One Year on The Island

  
Preface
Legend tells us that long ago an enormous continent existed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One fateful night volcanoes on the island spewed forth molten lava setting the land ablaze, and sending people who managed to escape to the far reaches of the earth. After the fires, the continent, known as the motherland, sank into the sea.
 
It is said that a great spirituality existed on this continent, and perceptive sages told of the forthcoming disaster. Many people heeded their warnings and fled before that fateful night.  Some of the people settled in Egypt, others in India. Many of the last minute refugees settled on the surrounding Polynesian islands.
 
In Hawaii the story is told of wayfarers in huge catamaran canoes coming to the Island. With them they carried plants (Twenty-seven it is said) and animals, specifically pigs, chickens and dogs.
 
Out in the immense ocean these voyagers saw off in the distance great plumes of white. This was steam from one of Hawaii’s enormous volcanoes pouring hot lava into the cool ocean. The steam told the people that land was ahead. They had little choice but to chance that habitable land surrounded the fuming volcano, and it did. It was a fertile land made lush already by the plants and animals that wind, sea or tides had carried there. The people settled on the island, planted their crops, and honored the volcano that had called them. They gave her the title of Goddess and named her Pele. The people became known as the Hawaiians.
 
When Captain Cook discovered the islands he asked the natives where they lived. No matter the island in which he asked, the answer was the same, “Ha-wai’i.”
 
Cook considered the natives to be stupid savages, and thus this educated fellow missed a profound truth. The natives were telling him they didn’t inhabit the glob of dirt they were standing on; instead they dwelled within the breath of the creator. The breath is called “Ha.” The water that nurtures life is “wai, and the Supreme causation is “I”.  Where do we live? Within the supreme wellspring of the life-force, Ha-wai-i.
When Captain Cook asked the natives where they came from they said Tahiti. Tahiti is the name of an island, but to the islanders it is also a name for heaven.
 
The volcano that called the people with her steam, and thus saved them, was honored as a Goddess and given the name of Pele.
 
It appears that Hawaii has a long history of “calling” people to her shores, and our little band of three adults, one seven-month-old child, two dogs and two cats fell under her spell.
 
  
 
1
The Call
It was a July morning in the horse paddock, an area for the horses carved out of a Douglas fir forest in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. I had hugged and kissed my two mares Velvet and Sierra,  cleaned the barn, spread the hay, and  moved outside to rake the yard. I stopped for a moment to lean on my rake and to watch the morning mist stream from the forest like the breath of some gigantic beast. Across the driveway our log home shone in the morning sun. The morning was perfect. The house was perfect, the horses were perfect, and our free-range goats, Orville and Wilbur, who had come scampering from the forest to dive into the morning hay, were perfect. One thing wasn’t perfect.
 
I felt I had a hole in my chest the size of a MACK truck.
 
Worry will do that to a person. The business wasn’t supporting us as it had been.  The house and living conditions were draining our resources. My husband had had cancer twice. I knew his work environment wasn’t good for him. Something had to give. And so standing there I asked one of life’s persistent questions:
 
“Where would I be happy?”
 
It is telling that I asked “Where,” not “How”, but then I’ve learned a few things since that day.
 
One would think with all the beauty around me, our log house, the morning sun, the breathing forest, the horses, and over at the house with my daughter and her seven-month old son making ready for the day, I would be happy where I was. Still the question was: “Where would I be happy?”
 
 
 “Check out Hawaii on the Internet.”
 
Rarely do I have answers come so fast, or as clear.
 
Within the hour, I was calling downstairs to my daughter. “Nina, did you know you could buy ten acres in Hawaii for half of what we owe here? I thought everything there cost a million or more.”
 
“Let’s do it,” she said.
 
And so we did.
 
Except it was not as easy as that.
 
 
 
 
 
 
2
 Fact or Fiction
 
My daughter says this writing ought to be fiction. Just think, if it were fiction I could have a shot ring out or a naked lady could run through the narrative every page or two.
 
Sorry, no shots. No naked ladies here either unless the day I showered in the yard counts. Instead, this is the story of how three adults, one seven-month-old man-child, two dogs and two cats took leave of their senses and sailed across 3,000 miles of water to live off the grid on a tropical island.
 
Since this is fact not fiction, and I can’t add licentious details, I think about what one publisher told a writer. “There isn’t enough sex in your story.”
“But,” said the writer, “there’s sex on the first page.
 
“Yea,” answered the publisher, “but not until the bottom of the page.”
 
The only sex I can promise you here is the day (as I imagine it) I whispered in my sixteen-year-old mother and my twenty-six-year-old father that they had to do it. I needed that egg and that sperm. I needed it then, that time, those two people. Without that time, that place, those parents, I wouldn’t be me, and I wanted to be me. I wanted my consciousness, my awareness. I wanted to see the world through my eyes. 
 
 
My father had a car, not many did in those days. He had a job too, he could support a family. My poor mother, though, was embarrassed her entire life for “having to get married.” I’m sorry Mom if I thank you ten hundred million times would that help? “Thank you” times ten hundred million. (I don’t know how to write Thank You to the ten hundred million power.)
 
The Islanders use the term“Talking Story” when they mean to discuss, to gossip, to share tales on a lazy Kona day. That is what I am doing here. 
 
For some reason following that directive, “Check out Hawaii on the Internet,” seemed imperative, and the first house with 10 beautiful acres surrounding it, screamed, Move!”
 
 Moving would mean a big break, it would mean leaving behind the house, the job, it was as  Ray Bradbury once said, “Jump, then build your wings on the way down?” And, although it seems arrogant to say it, I felt I ought to write of it—not knowing where it would take me of course, or whether anyone would want to read it.
 
 So here it is, my game of playing hot or cold. Warmer, warmer, hot. That’s it.
 
And before we get on with “Talking Story” as the Islanders call it. Talking story it to discuss, to gossip, to exchange stories on a lazy Kona day, please allow me one small tale that one that illustrates my feelings right now: Two monks were walking along a path that led to a river. When they got to the river they saw a beautiful young woman wandering along the riverbank looking for a way across. One of the monks swept the woman into his arms and carried her to the opposite bank.  Later on, down the path, the second monk admonished the first for the indelicate act of picking up a beautiful woman. “I put her down long ago,’ said the hero monk. “You are still carrying her.” 
 
If I followed that monk’s advice, I would not hold onto past events. Yet, I’ve learned a couple of things about life; one is that you live it to experience it; the second is you write about it to make sense of it. (Oh, that is the reason I got the directive to write of our experience.)
 
So I invite you to come along for the ride, perhaps together we can sort out of some of life’s stickier issues.
 
 
 
  
3
I am making a wild assumption here that you, too, have at one time felt your back against a wall. You wondered how to get out of a dilemma, how it happened, what you did to cause it, and what you needed to do to rectify the situation.
 
 
 
At the Walt Disney studios the Imagineers (the combination of engineer and imagination) at have the motto, “Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.” When someone presents an Imagineer with a task he often doesn’t know or how to do it, but he says, “Okay.” Then he sits down, beats his head against his desk, and does it. I sat down at my desk; I beat my head against it. I had accomplished two out of three.
 
And so we began our moving preparations. One day I would be happy with the prospects of moving to Hawaii, the next I would throw myself to the ground in exasperation.
 
 
 “We’ll get gassed.” I would say. “Sulfur Dioxide burps from the Volcano on a regular basis.
 
“The volcano might squirt lava in our direction.
“I’m sad about leaving Lisa and Casey.” (That is daughter and grandson number one.)
 
“I’ll be leaving my friends.
 
“I won’t have any friends inHawaii.
 
“How can we manage, not having a ‘regular’ job?” (Neil thought he could still do design work from the island, this being the age of computers and all.)
 
The sun comes out: I confess my fears to Nina.
 
 
“It’s logical to have those fears about the unknown,” says Nina. “Fear is what keeps people stuck. You still want to go to Hawaii don’t you?!”
 
