Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Slow-mads in Kauai

Kauai is a postcard.

"Slow-mads" are slow nomads, explorers who spend long periods of time in places. To me, the word suggests not rushing. It's about going with the flow as life unfolds, bumps and all.

Yes, we plan. But often we don't know what our next step will was the case when we went to housesit on the Big Island for two months. One day my friend Laurie said a friend of hers wanted to sublet her place on Kauai. Perfect. We'd been hoping to spend more time on the islands.

View from the lanai

She gave us smokin' deal that included the use of her car. This was huge given how car rental prices have blown up recently.

On a Kauai Facebook page, I'd been reading about another problem: lack of taxis and Ubers. Getting from the airport to your lodging could take hours. When I posted for suggestions, a woman PM'd me, saying she'd deliver us to our doorstop for $20. Hm. Should I trust a stranger? Yes is my usual answer.

Joy of Anini Beach

Sure enough, she showed up on time and drove us north to Kapa'a. Along the way, she pointed out a store her friend owned, a restaurant or two, and a guy with purplish skin and wearing a purple cape that everyone calls The Purple Man. He was a regular sighting during our five weeks there. We gave her $30 for her friendly helpfulness. 

Kap'a Multiuse Path

As always when we land, we set to making the place our own. We unpacked, cleaned, and moved furniture onto the lanai to take advantage of the incredible view and ocean breezes. And the crowing of roosters. They are an unavoidable part of Kauai life. While their squawking might get old, they are quite beautiful, and the ubiquitous baby chicks scuttling after the mama hens are adorable.

strutting his stuff

After one night of tossing and turning in the hot bedroom that faced the noisy street (well, that me was ME trying to sleep; Dave can sleep anywhere), we even moved the bed into the living room. I loved drifting off to the lull of the waves.

At Namaste with another new friend, Debbie

That first night we walked a short way to Namaste, an Indian food truck, where an old guy cranks out delectable food. We shared a table with a couple and struck up a conversation. Next thing we knew, we had a date to visit them in Kilauea. A few days later, they toured us around their gorgeous property, and we hung out in the shade drinking margaritas and sharing stories about famous people we've encountered, live music we've seen, and places we've traveled. 

New friends Rich and Michele

Before we went to see them, we took this gorgeous hike along the Wai Koa Loop Trail:

This trail is on private land, but the owners allow public access. I'd learned on the Kauai Facebook page that the main entrance is closed and to enter via the dog park. (Slow-mad Tip: Joining the Facebook page of our destinations is a great way to get the inside scoop).

Along the Wai Koa hike

We also visited the Kilauea Farmer's Market, a cool scene but the Indian food from a booth was subpar. It would be Namaste food truck for us here on out. And we checked out the stunning Kilauea Lighthouse overlook. In these pandemic times, you need a reservation to visit the lighthouse, but getting to this point was good enough for us.

Lighthouse in the distance

A week or so later, our friend Mar messaged us from Colombia that a friend of hers happened to be on Kauai--"and you will love each other!" Mar is like me, a "friend-ta" (a "friend yenta") who loves to bring people together. And she was right, we totally dug Debbie and enjoyed a day on bikes with her along the multiuse path. A guy selling coconuts just steps away from the apartment rents out the bikes.

With Debbie on the Kapa'a Multiuse Path

I had another day with Debbie, joining her and her friend Kim at Pu'u Poa for a snorkel amongst the healthiest coral I'd seen yet--and the most array of fish and turtles. Debbie has traveled, lived and worked all over the world. She's writing a book. I feel like we could hang out together for two weeks and never stop talking.

With Zan and Joel

Turned out that meeting up with people would become the theme of our time in Kauai. We were thrilled to get a message that our friends Zan and Joel were coming to the island. We hiked with them on the beautiful Kuilau Ridge Trail, explored the stunning Limahuli Garden & Preserve, swam on Haena beach, and enjoyed some beach-and-pool time at their lovely resort. 

Dave and Joel on the Kuilau Ridge Trail

One evening we met for dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club. We got married 9 years ago at the first Lava Lava on the Big Island. What a joy to experience the other one with this couple that I feel blessed to call dear friends. 

Lava Lava offered blackened tofu in place of ahi. Delish.

We also enjoyed a day at Anini Beach with our friends Michele and Robbie who live on the island. They are new parents to Anders, whom we were thrilled to meet. Michele's parents also joined us. 

Michele and Knox

Robbie and Anders

For a small island, Kauai has a lot to offer. We did a slew of other hikes, waterfall viewings, and snorkel trips. Our boat to the Napali Coast was canceled due to high seas, but we saw the coast's drama from Waimea Canyon and while snorkeling around the point at Ke'e Beach. You have to get a permit to go to Ke'e, and with Dave's persistence checking online, we snagged one.

