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November 30, 2003

I am clearly the child of drought. It rained heavily all night, sometimes keeping me up, and into this afternoon. When it finally tapered off, no longer having to yell over it for my voice recognition to hear me was a relief, but I was already anticipating its return. I'm living in a place that gets an average of 50 to 75 inches of rain a year, and I wonder if that's enough.

We went for a late afternoon walk to our local waterfall to see how it liked all the rain. The river is perhaps a foot higher than it was on our last visit and the color of weak cocoa. It rushes around corners, leaps over the waterfall, and boils its way downstream. The term "erosional landscape" is suddenly perfectly clear.

This was a weekend of walks. Friday, we took a long lunch break to go for a picnic and explore one of the forest preserves where we saw rainbow eucalyptus, five very large amphibians, egrets, several other birds, a centipede, and a very fast earthworm. Hopefully a couple of the pictures I took will come out well. In the meantime, a handful of pictures from our mid October trip is now online. I'll be adding new pictures as we get them developed.

Yesterday's explorations took us to the west and north sides of Kauai. I've gotten myself a library card and have checked out Roadside Geology Of Hawaii. Fascinating stuff. We used it as a guidebook as we drove, stopping to check out residual stones, 5 million year old flows, and pillow lava. We stopped by Wailua Falls, a nameless waterfall with a great swimming hole and an amazing banyan tree, and the Menehune Ditch, an ancient irrigation channel.

At Waimea, we angled inland and drove along Waimea Canyon, a.k.a. the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. We drove to Kokee at the end of the road, left the car and started walking. After a mile of steep hills, we found the lookout point, which we ignored in favor of getting up close to the top of the Na Pali Coast. The Pihea Trail, apparently carved by water and feet, winds along the ridge and swings around the head of a valley; we looked down on cascades of green tumbling to the ocean. Only when we spotted a tiny egret below us did we begin to appreciate the distance to the bottom. Again, erosional landscapes.

Eventually, the trail bent away from the ridge, dissolving into orange mud laced with a red clay and shot with grays and purples. After our shoes were thoroughly coated, we found a boardwalk trail leading into the Alakai Wilderness at the summit of Mount Wai'ale'ale. With an average of 475 inches of rain per year, it is the wettest place on earth and lush with ferns and mosses and dwarf trees. We stopped at a crossroads in the boardwalk, the rather surreal experience of finding a boardwalk crossroads in the middle of a swamp made more so by the sudden appearance of two men in camouflage accompanied by nine large dogs.

The return to the car brought us to an estimated total of 8 miles, all moderately strenuous terrain. My knees held up rather well, considering, and my feet are surprisingly blister-free. I'll be very grateful, though, when my new arch supports arrive.

November 27, 2003

The crickets here are sometimes so insistent they sound like a lightbulb just before it pops into darkness.

I want a book on local geology, one on the plants, one on the birds and one more on folk tales. Or maybe one that covers all those and traces how they weave in and out of each other. This place is so radically different from anywhere else I've been, mostly, I'm guessing, because it's such a small island, and it's so far away from anything else.

Ian has the language bug and wants to learn the local pidgin. The house came with a book on learning Hawaiian. With all the vowels and apostrophes, it's almost impossible to tell where one word stops and another begins. I've always thought of myself as a language person, but maybe I gravitate toward European languages; I enjoy seeing how they're all related and rediscovering what a hodgepodge English really is. I don't remember feeling quite this intimidated by German. Hawaiian only has a dozen or so letters - I can't tell if that's a comfort or a source of fear.

November 26, 2003

Dan Savage's Skipping Toward Gomorrah has the honor of being the first book I've read here. (It came with the house.) Has anyone introduced Mr. Savage to Michael Moore? I'd love to see what kind of collaboration the two of them would cook up. . .

Other books read in the last month in moments when the boxes and the packing tape got overwhelming: Into The Forest, a personal favorite and a reread. The country has collapsed for unexplained reasons, and two sisters must find a way to survive in a world suddenly without electricity, gasoline, telephones, or grocery stores. Also read The Center Of Everything, a Kansas-during-the-'80s coming-of-age complete with a creationism vs. evolution throw down in front of the school board. Oh, and book four of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

November 23, 2003

Checked out Whalers last night, a bar in Lihue that does its best to become a techno dance club on Saturday nights. Evidently, we missed the memo that everyone was going to be at some event on the North Shore and that the club population would never top 20. I can forgive quite a bit when it comes to dance music played incredibly loudly, but the forgiveness requires lots of happy people melding with the rhythm. And that just wasn't happening last night. There were, however, strings of Christmas lights everywhere attracting some of the tiniest moths I've ever seen. In the space of 10 little light bulbs there were more moths than people in the entire club, jockeying for prime positions. What purpose does the attraction to light serve for moths? Is it warmth? Finding the best possible lighting to show off wing markings? Are those pools of light refuges or diners?

Whalers is at the end of the road that winds through the Marriott resort, next door to an abandoned shopping mall. To get there, you drive down a tree-lined avenue and cross two arched bridges, both marked with rearing horse statues. The whole setting screams elegance and disposable cash and insulated adventuring. It's the last outpost of the colonialists, wealth and refinement surrounded by jungle, now abandoned by choice or by disaster.

November 18, 2003

There's a new balance to learn - not to work so much that we never leave the house to experience this beautiful place, but not to forget that we are not on vacation.

Yesterday, we hiked out our front door and up the street to Ho'opi'i Falls. What geologic coincidences made the rock collapse just so, right here? It's all igneous, from the same volcano.

I love the contrasts here, the obvious convergence of elements. Fire built this place; water and air tempered it. Earth has claimed it now, but water will one day have it all. Ian explored the waterfall, the cylindrical pits dug by the endless flow of water. I sat in the rain and watched the ferns across the river nodding in the wind, clinging to cracks in the red-black rock.

November 16, 2003

When you are moving, everything else stops.

At least, when I am moving, all my other projects grind to a halt. But the move is over now; time to adjust to a new place and find a new rhythm for all the things I mean to do.

We've gone light, paring down to essentials and computers. We're developing new habits about shoes and dishes and sunscreen. I even read the "Disaster preparedness" section in the phone book and have determined we are not in the tsunami flood zone. Between breakfast and lunch yesterday, it was blustery, leading into a brief but enthusiastic downpour followed by blue skies and perfectly puffy clouds. Last night we watched a sky brilliant with stars and felt simultaneously small yet important.

On the mainland, it's difficult to imagine living here. On Kauai, it's almost impossible to imagine being anywhere else.