 
In her imagination, she saw Roman running on the beach, swimming daily, and turning brown as a macadamia nut. And about her sister Lisa, she said, “She can come to Hawaii. She can call us. She can write to us. We will send pictures, gifts or such to Casey.  We will get SCYPE and talk on the computer.”
 
I wondered if our visits would be more of a vacation than the time we manage to ink out between jobs.
Nina said that when she was a child her play was about water. When she and a neighbor friend would play, they would imagine swimming. I would imagine galloping a horse, and I have done plenty of that thus far.
The Big Island was always my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands, and I figured it was large enough to keep island fever at bay, so I focused on that one. The first house and property I found on the internet grabbed us with such vigor we wanted it having seen pictures only. The house was adorable. It had ten acres surrounding it, and we wanted acreage for the horses. With its pineapples and a macadamia orchard, it sounded like a dream. It being off the grid stirred my husband’s adventuring juices.
We didn’t even worry that the house might be a dump. Does the Big Island have a Home Depot?” I asked.
 
“Yep, in Hilo.”
 
“Okay, we can do it.”
 
So, I began the check-off list:
 
Wait for an existing offer on the Hawaii house to expire. (It did.)
Put in offer.
Scrape money from every available source to purchase the house.
Panic.
Stay awake nights.
Trust.
Keep on keeping on.
Chop wood, carry water.
Check moving quotes to Hawaii.
Check out car moving quotes.
Check out horse transport quotes.
Have dogs and cats vaccinated.
Panic.
 
Begin the 120-day animal quarantine-waiting period. Luckily Hawaii doesn’t require animals to be quarantined in Honolulu as they did in yesterdays. Now the quarantine can be at one’s own home, and that requires giving the animal two rabies shots each 90 days apart, plus being micro-chipped, plus taking a systemic flea medication, plus having a clean bill of health.
 
Turn in the panache of a Jaguar car for a fuelficient 50 mph Toyota Prius.
We had a Jaguar for twenty-five years—two separate cars. The first Jaguar we owned spontaneously combusted. I had moments earlier driven the car home, parked it in the garage, and I was lying on the kitchen floor, talking to Nina on the phone, who at the time lived across town. Suddenly a pungent smell wafted through the room. I sat up, and to my horror I saw great puffs of smoke drift past the window.
 
“Call the department!”  screamed, “The garage is on fire!”
 
I ran down the front stairs, forgot I had locked the garage, ran back up the stairs, found the key, ran down the stairs, had a pain in my chest I feared was a heart attack, and then I stood there, hesitating. It is not wise to open a door when smoke billows from behind it.
 
No flash fire, thank God, although when I gently pushed up the garage door, I saw a fierce plume of flames shooting from beneath the hood of the car. I was spraying water from the hose when the fire truck arrived. Bless those men. The insurance paid for the garage to be repaired, as it was scorched and smelled like burnt popcorn. A miracle worker rid the garage of that noxious smoke odor, and the insurance company paid, in part, for another Jaguar.
 
The second Jaguar was red. I guess one doesn’t call a Jaguar simply red; it was officially named “Claret.” It had 24,000 miles on it at time of purchase, and 333,000 miles on the original motor when we sold it. With those miles we could have driven to the moon and part way back, and I bet that car would have brought us home—that is if we didn’t need to roll down the window on the driver’s side, or move the driver’s seat, and we didn’t mind that mysterious roar.
 
Now we own an efficient, economic hybrid white Toyota Prius.
 
Than done, we made plans to go to Hawaii on Friday August 28, 2009 for a look-see on our potential new dwelling. Neil had printed pictures off the internet and enlarged them enough to see a gnat’s eyebrow. Not only did he study them, he showed them to everyone who came into the house. Our Oregon Real Estate agent ohed and ahed over the pictures and told her fiancé that they ought to do something similar, do something out of the ordinary.The Hawaii house we found was simple, only 1,100 square feet, but we felt we could manage, and Neil was intrigued by the solar panels and the water catchment system. Neil researched maps and learned about Lava Zones.
 
He found we were in Lava Zone 2. Geologists determine the lava zones by the area’s proximity to a volcano and the percentage of lava covering the land in recent flows. Of course, lava created the entire island of Hawaii, but recent flows define the 9 lava zones. Lava Zone 2 has a flow of 25-75 percent coverage in the last 750 years, or 15-25 percent of the area covered since 1800. Neil researched how far from the volcano we would be, and saw that there was a rift between the active Kilauea volcano and us, and figured that lava would flow into the ocean (as it was then doing), and not toward us.
 
The house had been there for seventeen years without lava burning it up or a hurricane blowing it away, I figured it was safe.
 
I adopted a metaphysical attitude. I saw the Big Island was an area of new life, ever expanding its shores—work the volcano goddess Pele did on a regular basis, and one reason I wanted to move there.
    
  
  
 
 
 
 
 
1
The Call
It was a July morning in the horse paddock, an area for the horses carved out of a Douglas fir forest in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. I had hugged and kissed my two mares Velvet and Sierra,  cleaned the barn, spread the hay, and  moved outside to rake the yard. I stopped for a moment to lean on my rake and to watch the morning mist stream from the forest like the breath of some gigantic beast. Across the driveway our log home shone in the morning sun. The morning was perfect. The house was perfect, the horses were perfect, and our free-range goats, Orville and Wilbur, who had come scampering from the forest to dive into the morning hay, were perfect. One thing wasn’t perfect.
I felt I had a hole in my chest the size of a MACK truck.
Worry will do that to a person. The business wasn’t supporting us as it had been.  The house and living conditions were draining our resources. My husband had had cancer twice. I knew his work environment wasn’t good for him. Something had to give. And so standing there I asked one of life’s persistent questions:
 “Where would I be happy?”
It is telling that I asked “Where,” not “How”, but then I’ve learned a few things since that day.
One would think with all the beauty around me, our log house, the morning sun, the breathing forest, the horses, and over at the house with my daughter and her seven-month old son making ready for the day, I would be happy where I was. Still the question was: “Where would I be happy?”
 “Check out Hawaii on the Internet.”
Rarely do I have answers come so fast, or as clear.
Within the hour, I was calling downstairs to my daughter. “Nina, did you know you could buy ten acres in Hawaii for half of what we owe here? I thought everything there cost a million or more.”
“Let’s do it,” she said.
And so we did.
Except it was not as easy as that.
 
 
 
 
 