Dave taking a picture of Waimea Canyon

Wailua Falls

It's always thrilling to swim with honu.

fish at Ke'e Beach

mermaid in her environment

Ho'opi'i Falls Hike

We spent a lot of time on the apartment's lanai, did yoga, went to the Kapa'a Farmer's Market, and popped into a bookstore on one of our drives. Some hot afternoons we'd walk down the multiuse path to find a calm spot to take a dip in the ocean.

Talk Story was my happy place

Yes, this place was a dream. But the last week I got sick. Being a slow-mad can be more challenging when illness is involved. We were forced to scrap an international trip that we'd spent months planning. Unravelling all of that took some doing...but that's the nature of this life we live. We have to be flexible. 

Our Southwest flight to California was half-empty, so we had a row to ourselves, a blessing since I didn't feel so great. After some medical intervention and healing time, I'm feeling better. And it didn't take long for us to score several housesits in California (more on that next post).

Based on my effusive updates on Facebook, someone asked me if I wanted to live in Kauai. I thought about it and realized I don't want to live anywhere permanently right now. I want to live wherever I am. Variety is my life spice. Amazingly, Dave feels the same. 

post-snorkel happiness

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Hawaii Time...and Time to Move On

Geckos noshing on bananas on the lanai

We leave the Big Island tomorrow, and there's that feeling again. The one that always accompanies moving on. A bittersweet heightened awareness of what we've been living, and what we're leaving behind--combined with excitement about what's to come. 

It feels like living in a tree house.

We've spent two months housesitting in Leilani Estates. The home, the neighborhood, the animals, the yard--it's now all so familiar. Homey. The little town, Pahoa, has become the place we go to for tasty, authentic Vietnamese food (at Pho 19) and coconut-based ice cream that just happens to be vegan (at Nicoco).

Jamie & Chris, the homeowners, bought all this beautiful food for us!

As slow travelers, we're always growing roots and then...uprooting. Eight years ago when we started living this way, I'd thought that launching out into the world was "leaving home." Now it seems we "leave home" over and over again.

Dutch and Billy

Home here means Duke, a big lug of love. And two funny cats, Billy and Bosco. It means hanging out in this beautiful space doing the usual: cooking, reading, yoga, laundry. Dave killed it with the yard work, buzzing around on the riding lawn mower, cleaning the pool, picking papayas and bananas. 

Dave in one section of the house's beautiful & vast yard

I was on shovel-the-poop duty (yes, this is a glamorous life), worked on my writing/editing and Spanish--and I met up with a group of neighborhood women for morning walks. 

We played for 3 hours!

Turned out, those women played ukuleles, so we had a jam session here on the lanai. We also met up with a number of friends. Seems like lots of people we know or had met online either lived here or happened to be passing through.

With Mayra & Carol...just a few weeks after hanging out with them in Utah!

The Puna area of Hawaii is a dramatic place of extremes. Three years ago, Kilauea erupted spilling lava over hundreds of homes--some just a block away. Steam from the vents still drifts to the sky. Sometimes we feel a sleepiness take over, the volcanic gasses acting on us like Oz's poppy field on Dorothy.

Lava flow over the road

We walked on the 2018 flow with Babette & Rich,
the couple we housesat for on this island two years ago.

Green-drenched rainforest butts up against a moonscape of black lava. You'll be walking in the sun then hear a roaring sound in the distance: it's rain approaching, and in minutes it's pouring buckets. The air will be still and warm one minute, and the next wind whips up, pulling fronds off the palms. Birds call out in beautiful, eerie whistles and song, and cane frogs in the dozens pop out onto the driveway every evening. At night the lullaby is a shrilling cricket-like chorus of coqui frogs.

While living in this eccentric land, we celebrated Dave's birthday, walking through the incredible Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo and eating great vegan food at the Booch Bar. The kombucha on tap is divine.

We hiked on two volcanos (Kiluaua and Mauna Loa), walked across black sand beaches and through parks and into lava tubes, saw rainbows and waterfalls and lava trees, and took leisurely drives just to gaze at all the beauty. 

Cape Kumuhaki black sand beach...about a 4 mile hike.
We were the only ones there.

Hiking Muana Loa

Kaumana Caves

Kalakaua Park

Hiking Kilauea Iki

Rainbow Falls

Saturdays we enjoyed the Kalapana Farmer's Market for its relaxed, happy people and its great vegan food, serenaded by a guy on a guitar playing Hawaiian music. This is the spot of the famous Uncle Roberts, where we enjoyed live music one evening in the open-air venue. Hawaii had just relaxed its mask requirements that day. It was sweet to see everyone's smiling faces.

Kalapana rainbow

As usual, this housesit has been emblematic of our lives: explorers who are "home" wherever we happen to be. This house, by the way, used to be owned by the parents of Guenther Fraulob, Rock Hudson's lover. There are pictures of them here. They remind me as we get ready to leave that impermanence is life.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Our Nomadic Winter

The body's ability to heal continues to amaze me. Four months after falling in Mexico and severely spraining my ankle and foot--and not being able to put weight on it for a long time--I was able to do this:

skiing Brighton, Utah

It was the first time in three years we were on the slopes. Initially, I was scared. I'm envious of those who are totally at ease downhill skiing. (I didn't learn to ski until my late 40s.) But after two or three runs, I was reminded why I love it. 

