Family, friendships

Planting feet

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“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Lao Tzu

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It took two weeks, unplugged, to realize Lao Tzu’s words.  Vacation came at the most inopportune time during our busiest work month ever!  Vendors worried about orders, taxes needed to be prepared, property taxes paid, school projects completed and deadlines loomed.   I didn’t even want to look at my husband; much less spend a week with him without distractions.  As he answered customer queries I would hear the words, “mandatory vacation” as our kids’ activities ramped up to spring break.   We were exhausted.

I sat upon my promontory of lava rock as waves sprayed over me.  The rhythmic lapping of the tide against the rocks began to work its calming magic as I stoically scanned the water like a lighthouse.   My boys are all confident swimmers but I kept vigil watch; watching the horizon.     The crash of the waves upon the shore eventually blocked out all sound and my mind could finally, blissfully relax.  It is next to the water that I am most at home.

I thought of the book by James Michener, Hawaii.   I had read this as a sophomore in high school; a find from the local thrift store.  Never had I imagined I would travel to these shores but it had been my escape as I watched my father endure chemotherapy.  There are few novels I can really recall, from those years, and this one had not been required reading.  But as my mind relaxed I remembered the random facts interwoven in Michener’s historical fiction story of the people of these islands.   This book is one of my faves.  I wished I had a copy with me; the torn paperback discarded long ago.  I hadn’t thought of it in years.

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

As we trekked over the ancient Kings Highway, along Le Perouse Bay, I repeated the mantra “mind over matter.”  Our trek towards the most southern tip of Maui, in sand shoes, traversed unforgiving lava rock.  The hubs and I had made this trek years before, and he searched for the lava tube to share with our sons.  The views of Haleakala could not distract from the rocky and perilous balance of remaining upright.  There was a reason that we were the sole travelers on this trail.   I thought of Michener’s book imagining the ancient Hawaiians making the walk barefoot; as we passed several preserved cultural sites.   One would have never known we inhabited this island in prime tourist season.  We were all alone.

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And it was then that Lao Tzu’s quote came to mind.

The whole world belongs to you.

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We found ourselves on the road to Hana; our destination O’heo Gulch aka the Seven Sacred Pools.   There are not seven pools, nor are they sacred; but our middle son had hoped we could swim in them.  This side of the island is always rainy.    The sounds of sleep could be heard in the rear and as the sheets of rain fell across our windshield; the hubs and I quietly commented on the scenery; reconnecting.  When the busyness of life is left behind; amidst natural beauty, we could enjoy the drive on this early morning.   There are so many roads this man and I have taken together and I breathed deep; fighting the nausea amongst the various hairpin turns on this 36 mile drive.   As I directed a/c vents towards my face, he noted how I’ve learned to deal with the nausea; on this third trek amongst the twist and turns.

I am getting better at maneuvering through life; or at least, I ‘d like to think so.

Because, much as I like to be the one driving, I cannot control where the road ultimately takes me.  I have to be able to ride it out and breathe deeply; most times with my dear husband.  It has become easier to be civil behind-the-wheel; to be a good driver.  It just takes a lot of mental discipline and follow through to fulfill my Lenten goal.  Instead of raging in my vehicle at inconsequential things I am learning to drive with the aloha spirit.  Hang loose!

I sometimes do not like the roller coaster twists and turns of the road I’m currently on; but I am beginning to notice the periphery; the margins.  Most people would not enjoy making this trek in the rain.  But the hubs and I, windows down and a/c on; remarked on the verdant hillsides; the scenic cliffs with gushing waterfalls; the gullies and views of black sand beaches and musky fragrance of tropical flowers.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to enjoy the view.  I simply need to make the time.  To see it.

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These thoughts stayed with me as we made our four mile hike.  We had arrived before the throngs of tourists and enjoyed the solitude amongst the waterfalls; the light mist and musical clatter amidst the bamboo forest.  We treaded carefully; stopping often with our tripod, to enjoy the sounds and smells of rainforest.  Upon reaching our waterfall destination we enjoyed our picnic lunch; gazing at the 800 foot falls above.  And though the boys continued to argue about various infractions; the thoughts would be lost as they stared in awe at Mother Nature.

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“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Lao Tzu

I have walked many trails in my lifetime but this one; it’s one of the best.  In the three times we have come to the seven pools we had never walked on this path.  I am so glad we did.  I have a new happy  memory to file.

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Without the bleep of cell phone texts and notifications  (no reception),  computers and schedules I was allowed to sift through my thoughts; particularly on my marriage and transitions.   It is through my friendships that I’ve realized we ALL go through these things and it helps to be able to communicate these issues with others.  But sadly, it is with my mate that it is hardest to share.  It is easy to be angry.  But the grit in all relationships is the ability to forgive and progress.  The little things.  The annoyed tone.  The miscommunication.  The boring routines.

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On my plane ride home I found myself reading our latest bookclub choice.  I was surprised when another girlfriend noted it was published by Harlequin.  This particular novel was recently published in April 2014 but I was, again, transported to my teen years.  Stacks of Harlequin novels lined my bookshelves and through the years, I have been blessed.  My hubs has been able to fulfill the role of romancer.  But never do these books ever tell you how to deal with the daily nitty-gritty; the mundane.  The greasy stove tops, the cluttered sink and counter tops that drive me insane!

This book is nothing like those novels from my teens; dealing with relationship issues in marriages, friendships and transitions. This book is right up my alley!  I enjoyed the metaphor the author used about relationships.  When the rope is severed and cut; the knot tied  to reconnect the strands reminds the protagonist of the hurt; the infraction.   But her wise mother-in-law saw the knots in the rope differently.  The various knots allowed her and her spouse to grasp something to hold on to.

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And that image stays with me…our rope with knobby knots.  The hubs would gladly have a discourse on the proper tying of nautical knots from his naval sailing days and I hear him relay this to our sons; time and time again.  I am relieved to know that others have similar ties.  There are days when it is tough to find my own space; to define it.  I keep wondering what the word happy means and on our vacation I rediscovered it.  It doesn’t entail a lot of activity; nor money.   It only requires the need to be present.  Quality.  Presence.

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To see the flipper of a nearby humpback whale.

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To swim with yellow tangs in clear waters.

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To watch the eldest son dive deep for sea urchins.

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To float amidst the reef with my younger sons, alongside.

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The gentle sea turtle came to us again; several, in fact.  And as the hubs and youngest floated nearby, the turtles gracefully approached to bring Aloha tidings.

Instead of constantly wishing for “what if,” or contrasting and measuring I finally am grasping where I am supposed to be.  Right here.   With my feet planted.  Every day is a gift.  I don’t want to squander it.

I continue to practice mental discipline; just as I work towards my goal for Lent.  It is easy to find a happy place amidst the beauty; much harder in the boring every day or ugly.  But the key is to continue to find joy in the simple things.  A hand held.  A tousled head.  A frayed and knobby rope.  Life.  It can change and transition any moment.   Be present and live.  Right now.

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