Saturday, July 30, 2011


These three shots are from Dan's blog for this week.

“I was just calling to remind you of what you left behind,” my friend tells me. He and his wife are safely back home, and today was his first day at work. I can see him now, driving home in his boxy Honda Element, bluetooth tucked behind his ear as he vents a little about his day, more frustrated than anything. He was never a complainer, so he has little tolerance for people who continually complain. For people who can’t, or won’t appreciate what they have. And, after their visit here, he’s thinking Dan and I are more smart than crazy.
I tell him I don’t need the reminder, I know what I left behind. I know what I gave up. He says something about living in paradise in poverty, and how that might not be such a bad thing. 
The sun is out, and the dogs are fidgety from too many naps and not enough walks. Lucy’s surgery, and our friends visit kept them homebound, and their restless energy is making me restless. 
They are in their element as we walk along a secluded beach that stretches for miles. In their version of heaven, Baxter and Lucy run in the surf, duck their nose in the water to catch a floating piece debris, roll around in the sand; it’s pure bliss. 
As I walk, I think about what John said. For some reason his poverty in paradise comment doesn’t sit right. Even though I have said that on this blog, and it’s true. We count every penny now, carefully considering how it will be spent. I could probably get food stamps if I wanted to. Still, his comment doesn’t feel right.
When it comes down to it, I don’t feel poor. I feel rich. My life is abundant with love, beauty, growth, inspiration, health, and time. Weeks fly by as Dan and I rebuild our lives, start new careers, and adjust to life on a small island.
There is time for exploration. Exploration of rocky tide pools, of professional photographers and writers, of what works and why—the crushing why nots. Exploration of spirit and the depths of love. There is time for sunsets, walks on the beach, snorkeling, and visiting with friends.

There is also a lot of stress: learning a new career, networking, the isolation of writing and living on this island. Being the new kid in town. Making new friends. Worrying about money, and making the time for those sunsets. I have a gratitude prayer that I say every morning and night, it keeps me going, but sometimes I forget.
Mostly, I’m happy about our life choice. It’s like working out; getting all sweaty and feeling my heart pound against my chest makes me feel alive. Everything isn’t perfect, and that’s OK because, for me, perfect is boring. We made this move so we could be challenged, pushed to our edge, perform or go home. 
I think about my friends and family. Most have significantly bigger incomes than us, but they also have a big mortgage, loans to pay off, credit card debt, and lots of stuff. And as I learned from John, even health insurance isn’t a guarantee that everything will be taken care of. Are they really better off? Are they wealthy? Or, are we all dealing with the same thing? Survival, and trying to have a good time while we’re at it . . . thriving. Thurvival!
I’m not saying that living in poverty in paradise is the way to go. It’s tricky business, and certainly not for everyone. When John met Dan’s new boss he said, “You’re so lucky to live here!” She kind of tilted her head to the side, looked out of the corner of her eye, and said, “Are we?” No one said anything. “I guess we are, we’re just too busy trying to survive!”
My point is that no matter where you are, how much you make, or how much you have, we are all in the same boat. We all worry about money, health, work, relationships and thurviving. We just have a better view.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Old Friends

Our friends from Colorado have been here all week. We have known them for 15 years, and it has been great having them here. I missed the easy companionship we had, mostly with John since we worked with him. 
About 8 years ago, we all decided on super hero corporate names. I was Anti-Corp, I guess that should have been a sign! I can’t remember what Dan’s was, but John’s was Rely Guy. You could always count on John’s positive attitude, even in the face of great adversity. No matter what was going on on his personal life, and there was some heavy stuff, he always had a smile on his face, always had time to help you out.
When they got here, they were tired and cranky. But, the island worked its magic, like it always does, and they are having fun spending time together, celebrating 10 years of marriage on this beautiful island. For those of you thinking “Uh, oh! There goes another one!” They aren’t planning on moving. In fact, John’s wife Athena is adamantly against it. 
We have spent three days with them, and today is their last day. Since Dan has to work, we are going to a cheap, local style luau that a friend of mine is involved in. Then we’ll pick up Dan, have some drinks and a goodbye dinner before their 8pm flight.
Last saturday, their first day, we took them to Hanalei Bay for some snorkeling, then went to Lumahai where Athena and I sat in the sun and talked while the guys went picture crazy. Dan has been really enjoying his time with John, a fellow photographer. They are old friends, getting creative and inspiring each other. It's fun to watch! Click here to see the shots Dan got.

Here’s some pictures of our time together.
John found a great vacation rental in Anahola for 90 bucks a night.

