When you neglect anything for a while, it’s hard to get back to it. Practice, practice daily and it works better. So here I am…showing up on the page. I love to write, but I’ve been so down on my ability to do anything. At the last meditation retreat I did in Maui, after fifteen years, I figured out the reason I keep at zen practice. Believe me, it’s not an easy one in any way. That was a good thing.

I’ve been reading a lot. Well, actually, I’ve been listening to books a lot. I almost gave up reading because I had such difficulty concentrating. I still do, but listening to audio books has made it easier. The experience is definitely different. I listened to Pico Iyer’s The Lady and the Monk. Mostly I enjoyed going through Kyoto with him. After that, I had to get the book because reading the words makes the images more vivid for me. I just finished Lit by Mary Karr which is well written. I found it hard to get through some of the bad stuff she experienced, but the insights were wonderful. Now I’m listening to Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own. He narrates it as did Mary Karr and Patti Smith and I love listening to the author read their own work. Ted Kooser reading his memoir, Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, was one of my favorites. I know, my choice of reading material is all over the place. Anyway, being in touch with the books made me want to practice writing again. So here I am.

Another practice, I’m trying my hand at is drawing and painting. I’ll try anything. I want to try my hand at another form of art practice. Lots of stuff I want to do. I have a humongous collection of art supplies so there is absolutely no reason to procrastinate on this one. I even have images in my head…food, ohia trees and other native Hawaiian plants, dogs and just beautiful things in general. I listened to an interview on Public Radio where the interviewee’s goal in creating work was to give people a reason to be optimistic. It was on Serious Eats and they interviewed Phil Rosenthal. I thought that that was an fantastic goal to have given the current news climate…a perfect goal for me to have whether I write, draw or cook. Looking for the good things is the way I want to spend my life.

My best friend died last year. I still think I can just call or write her about something she would like or think was funny every day. Channeling those thoughts into art would be a way to express those things. She encouraged my writing and watercolor all the time.

So Carolyn…this is for you. I miss you every day.

We had to clear a lot of the forest to build our home. Now that our house is complete, we plan to plant a garden to fill the area and make it healthy again. Here are two views of the area in front of our house.

IMG_3474IMG_3469Pretty barren except for the citrus trees Kris planted a few weeks ago. There’s a navel orange, Meyer lemon, yuzu,, and makrut (better known as kaffir lime). The yuzu came with fruit and I’ve harvested about a dozen. It’s the most fragrant citrus and I don’t think there is a substitute for it. Here is the last of the fruit that was on the tree…you can see new growth and we’re hoping it will be a healthy, happy tree.


The Meyer lemon has tiny buds and I can’t wait for juicy fruit. Meyer lemons are the best.

IMG_3476I just love finding subtle and not so subtle changes. Plants offer that endlessly. Here is the beginning of a fern frond. It will unfurl and become a huge feathery leaf. And this hau tree poked its branches out of the forest and started blooming…its blossoms are brilliant yellow.


And this lichen…so beautiful.


My favorite flower is the peony. The first time I heard of a peony was while playing a Japanese card game called hanafuda. The twelve suits, one for each month, are represented by different plants…mostly flowers. In Japanese peony is botan and it is a treasured and admired flower. I guess that’s true everywhere. But I lived in Hawaii. Peonies need a frost to bloom and we don’t have that. It was through this card game that I was introduced to these special botanicals of Japan.

I’m not sure when I saw my first peony in person…probably in a hotel…drinking wine…at the bar. But I fell in love. I love their color and layers and delicate petals. My friend, Ewa, said, “What is it about them???? That they captivate so many (me included)? These garish colors, and yet, just this very unapologetic – should I say, brazen – splash of the bright, common hues… total splendor!”
Kris spoiled me with them…buying them when they were in season at the wholesale florist, Watanabe Floral. Back in the 90’s they were no bargain, but, boy, they have shot up in price.
During the recent hurricane scare, we purchased a fair amount of water and we dropped the bottles off at Watanabe’s for Island Movers to ship to the Big Island. They are shipping canned goods and water to assist the people in Puna who are still without power and water. It’s a disaster. They were really hit hard by Iselle. We have friends who are among those without power or water. Before leaving the Big Island we delivered a hundred pounds of ice to them as they are living off a generator and have limited power. It’s a good thing the people in Puna are a pretty hardy stock…many never had electricity and they all have catchment water systems. A power supply is needed to pump water into their homes. The electric company is working hard to get power restored as quickly as they can, but there were a huge amount of power lines knocked out by falling trees.
Since we were at Watanabe’s, we splurged and bought a garnet peony for $9 – one stem! They are shipping them in from Holland. I believe it’s late in the season for the US mainland.

