Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Hilo 'ia a pa'a" Braiding a tight cord of knowledge

"We hope you enjoy the journal to record the beauty, growth and cycles of Whidbey." - Love, Kaliko and 'ohana
My husband Pete and I are trackers of the moon, Mahina, in the Hawaiian culture. During the late spring and summer we gathered at moon watching places on the south end of Whidbey Island to watch Mahina rise from behind the peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range.  A pair of friends who also love the moon dubbed us 'The Lunatics' and we so do love to count of the moon. So, we giggle and point at one another when we bump into each other in the daily rounds of errands. Like the other morning when it was cold and required wrapping up with wooly hats and scarfs to the point of disguise. With one of us holding a stalk of rainbow chard grown and sent from somewhere far away (California?) and another reaching and squeezing lemons I looked at the neighboring shopper and said, "Lunatic?" And indeed it was my moon-watching friend Judy. We met at the organic produce section of one of the two larger grocers on the south end of Whidbey. With nothing green and growing in the local gardens in late December we depend upon the grocers to buy and sell the nourishing food Judy and my husband Pete plant, tend and harvest during the rest of the year. Seasonal changes are real, natural and in response we humans make adjustments. In this case, we shop.

The name of the post today "Hilo 'ia a pa'a" is a phrase used to entitle a small paper journal used to record observations of the moon  phases of your place. My niece Kaliko sent the hand-size journal-recorder to us with the note that starts this post above. Her note was a serendipitous connection, like meeting my pal Judy in the organic produce. She may or may not already know that we attune to the moon. We count on the moon to ground our emotions (fleeting as they are) recognizing the effect of the rising tides (internal as well as the oceans and ground water) when the dreams are especially potent or the dark nights rimmed with old cautions verging on fear. When the moon, the Goddess Mahina is potent and visible during the daylight hours as she is now, the balance of dark and light shifts. During the 'Ole Moon Phases we reflect on our choices, and our progress with life and wait until those phases have passed before making new choices or starting a new project. Those sorts of observations and awarenesses can wind into that tight cord of knowledge alluded to in the play on words "hilo 'ia 'a pa'a."

The journal's inside page begins with this:

"The title of this journal is a play on Hilo, the name of the crescent moon and the first night of a new malama (Hawaiian month). This is a time of great potential and new beginnings, as the energy of the mahina (moon/month) increases from Hilo till Mahealani. Hilo also means to twist or braid. As you begin the practice of recording observations for each lunar phase, you will start braiding a cord of knowledge about your 'aina that will eventually become pa'a ana'au, or fixed within your consciousness..."

The Moon Phase Project is an online forum designed to share with users everywhere. will get you there. In the coming months I will be sharing and encouraging others on Whidbey Island to learn and observe the phases of the Hawaiian moon calendar. We are plotting and planning a Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) Celebration in February, 2015 to welcome the "Year of the Goat/Sheep/Ram." It will be the next step in growing The Safety Pin Cafe's purpose for being a place where story(ies) and storytelling is valued, encouraged and based on the inseparable nature of all life. The Gregorian Calendar is the one most of us use to schedule and track time and our goings-on. January 1st begins 2015. Well and good. And, in addition to that solar generated time keeper, Mahina, the moon allows us to notice and record a different cord of knowledge "How can it help to guide our contemporary lifestyles?" Through first-hand observation of how Nature appears where you (we/I) live we connect with what grows when; how it grows; what the water/wind/birds-fish etc. are doing. We make note, and over time we braid life from personal experiences.

The findings will be unique for each of us. As 2015 unfolds, The Year of the Goat/Sheep/Ram will serve as my braiding year where I step into the community as Storyteller-in-Residence. The Safety Pin Cafe's medicine of story will pin together ancient stories with my personal journeys, observing and recording the potential of other stories ripe for telling. Stay tuned here, for how you can be involved, and where I will be sharing The Moon Phase Project Whidbey and The Safety Pin Cafe's Storyteller-in Residence as well.

Are you a lunatic? Would you be interested in joining a small group on Whidbey Island to learn and observe the Hawaiian moon phases? Please leave a comment, or email us if you are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Weathering Weather on Whidbey

Justin Burnett, Editor of the South Whidbey Record wrote, "The December wind storm of 2014 won’t be forgotten anytime soon, not on South Whidbey anyway.
Beginning at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday (December 11, 2014) evening, the South End was slammed by winds that downed hundreds of trees, resulting in scores of power outages, an unknown number of blocked roads and driveways, and damaging private property from Clinton to Greenbank..." - Read the entire article here.
December 2014 Storm Damage
Photo Credit: Justin Burnett South Whidbey Record
Everybody has a storm story to tell as we, and our neighbors on the South End of Whidbey Island recoup from the intensity of winds that came with power. We listened to the snap and crash of tree limbs on and around us in the woods, grateful in the morning when the winds had passed to know no serious damage was done to our tiny homes nor that of our closest neighbors. Our landladies and we ran gasoline powered generators for hours to keep us warm, and allow me to cook. The loud sound of the engines and the petroleum emission the price we paid to be warm. It's a trade-off to the environment, something I chock up to accepting that can't be changed. We don't burn wood for heat. We need to stay warm. We wish to endure. We do what we can. Pete was out and about the neighborhood helping clean downed trees and checked on neighbors. There's an after shock that we all experience, and that's what's happened around here and at The Safety Pin Café. A slowing down and a psychic and physical release. WHEWW in capitals.
To help me with weathering winter I turn to the world of words and the medicine of story. You may want to read my latest Medicine Story that came from that storm. Pinned together as all my stories are, the real marries the myth and the partnership is a commitment to see life as a fiesta, a moveable feast, a fairy tale with or without fairy. The new story MoltenMadam sees Pale the Border Witch and heroine of The Safety Pin Café alive and well as she ages into her Wild Hare self "never too old for the mischief and the mystery."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Snow and ice report