The is the bathroom. The windows are screened in and the it feels like you are showering in the lush, tropical outdoors (which you can't see because my iPhone blew out the outside part).

Sunday we took them to the south shore. This is John waiting for Spouting Horn to do it's thing.

Athena loves trees. Once we learned that, we had to take her to one of our favorites (the other is at the Hindu Monastery, Dan guesses it's at least 50 times the size of this one) Athena loved it, of course Dan and John saw it as a photo op and while they took pictures Athena relaxed in the strength and power of this tree.

She just sat under it, an obvious calm had taken her over. She loved that tree!

Dan took us to Shipwreck Beach after that. None of us had been, but this is on the south side tour he does. Dan wants a telephoto lens, right now he has a 105mm, he wants a 300mm. John had a 200mm with 2x teleconverter, so it was equivalent to a 400mm. Dan had to check it out! John has been a photographer for five years now (I think) so he has lots of toys!

Here Dan gives it a test drive. Dan, Athena and I hiked down to some sea caves and had a funny adventure. Click here to see Dan's shots and read the story.

Dan was still getting his snap on while John and Athena enjoyed the view. 

Wednesday night at 9pm, Athena called and wanted to know if we wanted to do a little night shooting at Hanalei Peir. John's favorite thing to do, is shoot at night. You'd think you wouldn't capture anything, being pitch black and all, be we got home at 1am with some cool shots. To see what Dan got, click here.

Dan had Wednesday off, so he took us to places on his north shore tour. This is on the way to Queen's Bath. Dan has been shooting this waterfall for weeks, unable to get a shot he liked. Finally, he decided he needed to get into the water. John quickly followed. To see the shot he got, click here.

Then John decided the waterfall needed a shot of light from the left, so the two of them set out to get the perfect timing (about a 15 second exposure) and lighting. Dan hit the button while John held the flash. Here are links to John's shots and blog. I see he blogged about us =)

Dan's ready to hike down to Queen's Bath. I had fun being John and Dan's assistant, but Athena preferred her book. She's sitting behind Dan.

Queen's bath on a nice day. Somedays the waves are so big, they crash in and carry you away. On our way in, there was a sign with hash marks representing 28 deaths. John and Athena went for a swim. Dan and I, not having brought our swimsuits, explored.

We found a great secluded tide pool and spent about an hour getting shots. It's an amazing little sweet spot!

It has a little waterfall, and big waves crashing over the lava rocks. That's Bali Hai in the background.

Another angle of the tide pool. I'm impressed with my iPhone 4's camera! Every shot on this blog is from it.

Dan risked getting wet to get some shots.

John and Athena are standing on that outcropping. John saw me and we waved and he and Athena headed over.

Dan was still snapping away.

There was a inlet that Athena wanted to swim in. But the waves were coming in, the rocks were slick, and she was afraid she couldn't get out. John got in the water and showed her that there was nothing to be afraid of, and showed her how to get out. I was a beautiful moment of intimacy between and husband and wife, and I was happy to have witnessed it.

Athena got in with her husband and had fun swimming, she was like a little girl. It was awesome!

We had a good mile to hike out, and John's flip flop blew out. He decided to walk back with one shoe on. being Rely Guy, he didn't complain, but definitely wanted to get it over with. His 65 pound pack didn't help.

We stopped to get John new flip flops and he got this hat, at dinner I got a shot of him. He already looks like a local!

We hiked down to Secrets Beach to catch the setting sun. Dan got a fantastic shot, click here to see it. We had to hike out in the dark, a steep uphill half mile, but it was worth it!

At one point, the waves crashed up so far, Dan thought he was going to lose his camera. He quickly rescued it!

The boys packing up their toys.

I'm going to miss our friends, but I treasure the time we had together. Maybe now they understand why we gave it all up for a new life here. Well, time to get ready for the luau!

Aloha nui loa!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's All Coming Together!

One of my favorite things to do is take a 90 minute walk along the beach at Lydgate park and have lunch at a picnic table under this tree while writing. I got to do that twice this week!

“I can’t believe it! It’s all coming together!” My friend tells me over the phone. I laugh and tell her I have been telling Dan the same thing all week. I can feel it. I don’t know what “it” is, but I can feel it coming. She is my classmate from the organic farming course I took when I first got here, and she has become the leader in garden to school programs for the state of Hawaii.

The lilikoi are here! The is the result of research for an upcoming passion fruit article. We called it Orange Passion Love Juice. It has fresh orange juice, lilikoi, vodka and perrier. Dan's concoction will be the featured recipe in the paper.
She wants me to write a lot of things for her many projects, it seems like a perfect fit. So we are meeting for lunch on Friday to talk it out. My other friend is putting on a hula/luau show Saturday, and she’s joining us and dropping of the tickets.

