Maui morning

I may not know what day it is but I know exactly what time it is. We are out the door by 4:45 am for Phase 1 of the day: the competitive deck chair search. It’s us, the pool staff with their head lamps glowing and the other bleary-eyed hotel guests bent on reserving their place in the not-yet-risen sun.

Oh, and there is also Keoki. His handler brings him out at 5 am to enjoy a bowl of fruit and peanuts and call out “Aloha” to all the early risers.

Pool chairs secured and Keoki greetings exchanged, we get in line for coffee. Starbucks opens at 5:30 am and the line is Manhattan-esque by then. Ka’anapali is very, very crowded right now.

Latte in hand, we set off for our morning walk.

Hello to the cats of Ka’anapali – there are so many of them! In years past they slunk about, mangy and skittish, but of late there seems to be a group of felineophiles who feed and care for them, hopefully also attending to spaying and neutering. Their coats are shiny and all appear contented. What cat wouldn’t want to spend all of their nine lives on Maui?

A quick wave to the swans at the Hyatt Regency…

and just to prove that if you snooze, you lose, we early birds reveled in the pièce de résistance of the morning, a glorious moon-set over the island of Lanai:

By 9 am our work is done. Time to relax in our hard-won lounge chairs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and watch the clock for Phase II of the day: mai tais and a nap. Aloha!

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Sorry, I’m on aloha time.

I didn’t even remember until now that today is Saturday. I’ll try to pull myself and lots of pix together next week.

In the meantime, enjoy the view, wherever you are. Hope it’s as magical as mine:

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Thirsty.

Honestly. We can really only manage one plague at a time. Which is why, during month after month after month of lockdown, we tried to ignore that it was also month after month after month without rain. That drought that supposedly ended a few years ago? Head fake. It just hit the pause button. And now it is back with a vengeance.

California is such a lovely place. Just last night, Monet stopped by to paint the sky:

But it is also so, so dry. You think the vaccine was a painful jab? How about having your water rates double?

Governor Newsom has now asked us to voluntarily lower our water usage by fifteen per cent. I suspect the “voluntary” part is temporary. And fifteen per cent doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you consider that we already dropped our usage by 40% over the past few years.

When Daniel, newly re-transplanted to So Cal, was visiting at Christmas, he helped clean up the kitchen one night. In a moment now etched permanently in my memory, he turned the kitchen faucet on full blast. And then walked away to do another chore. I was momentarily speechless, and who knows how much money went down the drain in the time it took me to recover. Poor Daniel. He had come from New York, a place where people actually leave the water running while they brush their teeth.

Yesterday, I listened, rapt, while a neighbor recounted her recent trip back East, where she experienced a thunderstorm. Can you even imagine? I hung on to her every word and longingly summoned up the word – petrichor – for that delicious smell that lingers after a rainfall. I felt almost hungry for it – a delicacy so long denied.

Governor Newsom can probably skip over to The French Laundry to borrow a cup of water whenever he likes. For us mere mortals, the options are more fraught. I hope this is dry enough for him:

Good thing we got some plums in already. And, ready or not, I harvested the peaches since the crows were going after them anyway.

Tomatoes came off the vine this morning. Dare I keep tending the green ones?

Sadly, we’ll have to pull the plug on the Asian Lilies that have brightened things up this summer.

And no more water to spare for the Alstroemeria.

But I am absolutely determined to see these potato vines through, darn it. Potato envy doesn’t die easily.

And the one thing that is absolutely non-negotiable is the bird bath. Bears are roaming the canyons and coyotes slipping through the brush. Hawks lurking closer and closer – one killed a rabbit in our yard the other day! All God’s creatures are hungry and thirsty, so we must do what what we can.

Since we can’t realistically even begin to expect rain until late fall, we have a very long dry spell ahead. If worse comes to worse, the sweet little ground birds can have my share of water. I’ll just have to drink champagne…

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In memory of June.

I suppose there is some poetic synchrony in June departing just as her namesake month came to a close. It’s comforting to think of her basking in the lingering light of the solstice, making the most of her last days.

We’ve been down this road before. Ah, but it never gets easier.

The CE and I had both noticed that something was “off” with her. Of course, with June, something was always “off”. She was skittish and solitary from the get go, never quite making her way with the flock. She clung to mama Bella for the longest time until even Bella’s patience wore thin and June was left to make her own way.

She entered her adolescent awkward phase, and never quite left it. There’s always an odd chick out, and June was that chick.