 
2
 Fact or Fiction
My daughter says this writing ought to be fiction. Just think, if it were fiction I could have a shot ring out or a naked lady could run through the narrative every page or two.
Sorry, no shots. No naked ladies here either unless the day I showered in the yard counts. Instead, this is the story of how three adults, one seven-month-old man-child, two dogs and two cats took leave of their senses and sailed across 3,000 miles of water to live off the grid on a tropical island.
Since this is fact not fiction, and I can’t add licentious details, I think about what one publisher told a writer. “There isn’t enough sex in your story.”
“But,” said the writer, “there’s sex on the first page.
“Yea,” answered the publisher, “but not until the bottom of the page.”
The only sex I can promise you here is the day (as I imagine it) I whispered in my sixteen-year-old mother and my twenty-six-year-old father that they had to do it. I needed that egg and that sperm. I needed it then, that time, those two people. Without that time, that place, those parents, I wouldn’t be me, and I wanted to be me. I wanted my consciousness, my awareness. I wanted to see the world through my eyes. 
My father had a car, not many did in those days. He had a job too, he could support a family. My poor mother, though, was embarrassed her entire life for “having to get married.” I’m sorry Mom if I thank you ten hundred million times would that help? “Thank you” times ten hundred million. (I don’t know how to write Thank You to the ten hundred million power.)  
The Islanders have a term called “Talking Story” which is to discuss, to gossip, to share tales on a lazy Kona day. That is what I am doing here. For some reason following that directive, “Check out Hawaii on the Internet,” seemed imperative, and the first house with 10 beautiful acres surrounding it, screamed, Move!”
 Moving would mean a big break, it would mean leaving behind the house, the job, it was as  Ray Bradbury once said, “Jump, then build your wings on the way down?” And, although it seems arrogant to say it, I felt I ought to write of it—not knowing where it would take me of course, or whether anyone would want to read it.
 So here it is, my game of playing hot or cold. Warmer, warmer, hot. That’s it.
And before we get on with “Talking Story” as the Islanders call it. Talking story it to discuss, to gossip, to exchange stories on a lazy Kona day, please allow me one small tale that one that illustrates my feelings right now: Two monks were walking along a path that led to a river. When they got to the river they saw a beautiful young woman wandering along the riverbank looking for a way across. One of the monks swept the woman into his arms and carried her to the opposite bank.  Later on, down the path, the second monk admonished the first for the indelicate act of picking up a beautiful woman. “I put her down long ago,’ said the hero monk. “You are still carrying her.” 
If I followed that monk’s advice, I would not hold onto past events. Yet, I’ve learned a couple of things about life; one is that you live it to experience it; the second is you write about it to make sense of it. (Oh, that is the reason I got the directive to write of our experience.)
So I invite you to come along for the ride, perhaps together we can sort out of some of life’s stickier issues.
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
I am making a wild assumption here that you, too, have at one time felt your back against a wall. You wondered how to get out of a dilemma, how it happened, what you did to cause it, and what you needed to do to rectify the situation.
Five months before my experience in the horse pasture, I had anxiety. Nina told me that for the past few years she had wanted a road trip, so five months before that July day in the horse paddock, she and I took advantage of her maternity leave, rented a Ford Van with three rows of seats and a cargo area. We strapped her little son Roman, then two months-old, into his infant seat behind us, loaded suitcases into the seat behind him and urged Nina’s huge Newfoundland dog, Bear, to hop into the far back. With Peaches, (small poodle), ensconced between the two front seats beside the console, we set out looking for our place in the sun. We covered eight states doing it—including a blizzard at Mesa Verde, and the best Easter dinner I have ever eaten at the Anasazi Restaurant in Santa Fe New Mexico. (Roasted beet and radish salad, a rib-eye steak, bone- in, that perched atop asparagus sensuously reclining on a bed of pepper-flavored mashed potatoes.)  Dessert? I don’t remember. The meal was so good it wiped out the memory of what came after.
We drove wherever we wanted, stopped when we decided, and were limited only by the needs of a two-month old. It ended up being the best vacation of my life. Still we came home without a clue as to where we wanted to settle, or indeed what we ought to do with the rest of our lives.
As I think back, it was fifteen years ago that Nina said to me, “Mom, in twenty years let’s retire to Hawaii?
“Okay,” I said not believing that was possible. Yet, we did it, beating our twenty- year-plan by five years. Sometimes we find that we put forth an idea, it perks, and then when we get it, it appears as a surprise. However, we had asked for it.
I heard from a friend that another friend thought I had lost my spirituality—not a bit dear one. The first friend reassured me that talking about life is spiritual, for that is our reason here, to experience life.
Henry David Thoreau, observant man that he was, wrote “Most men live lives of quiet desperation, and go to their grave with the song still in them.”
Yes, I was desperate, but I wasn’t quiet about it.
Besides, Thoreau said men, not women who run with wolves, or Newfoundlands, or poodles. And if I have a song I’m going to chirp it no matter how discordant it is.
At the Walt Disney studios the Imagineers (the combination of engineer and imagination) at have the motto, “Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.” When someone presents an Imagineer with a task he often doesn’t know or how to do it, but he says, “Okay.” Then he sits down, beats his head against his desk, and does it. I sat down at my desk; I beat my head against it. I had accomplished two out of three.
And so we began our moving preparations. One day I would be happy with the prospects of moving to Hawaii, the next I would throw myself to the ground in exasperation.
 “We’ll get gassed.” I would say. “Sulfur Dioxide burps from the Volcano on a regular basis.
“The volcano might squirt lava in our direction.
“I’m sad about leaving Lisa and Casey.” (That is daughter and grandson number one.)
“I’ll be leaving my friends.
“I won’t have any friends in Hawaii.
“How can we manage, not having a ‘regular’ job?” (Neil thought he could still do design work from the island, this being the age of computers and all.)
The sun comes out: I confess my fears to Nina.
“It’s logical to have those fears about the unknown,” says Nina. “Fear is what keeps people stuck. You still want to go to Hawaii don’t you?!”
In her imagination, she saw Roman running on the beach, swimming daily, and turning brown as a macadamia nut. And about her sister Lisa, she said, “She can come to Hawaii. She can call us. She can write to us. We will send pictures, gifts or such to Casey.  We will get SCYPE and talk on the computer.”
I wondered if our visits would be more of a vacation than the time we manage to ink out between jobs.
Nina said that when she was a child her play was about water. When she and a neighbor friend would play, they would imagine swimming. I would imagine galloping a horse, and I have done plenty of that thus far.
The Big Island was always my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands, and I figured it was large enough to keep island fever at bay, so I focused on that one. The first house and property I found on the internet grabbed us with such vigor we wanted it having seen pictures only. The house was adorable. It had ten acres surrounding it, and we wanted acreage for the horses. With its pineapples and a macadamia orchard, it sounded like a dream. It being off the grid stirred my husband’s adventuring juices.
We didn’t even worry that the house might be a dump. Does the Big Island have a Home Depot?” I asked.
“Yep, in Hilo.”
“Okay, we can do it.”
So, I began the check-off list:
Wait for an existing offer on the Hawaii house to expire. (It did.)
Put in offer.
Scrape money from every available source to purchase the house.
Panic.
Stay awake nights.
Trust.
Keep on keeping on.
Chop wood, carry water.
Check moving quotes to Hawaii.
Check out car moving quotes.
Check out horse transport quotes.
Have dogs and cats vaccinated.
Panic.
Begin the 120-day animal quarantine-waiting period. Luckily Hawaii doesn’t require animals to be quarantined in Honolulu as they did in yesterdays. Now the quarantine can be at one’s own home, and that requires giving the animal two rabies shots each 90 days apart, plus being micro-chipped, plus taking a systemic flea medication, plus having a clean bill of health.
Turn in the panache of a Jaguar car for a fuel efficient 50 mph Toyota Prius.
We had a Jaguar for twenty-five years—two separate cars. The first Jaguar we owned spontaneously combusted. I had moments earlier driven the car home, parked it in the garage, and I was lying on the kitchen floor, talking to Nina on the phone, who at the time lived across town. Suddenly a pungent smell wafted through the room. I sat up, and to my horror I saw great puffs of smoke drift past the window. “Call the fire department!”  I screamed, “The garage is on fire!”
 
I ran down the front stairs, forgot I had locked the garage, ran back up the stairs, found the key, ran down the stairs, had a pain in my chest I feared was a heart attack, and then I stood there, hesitating. It is not wise to open a door when smoke billows from behind it.No flash fire, thank God, although when I gently pushed up the garage door, I saw a fierce plume of flames shooting from beneath the hood of the car. I was spraying water from the hose when the fire truck arrived. Bless those men. The insurance paid for the garage to be repaired, as it was scorched and smelled like burnt popcorn. A miracle worker rid the garage of that noxious smoke odor, and the insurance company paid, in part, for another Jaguar.
 
The second Jaguar was red. I guess one doesn’t call a Jaguar simply red; it was officially named “Claret.” It had 24,000 miles on it at time of purchase, and 333,000 miles on the original motor when we sold it. With those miles we could have driven to the moon and part way back, and I bet that car would have brought us home—that is if we didn’t need to roll down the window on the driver’s side, or move the driver’s seat, and we didn’t mind that mysterious roar.
 
Now we own an efficient, economic hybrid white Toyota Prius.
Than done, we made plans to go to Hawaii on Friday August 28, 2009 for a look-see on our potential new dwelling. Neil had printed pictures off the internet and enlarged them enough to see a gnat’s eyebrow. Not only did he study them, he showed them to everyone who came into the house. Our Oregon Real Estate agent ohed and ahed over the pictures and told her fiancé that they ought to do something similar, do something out of the ordinary.
 