We just love the tangy, sweet flavor of lilikoi so we got some curd from Monkeypod Jam, our favorite jam maker. All week, I thought about how I was going to use it before deciding on the British way, over cream scones.

Wednesday I got an email from a friend who is the former editor and writer for a now defunct local paper. She has recommended me for some freelance writing jobs for an international hotel chain. I promptly sent the editor my clips and am waiting to see what happens. I also got more positive feedback than ever for the article that ran this week on The Jailhouse Pub and Grill. So that was fun!

I interviewed a farmer that produces eggs loaded with omega threes from the fish they feed the chickens. They get off-cuts from the fish market and freeze them. When we got there, he was whacking a chunk and throwing the fish flakes out to the chickens who, in one big flock, chased the flying fish. She gave me 18 eggs to sample and take pictures of, for the article =)

This week for 20 bucks I got bananas, carrots, beets, eggplant, lettuce, kale, basil, oregano, cilantro and spring onions from our farmer Levi! I used the bananas and eggs for this mornings breakfast: whole wheat banana, walnut and chocolate chip muffins.
I have a friend who owns a gluten-free bakery and she is going to hire me to assist her on private cheffing gigs. I welcome this because she is a professionally trained chef who has cooked for folks like Michael Chrichton. She texted me this morning and I asked if I wanted to help write her cookbook!

With the carrots I made a salad and served seared mahimahi over it, delish!
Dan’s boss asked me if I wanted to write marketing and advertising flyers for ads for the photo tour company. Of course I said yes to all four projects, and three of them happened in one day, yesterday!

We sampled 9 pies (!) for an upcoming article on an adorable and young pie lady. This one is my favorite loaded with mountain apples. They have a delicate flavor and a sweet rose smell. She left the red skin on so it turned the white flesh a nice pink color.
Meanwhile, Dan got his fifth five star review on Trip Advisor and sold his first print. The interview with the pie lady was across the island in Hanapepe town, so I had to drop Dan off at work after. When I picked him up, I had him pose by the print. 

Dan's print is at the top.
Best of all, we have friends visiting from Colorado. Today is their first full day here and we are taking them to the Hanalei Farmers Market, Hanalei town and maybe the bay. We also have a Na Pali boat tour scheduled because, I don’t think you should come here and not get an intimate view of the Na Pali!

Woohoo! It’s alllllll coming together!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sitting on the Sidelines

Vaka Moana, or voyaging canoes, sail to bring attention the tragic state of our oceans. The voyage is called The Spirit of the Sea.

You would think that two people who cashed in lucrative and creative lives for a meager existence in paradise would have no fear. For me, moving here was the easy part, even though it was filled with the turmoil of uprooting 37 years. Once the decision was made, everything fell in line.
I guess, from a distance, everything is falling in line here on Kauai. If I zoom out, take a broader look, I see that things are going nicely. Amazingly well, I kind of like this view, it feels better than the microscopic view I tend to have every day.
One of the biggest things I run up against is fear. I’ve noticed how it directs every action I take. My old mantra of “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” is becoming ‘part of the furniture’. I don’t hear it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not paralyzed by it, but I have been noticing how often, and how subtly it shows up.
Sometimes, a great article presents itself. I feel it’s bigger than me, so I make excuses not to do it. I know life wouldn’t have put it in my path if I couldn’t handle it, but. . . 

The other day we went to Hanalei Bay to see seven Polynesian voyaging wa`a or canoes come into port. It was a majestic sight; seven enormous masts peeking over the bright blue horizon, shiny wood hulls slicing through the turquoise bay.

The king and queen, flanked by their chiefs, wait for the voyagers to dock. This is a shot from my iPhone, not from Dan's camera.
The king and queen of Hawaii were there to greet the voyagers who travelled from ten Polynesian Islands, using the stars to guide them. Dan and I had met them last year, so we talked with them for a little while and the king shared his ha with me. 

Ha is the Hawaiian word for breath. It also means life-force. Sort of like chi in China, or prana in India. When Hawaiians greet each other, they press their foreheads together and breathe in each others ha, or spirit.

It’s a very intense way to greet someone, and I was honored to share ha with the king; a man with a very powerful and intense presence. When he starts talking about his lineage, his goal of bringing Hawaii back to his people, I can see and hear his ancestors from 1000 years back.

