couldn’t handle the drama of LA Ink or the potty-mouths of NYC Ink.  My own fascination stems from the history involved in getting a tattoo.  Each recipient has a story they want to tell to the world with the ink on their skin.  Each tat is a tribute to a loved one, or a nod to the past, or a hope for the future.  Some are mistakes – names of lovers who become enemies – and need to be covered up.  But they each give a snapshot of the recipient’s life at that moment, more permanent than a photograph, reminders of the person they were when they got the tattoo.In Maui, you can’t escape the tribal tattoos of the locals.  They are on shoulders, legs, abdomens, hands, arms, backs, faces.  Those are my favorites: the ones that cover half the face.  If I were back home in Southern California, I would pull my kids to the other side of the street if I saw a dude with a bold tribal tat that looked like train tracks on the side of his face, from crown to neck.  But here, there is something intriguingly historic about it.  The person who wears it is announcing his/her heritage, the struggles of the Hawaiian nation and his/her participation in it, by marking it indelibly on his/her face.  When he or she smiles, laughs, cries, yells… it is through the veil of this heritage.

I read an article this morning in Maui No Ka ‘Oi about the ancient art of tattooing (which is a Polynesian art that the islands gave to the world; “tatau” in Tahitian and “kakau” in Hawaiian).  The article was about two tattoo artists in Maui: one is a master of hand-tapping (using only bone or ivory tools, a wooden mallet and an ink made of burnt kukui-nut ash) and the other was a young hotshot tattoo artist who became the master’s protégé.  What struck me about the article was the respect that these two artists demand from the people who get the tribal tattoos.  I won’t go into great detail here, but recipients of the traditional “kakau” must (depending on the circumstances) study their own genealogy, pray, fast, abstain from intoxicants and clear away family grievances.  The master himself will perform sacred rites before the tattooing begins, including prayers and ceremonial cleansing of his tattooing tools in the ocean.  The symbols matter – some motifs are free for the taking, to enhance protection or healing, while others are restricted to specific Native Hawaiian families – and the placement is also important.  It is a culture, a tradition, something to be earned.  It is not, as we may think from so many lame reality shows, a reminder of a drunken night in Vegas or a dare.  It must be earned.

There were two quotes that resonated with me, that can apply to so much more than just tattooing:

“The more we learn, the more responsible we become.” That was the younger artist’s revelation, once he learned that he’d been appropriating ancient marks for free-wheeling early designs.  Once he learned from the master, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and take the art more seriously.

“It’s not like putting on a design; it’s like clearing away the dirt to allow it to come out.”  This is from a recipient of an “uhi” (mark) from the master.

One last thought about tattooing, from a conversation with my mother-in-law last week.  She got a beautiful, retro-style tattoo a few years ago, a heart with a banner across it that listed the first initial of all her kids, their spouses, and her grandchildren.  Since that time, two of her kids have gotten divorced and she is now left wondering what to do with the two initials.  “Do I get a flower or a heart over them?” she wondered.

There is no answer for this, she will have to decided what’s right for her, but I think about my hypothesis – that these sacred marks are a snapshot of who we are and what’s significant to us at the moment we get them – and it provides a new layer to this question. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed by the initials of these two people who are no longer in our family, I wonder if it’s okay to accept that they were extremely important to all of us and woven into the fabric of our family… into her skin… at that time.  And then, remembering that piece of this puzzle, recognizing that it’s also okay to let them go, let that memory become a blossoming flower…

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Over the Rainbow

Shane took this picture of me on the beach yesterday afternoon.  That’s my first pina colada (or you can call it a mai tai chaser, since that’s what it was).  The kids were in the water already, jumping in the knee-slapping Ka’anapali waves.  Kendra and Kanoe and I were catching up, enjoying the feeling of the soft tropical air and the sun on our faces. 

It started to rain, but an afternoon rain in Maui is sometimes hard to discern.  People were showering off their sandy feet and bottoms nearby, so I thought it was just some errant spritz from that.  Or the salty ocean spray from the waves lapping at the shore.  Or maybe the kids splashing us a little as they ran up to grab a towel, dripping wet. 

Kendra looked up, straw in her mouth as she continue to sip her lava flow (a pina colada poured over a jammy strawberry puree).  “Hey, it’s a rainbow,” she pointed.

And it wasn’t a “regular” rainbow, fading out as soon as it appeared.  It was Technicolor brightness, far more exciting and mesmerizing than eight colors side-by-side would seem.  There were shades and subtle hues in between.  All the colors of the rainbow seems like so much more than just “all the colors.”  And it lasted for a good 10 minutes.  It became so commonplace, a fixture in our new Maui environment, that when I yelled to the girls, nearby making sand castles, they said, “Yeah, we saw it,” and kept right on digging in the coral-laced sand.

Shane laughed and showed us this picture, taken at just the right angle at just the right time.  We called it my unicorn horn, a rainbow that I can just activate with my thoughts.  But what if I can?  Who really says what “reality” is?  Maybe this rainbow is commonplace, a fixture in my life, and I have only just seen it for the first time?

Big thoughts.  Thank goodness I have another week to figure it all out…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lull Before the Excitement

The thing I love most about this particular blog of mine ('coz you know I also blog at Poprocks and Goblins) is that it's all about traveling. Poprocks gives me an outlet to rant and rave and shimmy about all the little things I notice each day.  But this is where I get to talk about the places I've been and the lessons I've learned from them.

It's been a while since I posted anything here and it might be easy to assume that I've been house-bound... but thankfully that's inaccurate.  I realized that I never even posted about my stay in Rome with Christine, or our family weekend in Vegas, or my springtime retreat in Ojai, or my cousin's barefoot beach wedding in Tulum, Mexico... 

I keep thinking I'll get "caught up" (and I do plan to post pix of these fun getaways), but the challenge with "present moment" thinking is that it doesn't matter where you are because there you are.  And I like to be right there, in the moment, soaking up the enjoyment of the place and time that I'm inhabiting. 

Right now, I'm packing for another journey, a family trip to the island of Maui with our very dear Hawaiian friends.  My suitcase is open and overfilled with snorkels and water shoes and sunscreen and the smallest amount of clothing (because all you need are swimsuits and sundresses).  My hope is that I'll post at least a few images from below sea level with our new underwater camera, and that I'll make some observations about life and parenting while I'm ziplining with Serena for her 10th birthday on August 3rd... But I'm not making any guarantees just yet. I'm hoping to share the trip with you, though, so that we can enjoy the ride together.