The Hawaii house we found was simple, only 1,100 square feet, but we felt we could manage, and Neil was intrigued by the solar panels and the water catchment system. Neil researched maps and learned about Lava Zones. He found we were in Lava Zone 2. Geologists determine the lava zones by the area’s proximity to a volcano and the percentage of lava covering the land in recent flows. Of course, lava created the entire island of Hawaii, but recent flows define the 9 lava zones. Lava Zone 2 has a flow of 25-75 percent coverage in the last 750 years, or 15-25 percent of the area covered since 1800. Neil researched how far from the volcano we would be, and saw that there was a rift between the active Kilauea volcano and us, and figured that lava would flow into the ocean (as it was then doing), and not toward us.
The house had been there for seventeen years without lava burning it up or a hurricane blowing it away, I figured it was safe.
I adopted a metaphysical attitude. I saw the Big Island was an area of new life, ever expanding its shores—work the volcano goddess Pele did on a regular basis, and one reason I wanted to move there.
  
e sits down, beats his head against his desk, and does it. I sat down at my desk; I beat my head against it. I had accomplished two out of three.
 
And so we began our moving preparations. One day I would be happy with the prospects of moving to Hawaii, the next I would throw myself to the ground in exasperation.
 
 “We’ll get gassed.” I would say. “Sulfur Dioxide burps from the Volcano on a regular basis.
 
“The volcano might squirt lava in our direction.
 
“I’m sad about leaving Lisa and Casey.” (That is daughter and grandson number one.)
 
“I’ll be leaving my friends.
 
“I won’t have any friends in Hawaii.
 
“How can we manage, not having a ‘regular’ job?” (Neil thought he could still do design work from the island, this being the age of computers and all.)
 
The sun comes out: I confess my fears to Nina.
 
“It’s logical to have those fears about the unknown,” says Nina. “Fear is what keeps people stuck. You still want to go to Hawaii don’t you?!”
 
In her imagination, she saw Roman running on the beach, swimming daily, and turning brown as a macadamia nut. And about her sister Lisa, she said, “She can come to Hawaii. She can call us. She can write to us. We will send pictures, gifts or such to Casey.  We will get SCYPE and talk on the computer.”
 
I wondered if our visits would be more of a vacation than the time we manage to ink out between jobs.
 
Nina said that when she was a child her play was about water. When she and a neighbor friend would play, they would imagine swimming. I would imagine galloping a horse, and I have done plenty of that thus far.
 
The Big Island was always my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands, and I figured it was large enough to keep island fever at bay, so I focused on that one. The first house and property I found on the internet grabbed us with such vigor we wanted it having seen pictures only. The house was adorable. It had ten acres surrounding it, and we wanted acreage for the horses. With its pineapples and a macadamia orchard, it sounded like a dream. It being off the grid stirred my husband’s adventuring juices.
 
We didn’t even worry that the house might be a dump. Does the Big Island have a Home Depot?” I asked.
 
“Yep, in Hilo.”
 
“Okay, we can do it.”
 
So, I began the check-off list:
 
Wait for an existing offer on the Hawaii house to expire. (It did.)
 
Put in offer.
 
Scrape money from every available source to purchase the house.
 
Panic.
 
Stay awake nights.
 
Trust.
 
Keep on keeping on.
 
Chop wood, carry water.
 
Check moving quotes to Hawaii.
 
Check out car moving quotes.
 
Check out horse transport quotes.
 
Have dogs and cats vaccinated.
 
Panic.
 
Begin the 120-day animal quarantine-waiting period. Luckily Hawaii doesn’t require animals to be quarantined in Honolulu as they did in yesterdays. Now the quarantine can be at one’s own home, and that requires giving the animal two rabies shots each 90 days apart, plus being micro-chipped, plus taking a systemic flea medication, plus having a clean bill of health.
 
Turn in the panache of a Jaguar car for a fuel efficient 50 mph Toyota Prius.
 
We had a Jaguar for twenty-five years—two separate cars. The first Jaguar we owned spontaneously combusted. I had moments earlier driven the car home, parked it in the garage, and I was lying on the kitchen floor, talking to Nina on the phone, who at the time lived across town. Suddenly a pungent smell wafted through the room. I sat up, and to my horror I saw great puffs of smoke drift past the window. “Call the fire department!”  I screamed, “The garage is on fire!”
 
I ran down the front stairs, forgot I had locked the garage, ran back up the stairs, found the key, ran down the stairs, had a pain in my chest I feared was a heart attack, and then I stood there, hesitating. It is not wise to open a door when smoke billows from behind it.
 
No flash fire, thank God, although when I gently pushed up the garage door, I saw a fierce plume of flames shooting from beneath the hood of the car. I was spraying water from the hose when the fire truck arrived. Bless those men. The insurance paid for the garage to be repaired, as it was scorched and smelled like burnt popcorn. A miracle worker rid the garage of that noxious smoke odor, and the insurance company paid, in part, for another Jaguar.
 
The second Jaguar was red. I guess one doesn’t call a Jaguar simply red; it was officially named “Claret.” It had 24,000 miles on it at time of purchase, and 333,000 miles on the original motor when we sold it. With those miles we could have driven to the moon and part way back, and I bet that car would have brought us home—that is if we didn’t need to roll down the window on the driver’s side, or move the driver’s seat, and we didn’t mind that mysterious roar.
 
Now we own an efficient, economic hybrid white Toyota Prius.
 
Than done, we made plans to go to Hawaii on Friday August 28, 2009 for a look-see on our potential new dwelling. Neil had printed pictures off the internet and enlarged them enough to see a gnat’s eyebrow. Not only did he study them, he showed them to everyone who came into the house. Our Oregon Real Estate agent ohed and ahed over the pictures and told her fiancé that they ought to do something similar, do something out of the ordinary.
 
The Hawaii house we found was simple, only 1,100 square feet, but we felt we could manage, and Neil was intrigued by the solar panels and the water catchment system.
 
Neil researched maps and learned about Lava Zones. He found we were in Lava Zone 2. Geologists determine the lava zones by the area’s proximity to a volcano and the percentage of lava covering the land in recent flows. Of course, lava created the entire island of Hawaii, but recent flows define the 9 lava zones. Lava Zone 2 has a flow of 25-75 percent coverage in the last 750 years, or 15-25 percent of the area covered since 1800.
 
Neil determined how far from the volcano we would be, and saw that there was a rift between the active Kilauea volcano and us, and figured that lava would flow into the ocean (as it was then doing), and not toward us.
 
The house had been there for seventeen years without lava burning it up or a hurricane blowing it away, I figured it was safe.
 
I adopted a metaphysical attitude. I saw the Big Island was an area of new life, ever expanding its shores—work the volcano goddess Pele did on a regular basis, and one reason I wanted to move there.
 
 
 
 
 
3
Cleaning the Refrigerator Syndrome
 
While we geared up for our move to Hawaii everything we couldn't carry in suitcases had to fit into a 12 x 24 foot metal shipping container, and we had some 25 years of accumulation in that house.
 
The car and truck would be shipped, but there would be no packing of vehicles, that was verboten. Any object in any vehicle would, of course, immediately cause the hounds of security to circle.
 
So, it was the “Cleaning the Refrigerator Syndrome.” First, you take everything out of the refrigerator, or cupboards, or house; spread the contents over the counter top, or floor or yard, and then you are stuck. You have to handle it. And then comes decision-making time. What to take, what to sell, what to donate, and what to give away?
 
And then there were the chickens—my wonderful chickens. I never liked chickens the way I liked those. They are so gentle, their eggs delicious, and the rooster, Sir Winston, was a complete gentleman. The hens are Mille Fleur and the Dixie Chicks. (One chick died, so I just had Mille and Dixie.) When I brought vegetable scraps to the pen Sir Winston would cluck to the two hens to come see what the sky god had dropped into their yard. (I didn't know lroosters clucked.) Mille Fleur is the name of the breed, and the name of the Momma chicken. Mille Fleur means little flowers for their feathers look like flowers painted with copper paint, and outlined with a black marker.
 