Some spears have feathers from Native American tribes. They gave them in honor of The Kingdom of Atooi's quest. This and the next shot are also from my phone.
There is a cultural divide here, and our goal is to cross it. It’s usually easier for Dan than me. Sometimes, I feel like an outsider, because I make myself feel that way. Other times, it’s fine and I talk pidgin like I was born here.

Kauai's canoe with the Hawaiian Independent flag.

Today, I let “shyness” win and stayed under a tarp talking story with a local photographer who works on Hawaii 5-O. Dan was down at the beach, in the water, getting shots of Kauai’s canoe. And, well, doing what Dan does. Talking story and making connections.
He got invited to go on the boat that was to guide the canoes into the bay. Well, he was pretty much told to go on the boat and get some pictures; by the king and one of his chiefs. 

It was an amazing experience for him, not only did he get some great shots, but a memory that will last a lifetime. In many ways my husband is my hero. He later told me he was scared. He is a white guy, covered in tattoos, around a bunch of locals; alone on a boat. But his desire to bond with them was stronger than his fear. He stepped up, with sincerity, and was himself. He was accepted with open hearts. 

I step out of my comfort zone more often here, than I ever have before, and I am always better for it. I’ve got my eye on that fear thing, looking to see how it diminishes my life, and trying to set it free. It sure would have been cool to have been by Dan’s side, invited on the boat as well. That’s what I get for sitting on the sidelines!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Be Neighborly, Buy Local

A recent Facebook post inspired some passionate comments, and since I know a little about the subject, I thought I’d write about it. Someone in Colorado posted about how frustrated they were that local cherries cost so much at the farmers market.

Quality food, food that has been grown sustainably, food that is homemade, food that is shared with family and friends, has been my passion for fifteen years. This comment got me thinking about why Americans don’t like food. You’d think we did with America’s obese population and diet related illnesses.
But food, real food? No. We like fast food, processed food, a lot of food, food that doesn’t cost much. After all, we need the newest computer, phone, TV . . . you fill in the blank. We like fat-free food, even though it makes us fatter. We don’t like to cook. We don’t have the time. We really don’t want to give food a second thought. Most of us wouldn’t know what to do with a turnip if we got it for free! Probably wouldn’t want it either! But turnips are delicious if cooked right, and are healthy for you as well as the soil it grows in.

And why do we think we need so much meat in out daily diets? I used to think I needed meat at every meal! I have come to realize it’s the beef, pork, chicken and dairy associations, that have massive lobbying power, and whose farmers get subsidized, that make their way into our schools. So, from a very young age we are taught that we need it, and a lot of it. But, we don’t. The Asian population is an excellent example of healthy people who eat very little meat. I don’t think that they have ever created a cheese! Have they?
Diet related diseases are a “rich” man’s problem. Countries with affluent citizens suffer more from preventable diseases than third world countries, who have their backyard gardens and can’t afford meat.
When I had disposable income, I bought local and I bought organic. I was frustrated that processed food (anything that does not come directly from the ground, ocean, sky or a chicken’s va-jay-jay, especially things that come with lots of packaging and shelf life) was so much cheaper than fruits and vegetables. But, I didn’t feel it because I could afford to buy my organic products. 

Right now, my income is significantly less and I have felt the frustration of how cheap and easily accessible processed food is. I mean, for ten bucks you can “feed” a family of four at Taco Bell. Never mind that the ingredients are high calorie and of poor quality, creating the perfect environment for disease: obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and arthritis, to name a few. Many of these ingredients are man-made fillers that are unrecognizable to our body. This causes malnutrition and leaves our body craving something it can use.
When I moved here, I wanted to continue buying organic, but our health food store charged way more than I could afford. The fact that most of their produce is shipped here, added to the cost. 

Managing the Kauai Farmers Co-op CSA
Food found me anyway, and with very little effort became a source of income. I wanted to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) because I like supporting small, family farms and because I wouldn’t have to worry about buying veggies for six months. Dan and I ended up talking a 12-week course on organic farming from, Jillian Seals, the farmer of the CSA.

I love this picture of my teacher Jillian Seals, she is passionate about farming and in this picture she is stoked about the celery that took a long time and a lot of care to grow.
Then, Dan got a job at the health food store I mentioned above. Now, I write two weekly columns for the local paper. One profiles restaurants and food vendors. These vendors include a lady who makes jam, another who makes mead and a man who grows and makes chocolate—all use local produce. My other column profiles local farmers, something they grow—like avocadosthe season, a recipe, how to buy and store, health benefits, and which grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants sell or use their produce.