Snow arrived Thursday night, and then the temperature dropped turning things colder and icy. I don't travel about in the snow and ice, and neither did our water that froze itself in pipes somewhere. So the dishes piled high, and only now have we got them washed and ready to cook up warm food and dirty up those pots, pans, bowls and spoons.

The snow bombs are falling as the sun warms the heavy blobs from the fir and pine up high.

Friday, November 28, 2014

It began on a day much like today ... a day a duck could love

"It was a day a duck could love. For that matter the week was a duck's paradise. Dressed for the season in my long skirt, paisley wool shawl, and tea cozy hat with the red hibiscus over my left ear my feet splashed in puddles. The sensible shoes--black leather lace-ups-- answered the silly duck talk coming from the edges, "It makes no never-mind to me. For though I have no oily feathers to shed the rain, my sensible shoes are always game." I'm sure the ducks got even sillier as I twirled at the end of every city block. But by then they were out of earshot."
Above me the rain today is splattering fat and abundant. The announcer on our local radio station said, "I could take a moment to tell you about the weather but if you look outside you can see it's RAINING, and will be raining until it doesn't rain anymore. And then it will either start snowing and stay that way for the next many days hear in the Great NorthRain." Aieyah.

When I wrote the medicine story, The Safety Pin Café a tale of remedy born in the imagination, it was the art of writing that turned a soggy attitude and sodden set of lungs into the bridge between. It's that place that accepts some of the reality and blows it into a bigger picture, turning skin and toes into the webbed feet of silly ducks who transport themselves through water and birth their babies on the solidity of earth. They are comfortable with both fluidity and solidity. On the radio behind me I listen to 'Aloha Friday' and the music of Hawaii. It transports, I become more fluent.

"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding."
John O'Donohue
"Fluent" from Connemara Blues
December draws to conclusion in three days. The Safety Pin Café has unfolded and I continue to be surprised with it. My feet are wrapped in cotton socks, my head is covered with a favorite tea-cozy like hat, and I suspect the ducks, wherever they be, are getting sillier as I twirl weird words onto the cyber-cloud of words.
For a taste of more Weird Words check this out.
If you have not yet read the original medicine story The Safety Pin Café, it's only a click away.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kamishibai: Japanese Paper Theatre

I was making dinner chopping onions, a thumb-sized glove of garlic and the stalks of red and yellow chard. Rice bubbled and steamed until I lifted the lid to let the angry rice sounds out. Just to be sure all the angry part of the rice went somewhere else I opened the window. Whoosh. Most cooks can multi-task, in a busy kitchen its a must. But, the skill of an excellent cook is to never lose track of one dish at the expense of the other two you might also be tending. Something like that happened today.

I'm not sure how it happened but I found KAMISHIBAI somewhere between steaming rice and chopping mushrooms. It's really quite a wonderful accidental meeting. Do you know kamishibai?

Now I do too and I love it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Moon means potent

Small, efficient, elegant and moveable

"Although more modern fasteners like velcro have been introduced in the 20th century, the safety pin remains an everyday necessity throughout the world.
Its simplicity, elegance and household presence made it not only an item of utility, but also of culture and tradition. In some places in India, for example, safety pins and sewing needles are kept for generations and passed from mother to daughter. In the Ukraine it is still a practice today to pin safety pins to the inside of a child’s clothing, to ward off evil spirits. In many European countries, finding a safety pin is good luck, and a portent of good fortune." - A Visual History of the Safety Pin
Today the moon is NEW in Sagittarius. All potent. What began as a story, and a message from my Ma grows with the qualities of a safety pin. To affirm its potency to grow. Here's one of my latest favorite poster of the common magic.

Can you think of other forms of magic that are small, efficient, elegant and moveable? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Unifying Walk Performance

Julie Genser of Planet Thrive wrote " On Sunday, November 9th at 11am CST, a group of students from Trevor Martin’s Social Practice performance art class in Chicago were joined by friends and individuals from the Environmental Illness (EI) community for the simultaneous drinking of tea.
For part two of the performance, there will be a unifying walk in Chicago this Monday, November 17th at 4:30 CST based on the locations of all the tea participants from Sunday. There were about 35 people we know of who enjoyed tea together that day! ... " The entire post is here.