I thought about smuggling them into Hawaii, but alas, not a good idea. Before we left Mille hatched three chicks, a bit disheartening after I wanted more chickens, but she was a good and protective momma, and all the chickens went to a good home, as did our two ducks Valspar and EB (Eternal Blush). They were named after paint colors we used in our flip house. Pumpkin Seed was our favorite paint color, but the duck, so named, was killed by a raccoon. So was Baby Duck our favorite white duck, once a little fluffy yellow duck that ran, slipping and sliding, on the floors of our flip house.
 
During this preparation time Nina kept a steady string of motivational maxims nipping at our heels. “Go for your dream.” Live the life you always wanted.” “The Universe doesn’t give you a dream without also providing a way to do it.”
 
Our pending move was devastating to my first-born child Lisa. Because of her, worry burned in my stomach. I would awaken at five o’clock in the morning when I had gone to bed at one--new behavior for me. Here we were moving some three thousand miles away, and the only way there was by plane or boat. That, distance, andour financial worries and leaving Lisa and grandson Casey, I was in a constant state of anxiety.
 
Prospective buyers looked at our house, but we had no offers. I wondered if we could do as planned, sell our Oregon house, purchase the Hawaiian house, move, except that all along I felt that this was something we had to do.
 
“Where would I be happy?”
 
“Hawaii.” The answer was Hawaii.
 
As we contemplated the move, I reminded myself of a documentary Nina and I watched when we were researching documentaries. The film was "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control."
 
The movie narrator interviewed four men. There was a lion tamer, an expert on naked mole rats, a topiary gardener, and a robot engineer. The engineer explained that after attempting to create a stable robot—rather spider-like, he observed that some insects spend more time tipped over than walking on their feet.
 
The engineer had an epiphany. “I don’t have to make a stable robot,” he said.  “I just have to make one who doesn’t hurt himself and keeps moving forward.”
 
We could do that.
 
 
 
 
4
 
The Flip
 
I’ve written about many things over the years, about getting my horse Duchess after a forty year hiatus without a horse. I’ve blogged about our lives in www.wishonwhitehorses.com  I’ve written about how, a few years ago, Nina left the corporate world in California, moved to Oregon, bought twenty acres with a small house and barn, acquired two horses, two llamas, five goats, took a job, spent a few years there, then one day divine providence struck. Somebody offered to purchase her house with its twenty acres for cash, as is, no fixing up, no questions asked.
 
She sold.
 
When she got that offer on her house she said, “I know what I want to do. I will pay off my debts, and go back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Interior Architecture.” (She has a BS in psychology.)
 
We offered her part of our basement as an apartment, added a bathroom, and she transformed that cold space into a gypsy wagon motif. Pictures of her renovation and decorative skills provided a portfolio for entrance into the University of Oregon graduate program, but the process took a year.
 
A lot can happen in a year.
 
It is strange to have a cemetery next door to a university, but it is an old pioneer cemetery and was probably there before the University appeared on the scene. It was on a beautiful sunny day that Nina and I parked beside that cemetery and walked through its overgrown grounds to visit the Interior Architecture Department of the University.
 Upon entering the Architecture building, we stopped, looked up in horror, and quickly jumped aside. Over our heads hung an enormous chandelier constructed of shards of glass the size of televisions screens, all with sharp edges pointing down. Whoever built that monstrosity must have had strong feelings toward the University or the people who entered the building. We gave it a wide berth, shook our heads at the danger and terrible Feng Shui of it, and made our way upstairs.
 
Upstairs we found bleak hallways and lack-luster classrooms. Pictures of a design project, a spa, covered one wall. The design was clever, expect that each a computer printout was not all that much different from the one next to it. It reminded me of grade school art—not in quality, but in similarity of projects. Remember how as children the teacher gave us art materials and we would stick the macaroni or such on paper plates? There were variations of our childhood design, of course, but not much, for we were basically copying, or following instructions. I have heard it said that all children are artists. By adulthood, many don’t believe it anymore. Perhaps the students who ate the paste instead of doing the project became the artists.
 
 “There is more life in that cemetery,” Nina said, “than in this department.  If they would gave the students a can of paint, these walls could be a work of art.”
 
The light of her interior design dream dimmed.
 
And so what did she do? She and I “flipped” a house instead. We spent nine months renovating a house we bought at auction, and sold it for a profit. That led to the next great thing. Perhaps I should mention that all the while we were painting, plastering, tearing out walls, putting down flooring and re-siding the house, Nina was driving five hours to Medford Oregon. There in three days she accomplished her forty-hour work week. The other four days we worked on the house. And then in the midst of the renovation she came to me with the proclamation,
 
 “I’d like to adopt a child,” she said, “a child from Africa.”
 
“Let’s make a documentary of the process,” I said, not that we knew anything about filmmaking. Not knowing how to do something, though, had never stopped us before. I never thought I would tile a bathroom tub/shower surround either, or put in a garbage disposal—that was the worst.
 
“I thought about a documentary too,” Nina said, “but dismissed it.”
 
We were two souls on the highway of life finding that one smacks the other into raving enthusiasm. With Nina’s attention to detail, and her eye for design, the idea of making a documentary fit her better than a wet T-shirt.
 
Nina ordered a video camera, and bought a computer freshly installed with editing software. The day the big-brown UPS truck arrived at our door Nina ripped open the box and thrust the camera into my hands. She knew that the way for me to learn it, was to use it. “Here,” she said, “You take a shot at this.”
 
Fumble, find the on/off button, the zoom, “Okay,” I said flipping the on button, “let’s go.”
 
We hiked down the hill with the horses whinnying in the background.. Hearing us they figured they ought to be freed too for I often turned them loose to run cavorting around the house, rolling in the Oregon red earth, and finally grazing on the green grass that grew around the house.
 
“Why Africa?” I asked.
 
“Well, I will probably have only one child,” she said, ”I ought to adopt where I’m drawn.”
 
Back home we played our first daily on the television, and were brought to our knees by our insecurities. The “crunch, crunch, crunch,” of our feet on the gravel came through loud and clear as well as the sound of Bear’s panting.
 “I sound like a dork,” Nina said as she listened to our voices behind the foreground clatter on the film.
 
“No,” I said.  “You were listening to the wrong person. The dork was me.”
We, who began the documentary project as excited as two cats with four mice, came home feeling that we had lost all four of our mice. We didn’t like the sounds of our voices. We weren’t movie stars. We weren’t directors. We hadn’t studied photography or cinematography. We don’t know how to edit. But then, you know the old adage:  if you want to do something, DO IT. So we named ourselves Two Dorks and a Camera Production Company, and kept talking and filming.
 
“What’s our hook?” I asked.
 
“To adopt a child from Africa and film the process,” Nina said.
 
“I’m not sure that’s a hook,” I said. “And is that enough to make people want to watch the film?”
 
“Well,” she said, “A documentary will give us the opportunity to ask the big questions.”
“Such as?”
 
“How can one raise a peaceful person? Should one remove a child from its culture? What about raising a black child in a white household? What are the moral concerns of single parent adoption?  How does a child absorb its parent’s religious beliefs while accepting those of others?”
 
Crunch by crunch we were discussing our process. Maybe the hook would come. Certainly if we were doing a film for self-glorification, we could find less expensive, less risky, and less embarrassing ways of doing it. Seeing me on film was like seeing the evil black Knight holding the mirror up to Don Quixote. I looked twenty years older than I thought I was.
 
So we began watching documentaries and movies. We watched the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s niece.
 
I’m sure you know the story. The white daughter of a prominent family brings home her black fiancé played by Sidney Poitier. The parents are proud of being open minded and liberal. The mother, Katherine Hepburn, adjusts to the shock quickly. The father is another story.
 
To complicate matters, guess who’s coming to dinner? Poitier’s parents. Poitier neglected to tell them that his fiancé was white.
 
Nina pointed out that Poitier said that his child might grow up to be Secretary of State. And at that time Condoleezza Rice was a black Secretary of State. (All this happened way before we ever dreamed that a black man would be President of the United States.)
 
I read Lloyd Kaufman’s book, Make Your Own Damn Movie.
 
Nina read a book on Cinematography and condensed it for me.
 