I love flowers and I try to bring flowers in from our yard when possible. On the Big Island, we have the luxury of having locally grown flowers – alstroemeria,gerbera daisies, dahlias, gardenia, cymbidium orchids…not to mention all the fabulous tropicals. It’s a little harder to find wide varieties of locally grown flowers on Oahu at a reasonable price.
Peonies in our house has been a guilty pleasure of mine…once a year…not too bad. We don’t even get them every year as peony season is also our busy season so we’re often out o town.
When I’m on the road in peony season, I’m always looking for these beauties. Once in Venice, I bought a bunch at the farmer’s market and just kept them on the night stand. This was in 2004, after our first job with a very special client.

On our nightstand in Venice - 2004 after our first job with Autodesk.

On our nightstand in Venice – 2004 after our first job in Europe.

 In Laguna Niguel, Trader Joe’s sold bunches for $10 each. I had them around my hotel room in water bottles and any container I could find to use as a makeshift vase. This was during a really fabulous program where we rode on a yacht to follow a sailing regatta.

Peonies in my room in Laguna Niguel.

Peonies in my room in Laguna Niguel.

This was in 2009 and our cocker spaniels, Latte and Mocha, has just passed away a few months before so I traveled with their photos and set up an altar.

A peony on my alter in my room in Laguna Niguel. Vase from the room service tray.

A peony on my alter in my room in Laguna Niguel. Vase from the room service tray.

Last year when traveling with my good friend, Hnoi, we found a wonderful flower shop in Paris. It was like stepping into another time zone. We traveled back in time in this marvelous flower shop called Georges Francois. Of course, I bought peonies for my room there.

Georges Francois in Paris.

Georges Francois in Paris.

So now a single peony in a special bud vase from Kris is a treasure. Not having them readily available in Hawaii, make them more special and precious when I do find them.

Selfie at Georges Francois in Paris.

Selfie at Georges Francois in Paris.

Our triangle palm

Our triangle palm

You tower above everything…standing tall in the far corner of our lot in Kaneohe. Your trunk is now thick and rough from years of growing in the sun.
I remember when you arrived. We bought you at Star Garden Shop in Mo’ili’ili – it’s now a Walgreen’s. Triangle palm, you were a hot item on the landscaping circuit and the store manager recommended that we take you home. Your whispy silvery leaves fanned out of the plastic pot you came in and there wasn’t even a hint of a trunk. At twenty-five dollars, you were a high ticket item for us. We got married that year – it was twenty-two years ago.
Slowly your truck grew a bit and the triangle base of your fronds showed themselves for that is how you and your kind were named. We never put you in a fancy pot…your light colored fronds were fancy enough. You stood on a plate on Kris’ ice blue carpet…the carpet that I spilled a jug of oil on sometime before we sold the place.
Two years after you arrived, we purchased a home in Kaneohe. Kris nurtures plants – he truly is a plant whisperer – lucky you. You came along with the other plants he had, some before meeting me. The variegated ficus, a fishtail palm and some other plants came with us as well…I didn’t know their names.
In Kaneohe, you lived indoors at first. You had grown to over five feet in height. For the first year you stayed in the living room on our white Berber carpet. There was a lot of light streaming in from the jalousie windows. The fact that I never purchased any drapes helped let the light in.
Then we brought Latte home. She was my first dog ever, a buff and white Cocker spaniel, and I adored her. She taught me everything I know about unconditional love. And she was the cutest terror ever…racing around the house biting and chewing everything in sight, including us. We had to find a place for you outside to save your life.
In the covered patio we found you a place with the ficus, bird’s nest fern, and mother-in-law’s tongue and you continued to thrive. We added a water garden with white water lilies and lavender water hyacinths to the area.
When you outgrew that patio, Kris found a place for you in a corner garden – you were the focal point. It must have been a good move because lots of little palms sprouted from the seeds that came from the giant pods you produced. You tower at over forty feet. Now many generations of palms from your seeds are all over the island in new homes.
In a year or two we plan to sell the house and move. Sadly, you won’t be able to come with us. Until then, I’ll appreciate seeing the beauty in you and be grateful that I’ve been able to enjoy you for as long as I have.