It's an invigorating contrast to be in the cold mountains after having spent 10 months in Mexico. 

lunch stop during our 5-day Baja-to-California drive

We'd had mixed feelings about traveling during the time of the pandemic, but we'd already accepted a housesit. Also, the clock on our visas was ticking (even though we'd extended them once). To our pleasant surprise, it was pretty easy to go where we needed to and keep relatively safe.

San Ignacio springs

We left in November to drive up Baja. We've done the drive multiple times, but this was the first time we stopped at San Ignacio springs. And we are so glad we did. We stayed in a lovely little yurt and kayaked the peaceful springs, seeing all kinds of beautiful wildlife.

Instead of heading right to L.A., we spent a week in Palm Desert. Exploring Joshua Tree was the highlight.

Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park

The L.A. housessit was in a gorgeous home in Pacific Palisades. We did a quick  masked turnover with the owners. We'd hoped to be able to see our many friends in So Cal, but L.A. was on lockdown. Still, we were able to squeeze in a few socially-distanced outdoor visits.

Pacific Palisades housesit

visiting my longtime friend Nancy in L.A.

The physical therapy for my foot injury included beach strolls and easy hikes on some of the gorgeous nearby trails. We also spent time in the magical hot tub under the trees in the back yard, did yoga, spent time with Izzy, and read like the book maniacs we are. Goodreads reported that I read 74 books last year. Dave doesn't keep track, but I wouldn't be surprised if he read at least that many.  

Something else that took up my time was yet another medical issue that was painful and mysterious. After seeing a number of docs, I finally found one who quickly solved it. I'd assumed he was old school because he was at least in his 70s and his hearing wasn't so great. But I kicked myself for that judgment when his prescription of yoga, standing rather that sitting while writing, and cognitive adjustments WORKED! I was grateful for the reminder that advanced age can mean great wisdom. I thank him.

magic hot tub

Meanwhile, the homeowners decided to come back a week early, which would have been awkward for us if not for their thoughtful decision to pay for an Airbnb for us. We chose Los Osos on the central coast. I grew up in California but had never been to this sweet spot on the planet. It's dramatically beautiful.

Hiking in Montana del Oro on a high ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean

One of Dave's great catches at Sweet Springs Nature Reserve in Los Osos

 Our little cottage was my favorite Airbnb ever.


The next week we spent with our friend Mark in San Jose. We all got tested and created a bubble. It was such a joy to be able to hang out together. We watched three nights of the Radiators streamed from New Orleans in an empty Tipitinas--a bittersweet experience since a few years ago we'd been there together to dance to them live with hundreds of others. When the world opens back up, I plan to go to as much live music as possible; I will never again take it for granted.

It was also great to be able to watch the inauguration together. I loved every minute of it...and was especially moved when Kamala Harris made history.

boogying at home

At one time we stored a bunch of stuff at Mark's, but on every visit we whittle it down. At this point, it's mainly our ski gear and winter stuff--which we took with us as we drove 11 hours straight to Sandy, Utah for our next housesit. 

Dave snowshoeing in Utah

We didn't meet the owners in person; we'd done a video walk-through with them, a young couple who were headed to Mexico to give birth to their baby. They also travel with their cat but not their bunny, so Bun Bun is our company, along with three chickens that live in a heated henhouse.

Bun bun is shy but likes to be petted and fed spinach.

In the midst of all of this, the novel I co-authored with my friend Mary Janelle Melvin under the pen name Mary-Kate Summers was released with a super sexy cover! I feel that our publisher really *got* the characters with this image. 

It was the first time I'd written a historically-based love story, something Janelle has been doing for years. I learned so much in the process and fell in love with the characters and the story. It's wonderful that we're already hearing from readers who feel the same.

I never imagined that the release of this book would coincide with an incredible event: 

While in the Bay Area, I'd been able to see my sister, Crystal. In the process of packing for her move to San Diego, she came across three manuscripts that my mom had been working on. One of them I remembered reading years ago and always wondered what had happened to it. It's a historical romance that takes place in California during the Gold Rush. I was beyond thrilled when I held it in my hands.

Mom editing

Reading it was a beautiful and bittersweet thing. Our mom, who died nine years ago, had dementia and didn't speak for the last year of her life. As I turned the pages, I wet them with my tears as I was reminded of her voice, her intelligence, her humor. 

And what timing. Not only had I just co-written my first historical romance, I'd recently had an incredible dream of her. And now here in my hands was my mom's book in that very genre. It is incomplete and needs work, but the bones of it are strong. 

I am in the process of doing a rewrite. When I came across an unnamed character, I named him William. In the next chapter I saw she'd given him the name...William.

So, she's here. Cheering me on. Cheering us on as we write together.