Virtual Space has taken on such a different sort of meaning, words do that over time. I was sorting through a box of stuff -- paper, old pictures-- lots of dust metaphoric and literal began to fly around and before I knew it I have kicked open one of those psychic doors where times past linger, or linker. Linker being a word that bridges as in 'link here to linger.' There were memories that are best let go off, but they don't need to be orphaned out because in effect those memories are/were part of me or once were like guests at my home. I'm drifting with this paragraph, but only slightly. Here we go with the connection. Virtual Space, and the Unifying Walk Performance allows people from around and across the Earth to come together in a unified act from wherever they are. On Sunday, November 9th and then again yesterday, November 18th I joined in the simultaneous drinking of tea --a virtual tea party-- and walk originating in Chicago to acknowledge Environmental Illness; I am one of 'them.' Unable to walk the route 'in person' I joined nonetheless and took the walk at 2:30 PT along the west-facing shore of Sunlight Beach, on Whidbey Island.

The tall bones of The Tree People stretched along the sandy shore

Marks and evidence of many feet told me I was not alone on this journey ...

Across the slough Bird Tribes went about their day, walking, floating, sunning, eating, talking

The tide was at its shift from ebb to flow, the ripples and the currents making sounds and patterns in my soul

And Crow led. I kept a respectful distance. He would have it no other way.

Pohaku li'i (small stones) walked too

In the distance Tahoma rose from the horizon, the air dirty from days and nights of cold, car exhaust and wood fires.
He is large, Tahoma

Heron moved not an inch as all the Others walked. Blending into the shore-scape my camera's lens makes me a virtual companion

Water ripples a gentle line

I rest my stick and sit

before turning to see the sky change with moving clouds that have come wood smoke travels in my direction ...

The Starlings watch... joining the Others, I am one of them, one of all. Unified

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Safety Pin Cafe in Winter

Winter is the season for dreams and story. The longer hours of darkness are fertile ground for seeding dreams, and stories come to affect our imagination. We envision a space built so the Sensitives can safely gather, and, offer The Safety Pin Café as shared space for multiple purposes as well. With that acknowledgement of Winter's Gift for dreaming, Pete and I have been conspiring to create a story that leads to The Safety Pin Café in Winter ... We share it here, as a new born. This is a precious and freshly birthed story. Treat it with love and care and The Safety Pin Café will grow into something of generosity, a place to cultivate wisdom and spirit; it will be in good tilth in good heart.

To me the word "Tilth" is a one-word haiku.
It's said that every word carries with it all of its meanings. Tilth is an Old English word that comes from the same root as the verb "to till." In the dictionary it is defined as "the structure and quality of cultivated soil." In an older meaning the word "tilth" was used to describe the cultivation of wisdom and the spirit.
A soil—or a person—in good tilth was said to be "in good heart." 
-A Brief History of Tilth
By Mark Musick

The Vardo for Two
Five years ago (2010) my husband Pete Little and I found the South Whidbey Island community. Our former life was being rebuilt; we had to dig deeper for people, place and values to thrive in spite of a medical diagnosis with one basic 'cure': "avoid almost everything!" That's a bit of a stretch but not much of one. The short story is I was diagnosed with MCS Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, or Environmental Illness in 2007, pesticides, chemicals and common products of the everyday 21st century are the primary sources of harsh and often debilitating reactions. My immune system was unable to cope, or restore health. A house or public spaces? For years those were "no-can-dos". In 2008 we learned what materials were less toxic and lessened the body's burden brought on by exposures; we experimented and tested how to build a tiny movable space to live in and regain wellness. Then began the journey to become part of a community.

In the summer of 2010 we found a place in the woods of Langley to park our Vardo for Two. Life began to re-fresh knowing we had a home. That same summer we found the South Whidbey Tilth and Farmers' Market. At first, it was the companionship and laid-back atmosphere that made us feel at home. Then, we discovered Tilth's history as a place unsprayed with pesticides for three decades. Our shoulders relaxed, my immune system calmed for the first time in three years, we began to root, volunteer, share what we have learned about fragrance-free and chemical free practices and become part of the community. 

1. Fragrance-free and chemical-free bathrooms (May 2011)
We started volunteering at Tilth in 2011, setting up and cleaning up after the Sunday Farmers' Market. That summer we asked about implementing a fragrance and chemical-free cleaning regime in the two Tilth Campus bathrooms. Pete and I cleaned the bathrooms for the next couple of summers. Vinegar, baking soda and unscented hand soap were the only 'product' used and a sign describing the process was posted in the bathrooms. It was the first step. The process and the standard remain in place today and unscented dish soap is now used in the kitchen at Tilth as well.
2. The Safety Pin Café ( 2013, 2014)
I am a storyteller. In a former life I was a teacher, columnist, human resources trainer, community builder and Hawaiian culture educator. After I began ill with MCS I needed to find ways to restore my life and contribute differently. Combining my love of story and writing with the practices of my Hawaiian culture I wrote a mythic tale inspired by our life in South Whidbey. I published the tale in regular installments via my blog, and then shared a two-hour interactive presentation and live performance bringing the virtual doors of The Safety Pin Café down to Earth. The theme of the stories: common magic found on the borders of the everyday. I used Drewslist to publicize the first fragrance-free Safety Pin Café storytelling event in October, 2013. We had great fun, a wonderful crowd and contributed 10% of the donations we received to the South Whidbey Tilth.