She made up for it by laying the prettiest eggs:

For the past few weeks, however, she had seemed even more reticent than usual, browsing off by herself, tardy to join the flock when it was time to come in from a ramble. But here is the thing with chickens – with all birds, actually – their key to survival in the wild is to never manifest weakness because weakness can mean death. So, by the time we noted symptoms it was already too late.

I told myself the usual fable; “maybe this time it’s something treatable”. Called the vet to make an appointment but it was two minutes past 5 and they were closed for the day. We decided to separate her from the rest of the flock, but as the CE picked her up to move her she convulsed and within moments she was gone.

Gone is too simple a word here. Anyone who has lost a pet holds a memory of that eerily charged moment when the spark, the essence of a creature’s life departs. The strange, hollow silence that descends. I am reminded of a story I was once told about a local physician, an ardent non-believer, who nonetheless admitted that when a patient passed away there was a tangible, effable, almost material alteration of experience in the room. He could not deny that there was a departure of a soul, regardless of what he wanted to believe about where that soul was next bound.

Did June have a soul? According to Descartes in the 1600’s, indubitably, no. Animals were but “machines”. Settled science, as the saying goes today. But then just a century later along came David Hume, proclaiming that “no truth appears to be more evident, than that beast are endow’d with thought and reason as well as men”.

The subject is still debated today, which is why, by the way, when someone tells you to “follow the science” you may be embarking upon a very long journey. What I do know is that in the moment we looked down at June’s lifeless body, something had changed, all the June-ness – all the quirky, antic energy of who June was – had departed, and it was painfully sad.

She was four years old, which, in chicken years, is maybe not quite average and, given that she hadn’t laid an egg for quite some time, likely points to some sort of internal laying disorder. Still, there is always the worry of something contagious, and I’ve spent this week in vigilance over the remaining flock. Thankfully, all five remaining hens seem healthy, even Ginger, who is seven years old this month and, in defying all the odds, still lays the occasional egg.

Every time we lose a pet, the thought surfaces that it is too much tugging at the heart to go through this yet again. That thought surfaced as I watched the CE trudge down to the back of the property to lay June to rest along with all the other chickens, cats, dogs and other creatures who’ve graced our lives through the past decades. But the collective grief is still somehow outweighed by the collective joy and the ways in which their lives enhance our own. Descartes may disagree, but I believe animals have and are the very sweetest of souls. And may June’s rest in peace.

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

– James Herriot
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And then we wined about the heat…

I’ve more or less made a career of complaining about how cold it is in coastal southern California (if you don’t believe me, show up in a tank top and hang out in one of our epic fog banks) so I was momentarily nonplussed when we arrived in Paso Robles to the tune of 106 degrees. It dropped to the high nineties the next day, but still, wow – it was hot!

So off we went to cool down with a little vino veritas at my new favorite tasting locale, Calcareous Vineyard. We enjoyed the perfect combination of a lovely setting, good food and outstanding wines brilliantly presented by Bryce, a most enthusiatic and knowledgable staff member. And, thankfully, there were plenty of umbrellas to shield us from the sun.

Daniel and Freddy enjoyed the 2020 Calcareous Vin Gris Cuvee:

And the view:

We whiled away a few hours enjoying lunch and leisurely sipping the 2018 Calcareous Tres Violet and Cabernet Sauvignon and admiring the limestone-composed hills from which the winery takes its name.

After some down time back at the hotel, Daniel and Freddy discovered the nearby Alchemist’s Garden where the liquid refreshment was presented in the form of artfully-crafted cocktails:

Next stop was an early dinner at La Cosecha, where the tapas never disappoint.

As the sun drew lower in the sky, we headed ten minutes down the road, to…the absolute middle of nowhere:

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the Sensorio experience, but we were happy to be there amidst all the food trucks dispensing tacos and champagne by the carafe.

Things grew clearer as the sky grew darker…

What a memorable evening! Definitely recommend it – just purchase your tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in the long line at the entrance.

Sunday was Father’s Day and like the good sport he always is, the non-wine-drinking CE cheerfully volunteered to ferry us to our tasting destinations.

Daniel and Dad, Father’s Day 2021:

First up, truly up – high on a hill – was the stunning Daou winery.

The wines are a bit pricey but the butterfly garden setting is so beautiful – not to be missed. By appointment only, of course, these days, as are all of the wineries.