We watched a documentary entitled My Date with Drew, about a young man in Hollywood whose objective was to get a date with Drew Barrymore. He won $1,100 on a game show, and that was his budget for the film, for bribes, for a limousine driver, for his suit for the date, and for the date itself. His challenge was how to get close enough to Drew Barrymore to ask for the date. Six degrees of separation, he says. The idea is that everyone, on the average, is six steps away from the person they want to contact. The young man went to Circuit City and bought a camera on a thirty-day return policy. He had thirty days to complete his project and return the camera. Bottom line, he got his date. Only it took eighty-two days to do it. (In return for his investment of the $1,100, that film turned out to be one of the all-time big money makers for small budget documentaries.)
 
Next we attended an adoption seminar in Medford Oregon, a daunting process, and probably caused the next turn of events.
 
We were rattling down the road in our little 1984 Nissan pickup that we used to carry hay from our house to Nina’s horses pastured at the neighbor’s. As the truck bumped its way down the hill, Nina put forth a new statement. I shifted into first, made the crest of the hill, and patted the vehicle that was once stolen from my husband’s lab, but came back home. We gave it to Nina when she lived in Cave Junction Oregon, and it came back home.
 
“We have a new focus,” she said.
 
 
“What is it?”
 
 
“Living the life we choose.”
 
 
“That’s been important to you for a long time,” I said, thinking of her house in Cave Junction, and the quote from Christopher Morley she painted above her kitchen cabinets, “The number one success, is living the life you choose”
 
People give up believing they can live the life they choose because they have to work, pay the rent, pay taxes, pay medical insurance, pay for clothing, pay for the kids activities, pay for school, whew. We can’t jump on our horse and take off across the prairie the way young men did in the Western stories. They rode until they found a farm and in exchange for labor they would be paid with money or food.
 
I’m sure many of those young men dreamed of owning their own spread, of having a family, of being rich, so I guess it wasn’t all that much different from the way it is today. Life did seem simpler then, but maybe I’m romancing. Marauders might kill the young man for his horse and saddle without a backward glance. On the other hand, he might want to marry the rancher’s daughter and have to work his butt off to do it.
We all want to dance through life, doing the necessary wood chopping and water carrying, yet maintaining our freedom. Yes, that is the successful life—the freedom to be.
 
We watched another documentary on Africa. It was a simple film, basically a travelogue. As we watched, though, we were struck with the exuberance of the children. Children in orphanages looked happy. Children in school looked happy. Were they hiding an ache we don’t know about, or do they know something we don’t?
 
“Can we have it all?” Nina asked. “Can we have whatever we want?”
 
You want to go to Africa—do it. You want to move to Hawaii? Find a way to do it. You want to make a documentary? Do it. You want to adopt a child, find a way. Doesn’t it give you a thrill to believe there’s a big wide wonderful world out there waiting to be explored, and a big wide wonderful universe clapping its hands as your rooting section?
Think little, or think big. Which?
 
 
“Am I selfish to want a child of my own?” Nina asked.
 
 
“Why you more than anyone else?” I asked.
 
 
“Without a father and all.”
 
 
“You said yourself that families come in different forms. Are you thinking about what we mentioned, artificial insemination?”
 
 “Yes,” she said. “I searched the web and found out you can “shop” for sperm. You can research the donor, hair color, ethnic background, education level, those sorts of things. Sometimes they post baby pictures of the ‘father.’” But, she asks again, “Is that selfish?”
 “You are entitled to be selfish,” I said. “You are always rescuing, horses, dogs, working with battered women, children. You don’t have to clean up other peoples messes all the time. You are entitled to make a few of your own.  I remember a guru’s response to a student who asked if they ought to be cremated as opposed to taking up space by being buried. The guru said, ‘You can be cremated if you choose, but aren’t you entitled to take up six feet of space on the planet?’”
 
 
“Maybe I’ve listened to the media too much,” said Nina, “that every child needs a father.”
 
“Build the nest first,” I said. “Yes, I know the drill, but many women build poor nests, and many men are poor fathers. Maybe the child calling is from your own body. Not having a husband to help with financial support, to help you through the pregnancy and birth, can be a drawback. But you have me.”
 
Perhaps the documentary Parental Instincts helped to seal the deal on artificial insemination. It is a first person account of two gay men who hired a surrogate to carry their child. The surrogate was happily married with a teen-aged son, but she carried the child, and, although I was afraid she would change her mind once the girl-child was born, she gave the baby up willingly. The “fathers” were with her in the birthing tub. It was astounding, loving, and mind-altering.
 
 
 
 
 
5
 
Neil
 
In January of 2007, while Nina and I were working on our flip house, husband dear was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “He has a little cancer,” the doctor said. Then he ran like a scared cat leaving me to give Neil the news.
Neil took it better than I did.
 
I accompanied Neil to the doctor’s office convinced that surgery was out of the question, and came out feeling it was a solution.  Neil appeared relieved to have made the decision for there are many options available for the treatment of  prostate cancer. The air, however, was depressed.
 
I was happy that life was going on, and that I could lose myself in writing, and in working on the flip house. Nina was wonderful support, and I realized that the issue with Neil was heavier than I thought. I thought about death a lot. Neil, understandably, didn’t want to talk about it.
 
I thought of my wonderful dog, Jewel, running on hips that had failed her in this lifetime, now chasing whatever dog’s chase in the Happy Hunting Grounds. There is Gabe, our Rottweiler, and Tigger, our cat, and my childhood dog Silver. Boots is there, my childhood horse, and Duchess, the wonderful Arabian mare that came to me late in her life and mine, and who eased me back into riding, and who raised my two young fillies. These animals will be waiting for me.
 
And there are people I loved, Mom and Grandma, and friends I knew in California, women who will be there when I get to the Happy Hunting Grounds, where I won’t hunt, but will lie down in green pastures, and run through gurgling streams.
Many of us live under a fear that the sky will fall on us. Is that the way it works? Or is it that my life won’t be over until I say it is?  According to the teacher Abraham, “All death is suicide.”
 
My friend Beth decided it was time to die. She had had pneumonia, had been in the hospital, and while in the hospital she dreamed of her parents. She felt they were preparing her, and she wanted to see her late husband Bill. I believe she was in her eighties, although I always saw her as younger.
 
When her pneumonia returned she decided she was not going to die in the hospital, and she was not going through a continual decline, in the hospital or out. She was going to die at home. She called all her friends to say goodbye. By ones or two’s we trickled in to see her. She seemed in apparent ease, not coughing or acting in any way as though she had pneumonia. She drank water only, and was in apparent good humor. And she glowed. Her skin took on a transparency I have never seen. She served us wine with chocolate in it, and in two weeks, she was gone.
 
Beth had taught Kahuna/Egyptian classes earlier on, and remained a friend and teacher to the end.
 
Two nurse friends who had taken over her Egyptian teachings were with her at her passing and said it was peaceful.
I don’t know how to be enlightened or how to teach anyone else to be. I do know that we can take incremental steps toward that end. Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New World, writes of the “Flowering of consciousness,” He states that how spiritual we are has nothing to do with what we believe, but it has everything to do with our state of consciousness.
 
By state of consciousness he said, “It was not so much what we think, but to where we place our awareness.”
 
Neil had surgery in February. We learned that some of the lymph glands were involved, and the cancer was at the juncture between the encapsulated gland and the surrounding area. Not good. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t get it all, it just means he is at risk. He had been having trouble with bleeding, and anemia, and has been weak and out of sorts.
 
When I watched the movie The Secret and they said to be grateful for everything, for the learning, and for the past for that made us who we are. I see the value of that thinking, but in times of trouble one doesn’t feel grateful for the messenger of misery. The motivational speaker Les Brown says that sometimes we can’t stop that messenger from coming, but we can control how we respond to it. I don’t know what Neil’s learning was regarding his bouts with cancer—he lost a kidney the first time as a result of a tumor bursting a renal artery. I knew, however, that I needed to address my part in the experience. I still believe that the body strives for health, and that it will try to clean up the road kill if given a chance. It is fighting for us every day. I honor it. And remember no matter how sick the body is, it is still 95 % well.
 