In September and October 2014 we pitched the tents for The Safety Pin Café again, for Story Sunday. These Sundays were filled with traditional First Peoples' stories of respect for the Elements -- Akua, the Gods; the lessons began with chants and respect for the people who came before, and love of the sacred places within us and on this island Earth. Through the voice (chant) all who gathered learned to remember: ask permission before assuming you know. The community was very generous with their donations. More than $250 dollars was raised at these storytelling events and all proceeds benefited the Good Cheer Food Bank. A percentage of the donations were also shared with the Tilth.
"Your full-hearted sharing brings music and light into One's inner stream of being!  It is easy to envision peace from that space because it is the place of infinite possibility and where One's needs fall into place with the Spirit's journey.  Thank you for bringing the stories gilded with light, sparkle, and music that hold the attention of even the youngest in a crowd, yet nourish and refresh the old and weary with their wisdom and give the "movers" something to set their inner compasses by.  You and Pete are true jewels in this community!  I'm sorry that I was not there for your sharing from the beginning!  Next time I surely will get out earlier!" - Kathleen Martin
The stories I share from The Safety Pin Café reflect the living philosophy and art of our life.  I call it our safety pin life: small, efficient, elegant, detachable. In many ways it is magic made manifest, making something wonderful out of chaos and challenge. We pin things together with a lot of help from seen and unseen beings and accept that nothing lasts forever.
3. Our Vision Now: Create a removable* Fragrance-free Zone and winter home for The Safety Pin Café

Removable: The walls for The Safety Pin Café would be designed so each wall/panel could be installed after the Farmers' Market ends in October, and removed prior to the first market Sunday the following May. The size of the walls/panels are designed so they can be stored in protected areas on the South Whidbey Tilth during the Sunday market season.
One of the challenges people who live with "Invisible Disabilities" such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities face is the prevailing attitude that "You don't look sick." I don't use a wheel-chair or walk with visible 'disability' so understanding and accommodations are based on asking for what I need. Unless I am wearing one of my masks to filter chemicals or fragrances most people would never know what difficulty I face being:
  1. around wood smoke
  2. in a café that was just cleaned with bleach
  3. next to a woman who has just shampooed with something fragranced
  4. at a party where people have used scented dryer sheets to dry their clothes
  5. in a building just remodeled
  6. or, in a moldy building/room/house
  7. the list goes on ...

Summers on Whidbey Island is the best of times. I can be out and about, am able to shop and frequent many (not all) local businesses and public facilities. My health, and immune system are better thanks to a new foundation of knowing my needs, limits, and having a network of support that respects us. Pete has spent the last five and a half years sharing his particular magic volunteering at Whidbey Institute's Garden, Good Cheer Garden and Food Bank, Bayview Hall and the South Whidbey Tilth; while also providing Home Health Care and fix-'ems for people. He has his roots in places he wants to be.

The challenges of being a storyteller (and her husband) with MCS change in winter. Wood-burning is difficult if not impossible for me to be around. As the cold and damp sets in businesses enclose their spaces; the fresh outdoor air does not circulate the smells and chemicals used to clean, sanitize and deodorize. People use scented laundry and personal care products. Added together that combination adds to the burden of being chemically sensitive. During the past seven years Pete and I have learned to build and create Fragrance and Chemical Free Zones to live and be in year-round. These havens are the essential factor in maintaining well-ness and recovering from chemical or fragrance exposures.

Our vision and wish is to
  • create a winter place for The Safety Pin Café,
  • a Fragrance and Chemical Free Zone,
  • and public space to share.

We introduce our vision to the South Whidbey Tilth Board and welcome the Board members' input, comments and questions.
the Pavilion as it is at the end of Farmers' Market Season, 2014
* In the Sketch of " " these are Panel #2 and Panel #3 (left to right)

The existing entrance to the Pavilion.
*In the Sketch this is the panel with a door; Panel # 4 facing the existing bathrooms at the Tilth

This is the view of the 'steps-side of the Pavilion.
*In the Sketch this is the panel with an opening window; Panel #1

This is an inside view of the Pavilion, showing both the space inside and the land, trees and space outside.

Here's a view from a table inside the pavilion. We want to be able to be sheltered, yet use material to let in as much natural light, and visibility to the land outside.
This is the recycled metal siding we'd like to use to side The Safety Pin Café in winter. These are at Island Recycling in Freeland. The red trim is similar to many of the red-painted building at the Tilth,  weathered copper/gray-green in the main. The paneling is old, off-gassed of any residual finishes and would need to be cleaned before installation. 

Pete and I drew up a sketch of "The Safety Pin Café's Winter Home at South Whidbey Tilth". This post and the sketches will be available at the Business Council Meeting of South Whidbey Tilth on November 20, 2014 and includes:
  •  Materials List (including measurements) for exterior and interior panels
  • Approximate costs to secure materials
  • Drawings of the entrance and window placements
  • Details for framing, attaching and supporting of panels
  • Details for insulating and flooring
We seed our dream for a winter home for The Safety Pin Café and a space to share with the South Whidbey Community.

E Ho Mai. E Ho Mai. E Ho Mai. (Click on the link to hear the chant and read its interpretation)

Stay tuned for updates to our dream project.

Thank you,
Mokihana and Pete

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wana and Apple Pie: the poetry of genetics ... how does it happen?