Then we drove a short distance to our old favorite, Halter Ranch, where we tasted their trusty Grenache Blanc, Rosé and venerable Ancestor wines. All paired quite nicely with lunch. The CE says their gluten-free pizza crust is the best he’s ever tasted, so at least he enjoyed that treat for Father’s Day!

And thus the wining came to an end as we headed back down the coast to our familiar fog bank and, of course, the happiest reunion. Loved our weekend in Paso, and loved coming home to our Lily.

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Hottest getaway!

Seems like everyone is on the road these days and we didn’t want to be left behind. Unfettered and unmasked, we were ready for a road trip. We headed up San Marcos Pass, rising above the fog and spent a blissful two hours between the time I stopped whining about June Gloom and the CE started wailing about the heat. Whoa, it was definitely getting toasty!

So glad I brought my puffer :-/

Luckily, the welcome mat was out at our favorite Paso Robles destination and the air conditioning was on!

As lovely as ever.

Somehow the heat didn’t seem to affect our appetites. We had a typically perfect dinner at Thomas Hill Organics…I always order the empanadas.

And a shady courtyard lunch at BL Brasserie, where the service and experience are much improved from our visit last fall. It certainly didn’t hurt that our server kept walking past with a nice chilled bottle of Sancérre…

And we discovered that if the heat is really on, you can always walk over to the newest hotel in town, The Piccolo, for a cocktail at Tetto, their rooftop bar. Or if you just can’t wait for the elevator, there’s always the Moët & Chandon vending machine in the lobby!

Of course the party truly started when these two arrived…

After a spectacular dinner at Il Cortile last night we actually turned up the heat because we can never turn down those homemade s’mores in the Hotel Cheval courtyard.

And today is a new day. Breakfast is served…

And we’re headed out with an expected high – thank goodness – of only 94 degrees.

Gotta run…all that Paso wine isn’t going to drink itself!

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Imported goods. And bads.

I was at least twenty pages into The Flame Trees of Thika, Elspeth Huxley’s classic memoir of her childhood in Kenya when it occurred to me to look up, stare out the window, and wonder “what is a flame tree?”

Sometimes, the answer to a question is right in front of you, as it was then, since framed in the window out of which I was staring was one of the coral trees in our back yard. They are one and the same. The genus Erythrina. Horticulturist Dr. Francesco Franceschi introduced them to Santa Barbara late in the 19th century, a decade or so before Elspeth Huxley spied them as her family made the dusty trek from Nairobi to Thika.

I assume the flame tree still thrives in Kenya, as it does here. A particularly fine specimen can be seen at our harbor:

And, of course, the coral tree reminded me of another treasured import currently blooming in all its majesty in our garden. Thank you, Brazil, for sending us the jacaranda:

Sadly, border crossings don’t always end this well. Consider the slightly stickier situation of the Australian gum tree, or as we known them here, eucalyptus. You can thank Captain Cook for bringing them from Australia to Europe back in 1770, from whence they somehow wended their way to California. Fast growing, yes, but also shallow-rooted with a tendency to topple and most worrisome, they burn like candles in a wildfire. Maybe they should be known as the real flame trees, given how easily they can be torched.

Australia would probably be willing to take back all the gum trees if England would take back all the rabbits. In A Sunburned Country, author Bill Bryson relates that in 1859, British import Thomas Austin decided to do a little importing of his own: he released twenty-four wild rabbits into the bush for sport. Given what Bryson reminds us is the rabbit’s “keenness” for breeding, the predictable result was that” by 1880, 2 million acres of Victoria had been picked clean…all so some clown could have something to pot at from his veranda.”

On and on it goes. For all the lovely flame trees and jacarandas that have come through our border, there is also the dreaded kudzu, originally introduced from Japan at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Today it is an invasive pest, inexorably smothering other plants wherever it goes, pictured here in Atlanta, Georgia:

And don’t forget about the environmental havoc wrought by the Burmese python in Florida’s Everglades. We took an airboat ride there a few years back and were stunned by the complete absence of wildlife due to the pythons’ hostile takeover. The snakes began to have a presence in Miami when they were imported from southeast Asia in the 1980’s as exotic pets but researchers claim that it was when a breeding facility was destroyed during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that the invasion began. No one even knows how many there are. “It could be tens of thousands, or it could be hundreds of thousands” according to one federal official.