Elieen, the Field Manager at Kauapea Farms, loves produce almost as much as she does people.
I have a relationship with one of the farmers Dan used to buy from. He sells me a week’s worth of produce at wholesale price, the same price the stores get, almost the same price he sells them at the farmers market. He adds extra because he has to spend his day loading the truck and selling his produce at market. I pay him weekly as, opposed to one large payment for a CSA. For $14.00, I get a box bursting with just harvested organic produce that lasts all week. 

Every week I interview farmers who work from sun up to sun down planting, weeding, harvesting and selling their food. They hardly make any money at it. It’s truly something they do for passion and not income, and they struggle to make ends meet. Sometimes, things like cherries are expensive because they take longer to grow, are difficult to harvest, and require a lot of care.
Big companies care about profit, so they buy as cheaply as possible and they have the money to buy in bulk. They buy from third world countries, because it costs less for them to have the produce shipped. Laborers who harvest this produce don’t get paid a livable wage and if it’s not organic, face health problems from being in constant contact with pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
It’s cheaper to carelessly dump toxic fertilizers and pesticides into our land, rivers and oceans. Corporate farms mono crop. This means they only grow one thing. There is no diversity. Acres of broccoli require fertilizers to feed them and pesticides to protect them.

At a diversified farm, broccoli grows next to tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, radish and so on. This diversity not only protects the farmer incase one of these crops fail, but makes the plants stronger. 

Sustainable simply means giving as much as you take. If you take, take, take from the environment, eventually the land won’t support you even when you pump feeble plants full of fertilizer and pesticides. 

Organic farmers strive to create bio-diversity. This means a whole “city” of bugs living in the soil. Worms keep the soil loose and add nutrients via their waste. One of the best forms of compost is worm compost. Other bugs, like wasps, eat harmful bugs. Some, like bees, pollinate. There is a whole, fragile ecosystem that works together, creating a circle of life that supports itself at each stage.

Nandanie and John Wooten, Wootens Produce of Kauai

When soil has been depleted of the necessary nutrients (that transfer to you when you eat them) for plants to thrive, the system breaks down, and crops die. 

Exotic fruit grower Brad Smith
Farmers work hard, organic farmers work harder. Organic farmers make their own compost, hand till, hand plant, hand weed and hand harvest. Some even save their own seeds to use next season. They create their own fertilizers using natural materials like bird feathers, known as feather meal, designed specifically to nourish the patch of soil they grow on. Healthy soil means healthy plants. Plants that have the strength to naturally fight off pests.

Ned and Marta of Moloa`a Organica`a

Many of the farmers I interview grow using organic techniques, but are not certified organic. The word organic has become a marketing buzz word since corporations latched onto the bandwagon. This has resulted in lax rules that do not protect land and life, as originally intended. 

Lisa and Sun of One Song
There is no way every Walmart can be supplied on a regular basis (because we like to have that tomato when we want it, even if it’s out of season and flown in from 2000 miles away) without mono cropping vast amounts of land. The only way to do that is using tractors to sow (using fuel, spewing pollutants), and chemicals to feed and protect.

Exotic Fruit grower Adelle Sher
Science tried to make it easier for these farmers by creating genetically modified organisms. These GMO plants are resistant to pests. At first glance, this is good right? It minimizes the use of pesticides, saves the farmer money. Well, you need to use Round Up ready fertilizers and pesticides because, again, mono cropping is not sustainable. GMO plants are grown on a large scale to feed the hungry processed food beast as well as its use in making plastic, clothes and fuel. Along with the creation of GMOs, came the ability to patent life.

Herd Manager Valerie Kaneshiro
There are also “suicide” plants. Meaning they don’t make fertile seeds. But just like in Jurassic Park, life will find a way. GMO seeds are decimating farms in Mexico that have used heirloom seeds for generations. Their diverse crops are being slowly eliminated by GMOs

Ben and Colette of Kolo Kai Organic Farm

I could write an essay on this, there is so much more to the story. But this is a blog. Just know that your food purchases matter more now than ever. America and the world over has sustained itself by small family farms since agriculture was first cultivated in 7000 BC originating in Egypt, Western Asia and India. It is only recently that major corporations have total control over the global food supply. For example, did you know there are three companies that control the world’s fish supply? Not including, of course, the handful of small, family fishermen who feed their community one fish at a time. 

Taro farmer Adam Asquith with children Nihi and Sean
Buying local contributes three times more to the local economy. The best way to create a relationship with a farmer is to visit the farmers market. Farmers are passionate about what they grow and are happy explain what to do with unfamiliar fruits and veggies. Experiment, eat with the seasons, and make meal time something the family can enjoy together. 

Levi and Kristin of Lono Farm