Kapa Hawaiian bark cloth imprinted with the designs of Wana
wana. 1. A sea urchin 2. Sharp-pointed, as sea-urchin spines; jagged, sharp; spike. 3. A long spike or ray of light, as at dawn; to appear, as a ray of light. For example, wana 'ao. Wana kau lani. a streak in the heavens, as of light or cloud
I "hoopuhi", I distill. Images and 'olelo (Hawaiian words) combine with the everyday demonstrating again and again
my pre-disposition to love multiple meaning(s) and synchronicity.  Kaona means "multiple meaning" and is a poetic vehicle for layering or hiding meaning in verse, 'oli or mele. It is instinctual, and when nurtured it becomes the doorway to rich storytelling and enduring connectivity with life seen and unseen.

An excerpt from a post I wrote (2012) on my other blog Makua O'o entitled "To distill ... hoopuhi ... to extract the essence"--
... "..Madeline's bare wrist stretched from the long wool sleeves revealing a subtle yet definite pattern of ink -- tatau. The design began a thumb's length from the narrowest measure at the wrist. Four lines of peaked black ink circled and met in a pattern that was without doubt the wana ... sea urchin. Puff collected the details of her journey much the same way she assembled and remembered the flavors of a recipe she wanted to repeat. The look and taste of this moment. She sipped the bitter-sweet tea then asked, "Can I help with the pies? ... The evening passed in comfortable enterprise and easy conversation, the exceptional circumstances for Puff's arrival melded as did the cinnamon with sugar over the sliced Pippins. There would be time for storytellers soon enough. The unspoken mana of non-intrusiveness, not being maha'oe warmed the cottage as much as the heat from the hearth and good stove. Culture is visceral, the women felt it and respected what was..."
This is an excerpt from the mytic fiction and journey of time travel that is fascinating me as I weave the many tendrils and knotted cords of life as I see it.  The link to that entire post is hereMy husband and I were having a conversation early this morning, "I read your stuff," he said.  I was still waking up but it's always fun to hear what he has to say about my writing.  His insight inspires me to write, and what he feels once the writing is on the page incites more.  This morning's conversation stretched in many directions during the minutes we shared in the vardo and as is common there are other stories tickling at me because of this exchange.  But in the main Pete's sense of the story with this segment was the desire to know more about these characters who make pie together though they are virtual strangers.  The hospitality to strangers, a universal theme stirred memories of visits to the Wisconsin farm where he easily remembered the excitement of company coming.  Whipped into a frenzy with excitement, the innocence of that time came to be with him as he read.  

From there to here ....

November 5, 2014
Dear Aunty Lily,

I am sitting in a tall and comfortable chair made from Oak. The seat is a pretty upholstered one, in a pattern I think you'd like. The chair is pulled in front of a very large computer screen, and that screen and I a parked in front of a wall of windows looking out on a Fall sky. The clouds are stripes of gray and white ... mostly white. No sheep in the sky today, none of those clouds that you taught me to notice when I was a girl in rubber slippers. The trees out that window are maples and this is the season when the trees let go of the fan shaped leaves leaving behind the spiky limbs, spears like many forks or very tall wana.

I am writing from the library in Langley where I live now. The sound of little voices and the voices of their parents (mostly mommies) fill in the space of my right ear. Sometimes I come here to do things I can't do from the computer at home. Sometimes I come here just to take a break from hanging out at home. Sometimes I come here after shopping for tangerines and chicken drum sticks that will be snacks and dinner later. Writing to you know I combine the best of what life offers me now, just a couple weeks before my next birthday. I think about the many delighting and surprising gifts you gave to me in the course of a day. I remember that when my ordinary day were lived away from Kuli'ou'ou Valley I wrote to you and described what it was like to live in Christmas tree land. You wrote back and said, "You are a good writer." I believed you. I didn't know writing would become the story waiting for me. My kuleana.

I am grateful to the way you helped me see connection between what is with what could be. What was our valley times together nearly sixty years ago is as 'no more' as most Main Streets in any town across O'ahu or America, in general. Still the marks left in me and my imagination remain or maybe have become brighter as I age. I see different through these tri-focal lenses not because I have finally off-gassed the plastic lenses and metal frames. I see differently because there were bright lights, rays of light and loving examples, You, to encourage the light within me yet to be discovered. How fortunate, for me to have had you next door.

I am a writer because I keep writing. The stories that come are partly the ones waiting for me to hear them. Other stories are sparked by an ordinary anything's parallel magic just-over-there. I am writing to you, my Aunty Lily because I was trying to piece together, pinning one thing with another. You would love seeing that maple tree shake itself of the golden leaves. You would notice how the clouds look wet, and I would wonder whether you might be driving now ... if in fact you decided to reincarnate, and find another human life in a place different than Kuliou'ou. Just wondering, just remembering, just spending the time making imaginary apple pie. Delicious with every step. Delicious with every bite.

I love you,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Patch it with whimsy

"It is a good time to work toward your dreams, but allow room for whimsy. Whimsy sometimes requires extra time [f]or a rebuild. - Satori
whimsy, a noun
a whim. 
a thing that is fanciful or odd.