Crossing a border it turns out, is like crossing the Rubicon. There is no going back. Maybe that’s why Hawaii is giving us such a hard time right now with their myriad of travel restrictions. I’m not too happy about all the hoops we have to jump through ahead of our trip planned for next month. But perhaps Hawaii is remembering past errors, such as when they imported the mongoose to control rats in the sugarcane fields back in the 1880’s. Instead of eating the rats, the wily mongoose prefers a diet of songbirds. Mistakes were made.

I guess the cautionary tales remind us to be cautionary about borders. But how I wish Hawaii would ease up on theirs. I can’t wait to be the next mongoose loose on the shores of Maui!

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Potatoes, A PUPPY and a party.

In the end, it was a very good thing that my potato seedlings failed. For if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have asked my friend Tammy to come over to help me plant those homely-looking mail-order Adirondack Reds . My hope was that if she participated, she might spread a little of her garden magic fairy dust on the project.

Good thing she came. I was about to plant them upside-down when she gently reminded me that potatoes grow into the ground, not out of it. Duh. No wonder she’s the one with the successful garden!

Gardening always goes better with an aperol spritz, by the way:

But she brought so much more to the “garden party” than tuber know-how. When we opened the door to greet her, she sweetly asked if we had an extra collar.

Uh, yeah, sure.

Wait. An extra collar?

WHY?

Here’s why!!!!

NEW PUPPY!!!!!

Isn’t he the SWEETEST?

Mostly Australian Shepherd. Apparently some Mastiff mixed in. 100% adorable!

Lily had to mull over the idea that he (working title is apparently “Beau”) was stealing all the attention away from her, but hopefully they will end up being great friends.

Such a sweet moment getting to meet the brand-new family member, and thus, complete consolation for the wasted weeks of trying to coax those spindly little seedlings into a future life as potatoes. I did a little research and I think I figured out what went wrong.

Even though I set them next to a window, they just weren’t getting enough light. The seedlings elongated as they desperately struggle toward the light and ended up being too frail to survive.

This realization struck a chord with me. I will always remember it as a faith parable. Even though it is said our faith need only be as big as a mustard seed, it occurs to me that it must also be helped toward the light it needs; that is, of course, the Light of the World. I don’t know about you but I’m one of those, frail of faith, who needs to ever strive toward the light. Lesson learned.

Last night we we had front row seats to a more robust faith in action. The CE offered us up to host a dinner honoring a group of women from Calvary Chapel and wow, what an incredible view we had of those who live their lives in and for the light. The collective love in that group for Jesus and for one another was truly something to behold.

Not to mention the food!!! You want to talk about potatoes?

A longtime member of the church who also just happens to be a celebrity chef, donated her time to prepare an incredible feast.

There were homemade savory crackers:

Macadamia nut-filled dates:

Yummy salads and homemade bread that was absolutely divine:

Beef tenderloin:

And the most stunning slabs of salmon we’ve ever seen:

What an amazing evening. And what an amazing group of women who are accomplishing so much in our community. We felt so honored to be among them.

It was an evening for them to just relax and enjoy their “just desserts” – scrumptious pot de créme – served up by Pastor Tommy:

So many people worked so hard to make such a beautiful evening. It felt very “Upper Room” with all sharing their gifts in so much love. And oh yes, Lily got her share of the love, too.

I know I will continue to have failures in gardening and failures of faith. But how lucky I am to be surrounded by those who know which way is right-side up and how to reach toward the light. Here’s hoping there’s always a new puppy on the path to help guide me 🙂

…for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20
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My kingdom for a potato.

There are two great motivators in my life. One is fear and the other, regrettably but truthfully, is envy.

When you’re young, invincible and all lies ahead, the only real kind of fear is the FOMO kind – fear of missing out. When you’ve just had another in what seems like an endless string of birthdays, there’s another kind of fear – fear of running out. Of time. Yikes. Thus, the idea of beginning a garden when you’re just a few years shy of 70 may seem a bit late in the game. So much to learn, so little time. But on the other hand, there’s no time like the present, right?

It occurred to me when life shifted from a constant packing and unpacking suitcases to a year-long hunkering down that all that dirt outside might be good for something. The CE set me up with my little table top garden last fall – a blank canvas just waiting to be filled in!

Since it was September, the planting options were limited, but my enthusiasm wasn’t. I mean, how hard could this be?

Except that the lettuce never got any bigger than this.

And nary another tomato ever appeared. This one ripened, but the plant promptly withered and collapsed – one lesson learned is that tomatoes won’t grow in a too-shallow tabletop garden. Their roots need room!