 
 
 
 
6
 
The Happy Place
 
While Neil was recovering from prostate surgery, I read David Hudson’s book, Power verses Force. The preface ended with his name, and his place of residence—Sedona, Arizona.
 
“Let’s check out Sedona,” I suggested to Nina, for even then we were looking for a change, but had not yet reached the desperation stage.
 
 Nina had wanted to go to Disneyland for her Birthday in January, but we postponed it because of Neil’s illness. I wanted to go to Sedona for my birthday in February, but we decided to wait until Neil got better. By May the flip house would be completed. We had been working on the yard, planting flowers, putting up a fountain, placing a white picket fence, not to fence in the yard, but as a palette for the plants and a continuation of the house. The house looked like a Boston cream pie, all creamy yellow and white. The trip was to reward us for our efforts. And that is the reason we ended up in May, at Disneyland, walking through the gates with Nina saying, “The happiest place on earth. I ought to conceive here.”
 
The chances of conception? 
 
Zero.
 
There was no man on the horizon, no sperm in the doer. Oh there were cute men at Disneyland, especially ones wearing Goofy hats and carrying children on their shoulders, but they were already taken. Besides a man wasn’t what Nina wanted. A baby was.
 
While I was a love child—with my mother having me at sixteen, Roman was an on purpose—a prayed for, wished for, worked for on purpose. His due date was February 6, same as my birthday. He was born on February 2, 2009.  Close enough. I can always think of his birthday and not mine.
 
Nina had twelve months of artificial inseminations, many days of defeat, disappointment, hope, encouragement. The doctor finally determined that Nina had polycystic ovaries—a condition where many ova mature each month, but many form a cyst instead of being released. She took Clomid for the condition, and for the last three months of those twelve, the fertility doctor placed the sperm directly into the uterus. Last month, figuring perhaps her fallopian tubes were blocked, he squirted dye into the tubes.
 
They weren’t blocked.
 
Each month Nina ordered sperm from a sperm bank. Each month she would pour over a donor’s dossier, educated, a college student, an artist, ethically mixed, a mountain climber, physically fit, a Caucasian, one guy got two chances.
 
Who made it?
 
A Jamaican/Caucasian.
 
We trusted that the perfect child would be born to Nina and that he would choose his time—not knowing yet, of course, if he was a boy or girl. That wonderful child who managed to get conceived before Nina opted for in-vetro treatments saved his mother a ton of grief and a ton of money.
 
Said Nina, “Maybe you just have to be willing to do the hard part.”
 
 
 
7
 
It’s Positive
 
In May of 2008 Nina came upstairs with not one, but two positive pregnancy tests. It was surreal. We couldn't stay home for we were bouncing off the walls. That day a blood test from the doctor confirmed that she was absolutely positively pregnant. We took off to our favorite celebratory restaurant in Eugene Oregon, El Torito.
 
“Dear Baby-to-Be,” I wrote on August 28, “Forty five years ago Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. ‘I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the strength off their character.’
 
“And today Barack Obama, a black man, raised by a single mother, was nominated for the Presidency of the United States.
 
“We have lived to see the Promised Land Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. How great is this, baby-to-be, that you with Jamaican DNA are gearing up for arrival, and this month at the 29th Olympiad, Bolt, a Jamaican, became the fastest man alive, running his opponents into the ground, winning three gold medals, and breaking three world records
.
“We have dreams for you, dear child, but you will have your own dreams. I will stand back and allow your dreams to come forth. I will be your cheerleader. I will be your champion until I become old (oh, does that have to happen?) and then you can become mine.
 
“Nina and I often think of that day we traveled from Sedona to the Grand Canyon and three bull elk, exquisite and beautiful with their velvet antlers, materialized over the rim. The few hikers with us on the rim stood stark still. We stood in awe as the three elk meandered across our path and slowly picked their way into the forest and beyond—a spiritual moment. Patience and Perseverance, these are the traits of elk so say The Medicine Cards, and these are traits your mother incorporated during those twelve months of waiting for you to make yourself known.
 
“Baby-to-be, you are the male of a new day. You choose Nina for a reason. You choose a Jamaican/Caucasian father, a Caucasian mother, and to live with us. Nina listens to her own drummer, and I trust that when you grow up you will be your own man. Don’t take on my expectations. I believe, though, that you are a stream of consciousness, that began I don’t know when, and will end—never.  This lifetime is an interlude.  I have big dreams for you, but I also believe as Kermit the frog said, that, “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending.”
 
“I love you,
“Grandma”
 
 
 
 
 
 
8
 
Welcome Baby
 
On February 2, 2009 Nina’s baby boy made his advent upon this planet.
 
At five A.M. Nina and I, showered and breakfasted on pasta which, they say, is good fuel for a marathon, we were ensconced in our faithful truck driving the hill while blackness engulfed the countryside and rolled over the truck gentle as gray down feathers. We were going to get a baby.
 
“If I were in labor,” Nina said, “we wouldn’t have time to consider the philosophical side of having a child.”
 
“Such as?”
 
“Does a person know what a life-changing event this is?”
 
“Depends on the person,” I say.
 
“As you get older you are more set in your ways. A young person might say, ’Whatever.’
“There is advantage in being more mature…”
 
The trouble is when you are older, and wanting to get pregnant, they say you have “Advanced maternal age.”  My kid, advanced maternal age?  At thirty nine Nina's doctor did not want her to carry her baby past her due date. There is, according to the statistics, an older mother has a greater chance of placental breakdown and stillbirths, therefore Nina opted for an induction.
 
We drove into town, talking, anxious, and waiting for the sun to break through. There in the passenger seat my daughter prepared to have a baby. There were no labor pains, no huffing or puffing, no yelling at the driver to drive faster.
 
At the hospital the doctor found that Nina’s cervix was three centimeter dilated. And after being attached to the fetal monitor we discovered that she has had two contractions within five minutes.
 
I couldn’t believe it, here we were going in for an induction and she was having contractions. Within the next two hours the Obstetrician came in and broke her amniotic sac. The contractions did come on stronger, but not strong enough to get the job done. “No pain, no gain,” said the nurse, and began a Pitosin drip.
 
The contractions came. Nina couldn’t imagine twelve hours of that so she requested an epidural anesthesia, which partially numbed the abdomen, but not completely her legs. She had some nausea, some break-through pain, and they upped the anesthesia. As I was filming the monitor the baby’s heart beat dropped. The team jumped into formation.
“He just took a dive into the birth canal and scared himself,” Dr. Friedman said, “Let’s have a baby.”
 
She affixed a monitor onto the baby’s scalp, and we watched his heart rate rise.
In four contractions and maybe a dozen pushes, a little baby’s purple wrinkled head appeared. A magical moment. He slid out, whole, complete, pink, plump like a rubber doll. I got the honor of cutting the cord, and Nina got the honor of holding her son.
A life-changing moment? Definitely. He was perfect, beautiful. His color was pink. His hair dark brown, almost red, with every hair affixed as though by a movie special effects team.  Maybe he visited a Divine hair salon before making his debut.
 
That night, after Neil brought pizza—you may know about hospital food—a wonderful gentle man, a Cranio-Sacral therapist, gifted the child with a treatment. He treats newborns free of charge because he believes the seventy-two hours after birth are critical. I can’t explain exactly what he does; somehow he supports the body/mind in self-correction. I do know that Cranio-Sacral Therapy focuses on the release of any abnormal tension in the fascia (fabric of the body). The therapist uses the rhythm produced by the production and re-absorption of Cerebral Spinal Fluid to locate restrictions. Using gentle touch, the therapist assists the body’s self-corrective actions.
I know Cranio-Sacral treatment works for after a fall from my mustang, Sierra, resulting in a cracked pelvis, I had pain in my hip for an entire year. After one trip to this man the pain was gone.
 
As the therapist manipulated his scalp little Roman cried—his wasn’t loud at birth—and he opened his swollen eyes. I said I believed he had been rebirthed. The therapist agreed and said he only had a little swelling in the neck, and that everything was wonderful, and that he probably just got the message that he was no longer in the womb.
Roman’s story begin as a dream, and with persistence, determination, and action, he become a reality.
 