I'm doing a lot of mending. Maybe, it's the season. The rain and cold sends me inside and the need to be doing consolidates, ends up in my fingers. I'm grateful to be flexible yet with my fingertips and give thanks for the glasses that finally (after six months of off-gassing) perch on my bridgeless button nose with little ill-effect, and work. With concentration I can thread the needle. A warm grey and black-trimmed alpaca vest was handed down to Pete last winter. He has used it, putting it on to keep himself warm as he does his work on winter fix-it's and general putterings. The vest was wearing through. "I can mend that put some patches on it. Teach myself to darn." That was a summer statement. I figured I'd have time to get to it before the weather shouted loudly for a vest without holes to let winter too close to the bone. My sister-in-law and I were chatting on the phone yesterday. I told her about embroidering patches, doing mending. She thought maybe that was an uncommon thing, something the younger generation wasn't taught, and didn't do. "Maybe," I said, "but, isn't Richie doing some awesome design and sewing projects?" She said that's right. My nephew's wife has recently graduated with a degree in design (fabric and costume) and I've seen her crocheting, and Halloween costumes. Our phone conversation went on to remember that embroidering was something included in our home ec (home economics) classes. The basic tools for a 'home-maker.'   It's odd that certain labels go in and out of favor over time, over a lifetime. When I was a girl growing up, my mom and many of the neighborhood aunties were home-makers. The one woman slightly younger than the aunties who did have a career was seen as different ... they didn't judge that as wrong, but even as a girl I felt the difference. Jo was well-loved, and Ma did her ironing and baby-sat her kids. This was the '50's and early '60's the age of Feminism had not yet firmly set it's course. I did learn to sew, and got good at it. I embroidered, but like playing the ukulele, I learned and practiced only a few stitches (as I did with the ukulele chords) but can and do use the stitches frequently. Hand-stitching is comforting and practical. No need for a sewing machine, and I can do it anywhere.

I used a simple running stitch of wool crewel yarn for two large patches over many 'potholes' in the alpaca vest. Pete asked for a bit of design, he's not a straight line guy. I cut in a few dips. The patch is a remnant of cotton knit from the thrift store, washed (so it will not shrink when the vest is washed) and hung in the summer heat to rid it of any lingering laundry scents. 
One of the first warm clothes I bought when we began to safety pin our lives together, and dream up a new way of being, was a pair of L.L. Bean tights. Thick, stretchy and warm. I wore and wore those tights for seven years. Last winter I noticed the pouchy knees, and vanity stopped me from wearing them except as an out-of-sight layer of warmth for winter. There's something wonderful about favorite clothes that just kicks in my thrift-genes, the ones that say, "I can mend that." Add to those genes the ones that love whimsy and practical, common magic of mending finds a way to make something beautiful out of something you have long loved anyway!

I cut the baggy pouch from the knees into large eggs and fit the holes with a thick remnant of purple wide wale corduroy. I hand stitched two rows of running stitches to hold the corduroy in place, and then had the impulse to finish the hole off with a blanket or button-hole stich. The embroidery threads are thrift store 'grab-bag' purchases that I also air out for a time to free the lingering scents of whatever gets into them while in the shop.
One egg done, the other yet to be. Weather motivates me; I need those warm pants. Being a Capricorn Moon, my knees need to be warm. I love how whimsy does make herself known to me over and over again. "Patch Adams" comes to mind!

This post began with inspiration from one of my favorite astrologers, Satori. She wrote about the present astrology of a Capricorn Moon in her (the moon's) alignment with other heavenly bodies. Her post "Building Dreams" was something I read before going to sleep last night. It surely fed my dreams along with events from my everyday: a conversation with my sister-in-law and wife of my brother who passed in May. I think of her, of him, my family, Hawaii. I remember. The energy of the heavens affects me ... I am a dreamer, always have been. We watched a movie as we do most nights, and this one was called Like Stars on Earth. A Hindu/Indian movie about a boy who did not fit into the traditional schools, the story pressed old buttons for me. I thought of something my brother used to say about himself when as kids he would get a report card. He used to call himself, "the smartest of the dumbest." Oh my god! What influence a teacher and schools can have on us. That was a very long time ago. The memory remains as fresh as when I first heard David say it. The movie depicts an exceptionally brilliant eight or nine year old on the edge of falling into the crack of lost children. A temporary teacher spots the patterns of dyslexia and pulls the boy, and his family, into a different reality.
I was sent to tears as I watched. And then, the movie wove its way into my dreams and the dream stitched the mending of patches together. As dreams are the soul's wishes playing out as potential, I woke and recorded my dreams. I re-read Satori's astrology for the day and wrote a comment to thank her for her style. I love her style!
I promised to send my sister-in-law some photos of the mending and embroidering I'm doing. Maybe this post will satisfy that promise, and add a story to the inventory of the Calizar Family Catalog. One last thought as I wrap this up. About Whimsy. When I was at the edge of my corporate teaching career, you might recognize the edge-dweller's clues: after more than twenty years in human resources training and development the bug of whimsy and delight took a bite out of me. Clown college came to town, and I signed up. Two friends joined me and from that adventure the first clown character a goofy fun loving white-face with polka dot tights showed up. Her name was Whimsy. She did truly open a long-lasting rebuilt engine that continues to fuel me with joy when I find myself far too serious for my own good.
To patches, and whimsy: hip, hip hurray!
P.S. this one's for Lynette and Les, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Food: What's a cafe without it!