I spent the winter in a sulk but recovered enough to begin anew in April. Surely my thumb had grown green by now!

It helps to plant things that are basically weeds. Mint is a winner!

And snap peas turned out to be a snap!

My happiest memories of this spring will be of stepping out to visit the garden and making myself a late afternoon “salad” of basil, snap peas and cherry tomatoes:

Never mind that I could have run over to the grocery and purchased all these things for much less than the cost of the precious water I lavished on the plants. There is just something irrationally satisfying about harvesting a snap pea!

But then the envy kicked in. I saw my friends Tammy and Tom’s garden and felt for all the world like I’d been cast out of Eden. They had EVERY kind of fruit and vegetable and suddenly even my flourishing little haricot vert vine seemed insufficient.

THEY most especially had the nerve to be growing a robust crop of potatoes out of a cardboard box! My thumb may not be green but the rest of me was – green with envy over that potato vine. (I remember something along these lines occurring in that first garden as well…everything was perfect until human nature reared it’s ugly head.)

I would show them. I would plant my OWN potatoes. Right?

Wrong. I went to one nursery, two, three and four and was told at every one that the potatoes were SOLD OUT. I wasn’t the only COVID-era gardener out there by a long shot and apparently spuds were the crop of choice. I even looked online – the tubers, which are the favored way to plant potatoes, were sold out across the board.

I settle for some fingerling seeds, which I babied extravagantly by the kitchen window for a few weeks.

I transplanted them, according to the directions, after they got their secondary leaves, at which point the spindly little things gave up the ghost entirely. I gotta say, I took it a bit hard – after all, what Irish person is incapable of growing potatoes?

But my envy had not subsided and my fear of running out of time – it’s almost June, you know – kicked into high gear. I widened my internet search and lo and behold, if you order from the other side of the country, you can get a potato! By the way, if you are thinking “why didn’t she just go get some at the grocery store and plant them”, I thought of that, too. Turns out that the potatoes you buy there are sprayed with something to prevent sprouting and they aren’t good candidates for the garden.

Anyway, my Adirondack Red Potatoes arrived yesterday, hopefully in the mood to be California transplants.

Yes, it’s true they do look – A LOT – like long-forgotten things I have thrown out of the vegetable bin in the past. But let’s not dwell on that, shall we? According to directions, I’m giving them a week by the window to acclimate to their new coast, and then we shall try again. I can see it now – they will grow abundantly and instead of green with envy I’ll be a much better person and invite my friends over for potato salad. And all will be well in the Garden.

We are stardust, we are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

Joni Mitchell
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Family, Friends, Blessings.

I’ve entered a state of perpetual amazement.

Amazed, first, in retrospect at how strangely easy it was to adjust to a year of life lived in shadows, adopting as my mantra the Marcus Aurelius quote “Very little is needed to make a happy life”.

And then, the amazement of suddenly emerging from those shadows into the bright sunshine – I feel like Dorothy landing in Oz, where everything changes from sepia-tones to technicolor.

It has most certainly been a technicolor week. “Very little needed” morphed right into “Party on!”

First and best, we were blessed to attend Caleigh’s First Communion. Such a precious day!

Caleigh and her proud dad:

So special to be there!

Caleigh and Tina at the celebration lunch:

The Newport Beach weatherman didn’t get the memo that we wanted a perfect weekend but that didn’t stop us from heading down to the dock to enjoy the CE’s favorite Newport activity – an epic ride in the Duffy:

Next day the weather was even worse but the sun came out when the gang all showed up to surprise me with an early birthday party. So fun! Thank you, Tina and Angie!

We headed home to greet our latest visitor – Gail picked the perfect time to visit Phyllis – it’s actually SNOWING this week in Montana!

Meanwhile, the birthday revelry continues: there was the most fabulous lunch with dear friends Pamela and Tammy:

We didn’t eat dessert first but we all agreed that we need to do this more often – I don’t remember going to lunch ever being this magical in the old days.

And then, more magic last night. So many dear, lovely ladies gathered to celebrate. It really is a wonderment to be with friends in much happier times. Such a joy to be together and be so carefree.

I am amazed. I am grateful. And I’m promising myself to never take anything for granted again. Out of the shadows and into the sun. Happy Everything, indeed. Party on!

Posted in All Things Family, Big Fun, Life | Tagged , , | 1 Comment