Welcome little Roman, my grandson.
 
 
 
 
9
 
Why- O, Why-O, Why-O?
 
I cleaned the refrigerator and made the house camera ready. The Realtors were scheduled to arrive at 3:00 p.m. to film a virtual tour. My day began at 7:30. I meant to shower eventually, but figured they were filming the house not me, so I changed my clothes and stayed down-wind.
 
Fifteen minutes before they arrived, I still had not bathed and was praying frantically, “Please God let me fix this railing before they come.”
 
Sierra, my mustang, had chewed the redwood railing in front of the house during one of her free periods out of the paddock.  (She chewed the hood of the truck too, and one day I caught her about to take a chomp out of the Jaguar.) Both horses loved being loose, and I loved seeing them romp. Sierra’s curiosity, though, created the need to keep constant vigil. I filled the chew marks with wood filler. The stain didn’t cover the filler as the package said it would, and I was sure that a photo of it would look like a pterodactyl had pooped on our railing, so I applied make-up. Isn’t that what special effects people do for a photo shoot, cover flaws? A little craft paint worked wonders.
 
The realtors’ visit lasted for two hours, which included a hike up the hill above the house to find a property marker that was a giant seed-baring Douglas fir. The realtor said it was against the law to cut that tree, so I was assured that one grandmother tree is safe.
John, our friend and helper, replaced the front railing shortly after my cosmetic repair, and shortly after that we showed the house to a couple from China who had seen that virtual tour on the Internet.
 
They said that a house is fated, but they still had to give this one “serious thought.” I do believe that their “serious thought” was about the price. I loved their attitude, though, and that they loved the house and that they loved animals. You know how it is when people talk about animals; their stories are often horror stories? Not this couple. Their stories were happy.
 
The lady often rescued stray dogs. The last dog she picked up was sick and hungry and so ugly no one wanted it. She nursed it back to health, and then someone in Beverly Hills wanted it. Now it lives in the lap of luxury, in an air-conditioned house and it is fed hamburger. Their neighbors think it is rare breed.
 
And ferrets, I thought it was serendipitous that Mrs. Buyer had a ferret story as Nina has had ferrets for some twenty-five years. Mrs. Buyer was a school teacher, and she told me that one day a ferret wandered into the school. The students caught the ferret with the intent of turning it loose. The Chinese people said, “Oh, do not disturb a ferret. It is bad luck.”
 
“But we were going to carry it into the woods,” said the children.
 
“No matter, the damage is done.”
 
When a storm came through they blamed the school because they had disturbed a ferret.
The Chinese couple passed on the house, but because of their attitude, they left a sweet spot behind. She taught me the Chinese word Nihau which means “Hello.” Such sweet moments help plug up the hole in my midsection.
 
The following day, although we didn’t mean to add more drama, we did.  We moved Nina’s horses, Sweetums and Dante, away from Velvet and Sierra. Sweetums and Dante had spent the winter in an area John had cleared and fenced in the forest adjacent to my horses. Their previous pasture at the neighbor’s had become a soggy bog. Now the area we had cleared in the forest because it lacked the rock base of our paddock had become wet and over-trodden with horses’ hooves. It was time to move them back to the neighbor’s pasture which had recovered and was filled with fresh green grass and dotted with white Marguerite daisies.
 
Horses don’t care about green grass or white daisies. They care about other horses, even if it is across a fence. They can touch noses. They can smell each other. They can squeal if one gets too pushy. They wanted to be together.
 
Moving them was like the old game of taking an odd number of cannibals and missionaries across a river in a boat that will hold only three people. If two cannibals are together with one missionary, the cannibals will eat the missionary. The player of this game has to strategize his moves and never leave a missionary outnumbered—unless, of course, you want the missionary eaten.
 
Our problem was how to separate two horses from two other horses when all four were determined to be together. After I put Velvet and Sierra into the secure round pen with its six-foot high railing, we began our trek down the hill with Nina leading Dante, with John leading Sweetums. I brought up the rear carrying Roman.
 Soon one horse galloped past me—that was Dante.
 
Next came Sweetums thundering past me like a freight train. I knew that behind me four horses were together, and ahead Nina and John were standing empty handed.
Our solution? Call Neil, ask him bring home the heavy-duty company truck, attach the trailer, and load Dante. Then with Nina leading Sweetums, and me carrying Roman, and John for moral support, we followed the trailer down the hill. That wasn’t the end of our horse’s determination to be together, but it worked for a while.
 
Regarding the house cleaning: the house was pristine, the garage, however, was a different story. In addition to Nina’s basement studio with its adjoining bath, we had a storage room plus an over-sized garage with industrial shelving, and more accumulation of stuff than I care to mention. In my cleaning frenzy I gave Neil’s work boots to the Goodwill Industries, and he ended up with no work boots. This was beginning to sound like I Love Lucy episode.
 
Before I went to sleep those nights, I read portions of Larry Winget’s book People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It! Winget writes: “It’s better to be disappointed by expecting a lot and getting nothing than by expecting nothing and getting it”
 
Winget explains that no matter how smart we are we all behave as idiots sometimes. We ask for advice, beg for advice, even pay for advice, and then we don’t take it. People don’t take their doctor’s advice on how to get healthy. They don’t take a rich person’s advice on how to get wealthy. They smoke when they know each cigarette takes thirteen minutes off their life. People say they want more honesty in government yet sixty percent of people cheat on their taxes. Oh yes, there’s the lottery, and $300 jeans. Some people even think the earth is flat and Elvis is still alive. And us? I don’t know where we fit in to this scenario.
 
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain wrote this about Tom: “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it—namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”
 
Is that why we wanted to move to Hawaii so much?
 
 
  
10
 
Balance
 
Women in particular search for balance. We balance our relationship with a partner with our own concerns. We balance rearing children with our need for freedom. We balance the household, the finances, and our work with our own need for solitude. I wondered about all these as most women do, and since I think better with a pen in my hand (or a keyboard ) I began to write.
 
We women have similar concerns. We like to share with each other. We like to gather opinions and give our point of view. I once heard the author and great lady Marlo Morgan (Author of Mutant Message Downunder) say that by the time we are fifty we ought to have it together somewhat. The funnier aspect of that fifty- mile mark is, “We don’t have it together by the time we are fifty we don’t have to.”) 
 
I do see the joy of older women. The spiteful concerns have faded. These women get together for the fun of it. They laugh, not at anyone’s foibles, but in the understanding of shared experiences, and in the absurdity of it all.
 
Imagine getting up in the mornings swinging our arms wide and declaring, “How did I get so lucky as to be born?”
 
Not many people ask that question. Rather they say, “I didn’t ask to be born.” Or they ask, “What’s the meaning of life?” “Why am I here?” “How does one get happy?”
I am reminded of a story I once read of a little cat who though happiness lie in his tail. And so all day he chased his tail. One day the old wiser guru cat said to him, “Little cat, little cat, if you go about your life, happiness, like your tail, will follow.”
 
In 1955 Anne Morrow Lindbergh went to the seashore, ensconced herself in a simple beach house, and collected shells from the beach. With her shells as metaphors she wrote her book, Gift From the Sea. Women’s’ concerns haven’t changed all that much since her writing. She, as are we, are still seeking balance in day to day living. We have outer needs pecking at us—keeping the house going with all its televisions, computers, electricity, plumbing, refrigerator, dishwasher, car—all must be maintained and kept in working order. The children’s needs with schools, car-pools, doctor visits, tutoring, and various practices all need attended to. Then there is the shopping, laundry, cleaning, and on top of that most women have an outside job. I don’t know how they do it.
 
Lindbergh’s search was to be at peace with herself. She borrowed from the language of the saints, “to live in grace.” By grace she meant inner harmony. I call it balance. She said that most people are aware of those periods in their lives when they were “in grace” when one seemed to take on tasks lightly, when everything seemed to work. And certainly we all recognize the opposite, those days when we can hardly manage a can opener.