I'm just fiddling with this (soon to be a new Page). There aren't any pictures to the recipes, yet, but the ingredients and the back story are interesting to start. If you're adventurous and the meal sounds good ... go for it. My cooking as is this recipe are not exact in their measurements or methods. That's half the fun of cooking in my kitchen. In the next little while (over the winter) this page will grow. Enjoy, experiment, have fun. And if there's a recipe that you love cooking and would like to share it in The Safety Pin Café please, email me.

Meatball Soup that reminds me of Kaimuki (the old Mongolian Bar-B-Q)

This recipe is just the sort of food I love to cook. The inspiration starts with a fond memory of having eaten something that feeds the soul and the belly. The basic ingredients allow for creative expansion or change depending upon what's in the kitchen, or in season. This recipe for Meatball Soup began with my regular visits to a favorite (no longer there) restaurant in Kaimuki on the island of O'ahu. I was born in this town, and though I grew up a few miles and a couple valleys away my aloha for Kaimuki remains a loyal one. When Pete and I lived on O'ahu (off and on from 1997-2007) the Mongolian Bar-B-Q was one of my not so secret delights. A place I would take myself for a meal that would not disappoint, served by a waitress (and the wife of the cook) who made me feel right at home; and where I could see photographs of Mongolia and feel my Mongolian roots. Mongolian roots I cannot trace in genealogy, but feel none the less thanks to my great-grandfather Chong Amona.

I make a version of this dish when I need the heat of Hawaii, and the warmth of a ginger-based soup. This one includes a hearty and beautiful red winter squash.

For the meatballs

1 lb (give or take) fresh ground turkey or chicken
1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Hawaiian [if you've got it] ginger (suit your own preference for the root; chop a lot and save the rest for something later)*
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
shake a layer of Gomasio (seasoned sesame seed with sea salt and seaweed from EDEN)
sprinkle of Italian herbs
1/4 cup of round onion finely chopped

Mix well in a deep bowl. Use your hands (washed very clean prior) to mix. You'll know when everything's mixed because it feels 'even.'

Set aside for 5 - 10 minutes. Then roll the turkey mixture into meatballs. Your choice of size. I like them a little bigger than quarter size (diameter) but not quite silver dollar size.

Heat your favorite soup pot and add olive oil to coat the bottom, swirl the oil to cover.

When the oil is hot, drop the meatballs in. Check to see the meatballs don't stick, use a spoon to scoop at the bottoms and flip them around to brown evenly. Add more oil is needed.

For the broth

While the meatballs are browning ...

Chop a good size clove of garlic finely.
Chop up 1/2 an onion into medium chunks.

When the meatballs are browned ...

Add onion and garlic.
Stir and listen for the sizzle. Look to see they brown, but don't burn.

Wash and cut 1/2 of a green cabbage into thin slices that you chop into quarters. I used regular green cabbage. The original soup was made with Napa or Chinese Cabbage.
Add the cabbage and stir to brown with onion and garlic.

The meatballs, onions and garlic will have made a nice layer of broth (not burnt) in your soup pot. Add the cabbage and cover all of it with water (enough to cover everything plus about 2 inches)
Sprinkle another tablespoon of Italian herbs.
Bring to a simmer with the lid on.

3-4 cups of winter squash
Wash and seed a good fresh winter squash. We used Red Kiri. They are delicious and the orange color will delight your eyes before it makes your mouth and belly happy.
Chop the squash into chunks. Wrap the rest of the squash and refrigerator for another meal. In this size the squash can be quickly steamed and ready to eat or add to other recipes. Remove the lid on your soup and add the squash, skin and all. It's important to wash the squash and keep the skin. The vitamins and the flavor are enchanced skins on.
Replace the lid and let simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender and begins to melt into the soup.

Remember that extra ginger from way earlier? While your soup is cooking. Pour olive oil over the remaining finely chopped ginger (or chop more, you won't be disappointed with more ginger). Let the ginger soak up the oil while the soup cooks. If you have it chop up about 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro and add to the ginger-oil mixture. Set aside.


When ready to serve, drizzle or pour coconut milk into each bowl of soup. Like mixing cream into coffee, swirl the coconut milk into the soup.

Serve the ginger cilantro -olive oil as a condiment, or have a little for everyone (a personal dish) and dip the meatballs into it as sauce.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

House Memory

To us, our house was not unsentient matter -- it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.
Mark Twain
"Do you reflect on your life?" The interviewer was very young, perhaps she was twenty-six, and perhaps that was not so very young. As I remember it now I said, "No I don't. With the life still left to me I mostly live it. Maybe a long time ago I did reflect, and consider ... and plan." My house was listening as it did to everything that went on inside its walls and under its roof. That was when I lived in my Mother's house. When I was a woman returned to live in my Mother's house.
The rainy season begins. Pete tracks the weather as he tracks many things. He is a counter and for that I must be very grateful; someone has to keep track of such things.
The change in season has me awake early. Though the light of dawn comes later I still want for the awakening. I lay on my edge of the futon my near-sightedness unimportant. What I see is more clear in the darkness.
"We will have to be more creative now." That comment got an ironic giggle from me. Pete caught the drift. When is it we are not being creative? He was referring to the changes that come from living in tiny spaces when the rain turns things damp and cold and dark. He is right though. When there is more dark, it's the cave-dwellers' sensibilities that appreciate the grace and life Twain writes of in "our house."
This is the year of traveling my personal Route 66. It will continue to be so for another little while. Come the middle of November the route changes and unlike the answer I purported gave the interviewer, I reflect on my life a lot. 
I showed up at the garden where Pete has been helping to build a hoop house those growing environments we used to call 'Green Houses.' This one is house size. Size being relative, to me and Pete the 40 feet length of clear plastic sided growing space is large. Living things will be seeded, transplanted and grow in the hoop house. The least of which will be plants. The greater of them will be the children who go to school on this same land. A woman who dreams big dreams dreamt this up. She is very good at fleshing out dreams.
The rain has slowed, but the drops are singularly heavy. The wind is not so much. I remember rain on a roof that had many spaces in it. Pots and pans saved us the inconvenience of stepping in puddles when we got out of bed. Now that I think of it, how lucky the spaces weren't above our bed.
The warm late October temperatures don't need much heat from the electric space heaters. Not like the glass wall heaters in the Gulch that rumbled as they heated my knees at the breakfast bar. Crackled when their veins went cold crumbling like chunky ice. Did they replace the glass I wonder? Does the old heat-a-lator still pump warm into the big room? Does the old place remember us, wonder where we've gone?
The Pineapple Express is riding the Global Jet Stream heading our way. The plump rain is coming from Hawaii-nei carrying with it the turnings, the huli, the movement. Roofs feel the drumming of rain. The walls buck or waltz as the case may be. No walls are the same are they? The sleeping girl, the man with a lunch can filled with hot beef stew. The kitchen remembers the smell of coffee stirred with canned milk and likes the memory of Saloon Pilot Crackers covered with margarine smashed into the hot morning brew.
The writer man got it right. Houses live. They have long memories.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stories were told, the wind, clouds and ancestors came

It started with a sky packed with sheep

Set-up was breezy

And then breezier

And finally it was Uktumi's turn to tell those 8 lies ... "Ah if only I were ----, then I would be happy!"
We raised another $100 for Good Cheer Food Bank. Mahalo nui loa a pau. Thanks to each and every one of you!

The generous neighbors and friends of South Whidbey contributed so much to a day of telling stories that hold life today.
And, you see how the clouds gave way to a bright, warm sky after all that chanting.


We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Playing with pie pans and a silver faced moon

"The Venus Mars sextile holds all weekend long. This is a great time to play and create bonds. Saturn sits between then, helping these bonds take hold ...The ideal is to have an adventure and enjoy. The object should not be to corral or tether; the bond is chemical, attractive, not restrictive. Enjoy each other (or yourself) and the bond will emerge. Act to attract. " - Satori

Pete and I are playing with the details and props to use tomorrow when we pitch our story tents. The wind, the weather is changeable as it can be. I have fresh-ground 'olena (turmeric)-garlic and olive oil brew working its medicinal magic in my inner ears. The 'olena is from Kalihi Valley on O'ahu grown and harvested by the young people who are 'caring for my grandmother.' The people and the place are called Ho'ouluAina. My cousin Kaliko and her friend harvested, Kaliko dehydrated and ground pungent yellow-orange root rendering me a triple-wrapped Ziploc roll of fragrant turmeric. I opened my Priority Mail EXPRESS parcel yesterday. Wow, what a smell. Earth. Spice. Yellow. In the chants and stories of Hawaii Haumea (Earth Mother also known as Papahamoku) and her husband Wakea make their home in Kalihi Valley. My blood grandmother Mokihana Daniels Amona lived, birthed and raised my mother Helen Mokihana in Kalihi Valley. In many meaningful ways I am tapping into the roots of my ancestors and wear the color of Haumea (yellow) in my ears. I need the caring Creatrix to help hear what I need to hear.

When I was a young woman just out of college, my first work was that of teacher. My first classroom was on the slope of Wilhelmina Rise in Ka'imuki. The old wooden building was held together by the thousands of termites who alternated eating the wood while holding it together. Sweet and young four year olds filled that first classroom. I was probably as sweet and young on the scale of womanhood, unseasoned as a teacher, but already practicing the craft of all teachers -- resourcefulness. That was 1970. I was twenty-three years old. Between then and now the classrooms have changed, and I have traveled with my net of resources. The nets have expanded with props to make a point, brighten a story and convince decision-makers of the value of play even in the serious agenda of profit-driven business.

Tomorrow my tall white-haired partner will help me tell stories. One of the stories will involve the full silver-face of Mahealani the Full Moon. We will need to call on the audience, and the elements to join in to make the story real. We will invite the ancestors, and invite as well the willingness to imagine. Pete and I have rooted ourselves in the community of South Whidbey and have bonded with people who come to sit under the tent. We like to play even though some serious moments make people say, "I would never have imagined ...!" Between us we have one hundred-and-thirty years of experience being resourceful. We rattle the pie tin that once held a Granny Smith Apple pie, snip a postcard of a glass faced shining moon, use a dowel off of a drying rack to hold up a mask, and cut lengths of net used to keep the robins (unsuccessfully) out of the blueberries to replicate a once-greedy man's attempt at hording.

It's a grand and fully-lived life when two old dears of 130 between them can be tickled by the silver face of a pie-pan moon and look forward to telling stories that hold life together. Thank you Grandmother!