Sunday, August 22, 2010


It’s Saturday and I am at the beach.

My friend turns to me and asks “If you were going to be a sea animal, what would you be?’

(These are the kind of questions one asks another while lounging in the sun on Saturday on an isolated beach belly filled with PB and J and potato chips)

She says she would want to be a turtle. I tell her I would rather be a dolphin. When she asks why, I respond quickly: “Because they are never alone.”

This answer surprises me. But the truth of it hits my heart with greater shock.

Earlier that afternoon we had seen a school of spinner dolphins swimming and playing the ocean before us. I had never seen them before, though I come to this beach multiple times in the week. They jumped and spun and flipped and squealed until they were out of sight.

I thought how much fun they must have with each other and how they must feel so safe knowing that they are all together. When I swim in the sea or on land, I do it alone and have only my wits and some pretty rusty karate moves to protect me. My best playmate is my own imagination and she is CRAZY if you haven’t noticed.

I find myself yearning for a dolphin school of my own; the safety of friends and family around me who know my fins and flippers, can communicate without words, can sense each other’s need for a nuzzle or a spin. I yearn to not be so alone in this world of mine.

As I sat there musing on this I let my gaze coast along the water in front of us. And then I saw them, the school, was right there, so close you could see their dark fins. I wasted no time, I yelled to my friend as I went charging into the water; “Come Ann! We are swimming with dolphins.”

Ann and I swam quickly to the spot where I had seen the dolphins but they had vanished. We swam out farther and farther and farther, farther than I had ever been out. I was getting frightened. We had seen no sign of them. The water was deep and we were past the protection of the reef bay. I asked Ann if we should go in. She was determined.

Try Wait.

Then just seconds later we saw it. Something big and black with a very pointy fin was coming straight for us.

We both did a sudden gasp which we later confessed was a “I really hope that is a dolphin and not some huge giant man eating porpoise.”

Within the time it took to take a deep breath we were surrounded by them. They swam in groups of two and three, and followed each other in instinctual formation. I dove down beneath us to see one swimming underneath and I could hear them calling to one another in those little squeaks and squeals. Their silvery backs bobbed in and out of the water as they enveloped us. I am not sure if either of us spoke and if you could have taken a picture of our faces at that moment you would see the sight of true awe and wonder.

After the final preliminary circles they began to play around us; suddenly bursting out of the water in a spin or a back flip. They held us close as we all swam along back towards our beach cove. And then just as suddenly as they arrived, they were gone.

Walking the beach later we bumped into a father/son who had watched our whole endeavor and shared their fear for us.

“There was a shark in the water,” they said.

“Oh, no,” we corrected them, “those were dolphins.”

“Not the dolphins. There was a nine foot shark in that reef right where you were headed before the dolphins came to you.” They explained how they had been snorkeling when they saw the shark headed to a spear fisherman’s catch that he held in bag near the reef.

Ann and I stared at each other. We didn’t need to say what we were thinking. We knew those dolphins came to protect us and to move us away from the reef and back to our safe cove.

In the days following this I have had moments of pure disbelief. To any of you who have shared an experience like this with a wild majestic creature you understand how there is this breathless no words can describe pure high of such a sharing.

It is truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I am captivated, entranced and enlightened.

I told my experience to a Hawaiian family I am working with and they shared my awe and wonder of it. They spoke of the specialness and significance of being embraced by the dolphins. They also spoke of the Aumakua, which are the spirit animals families have as guides.

My Dolphin Aumakua is my family out here in the islands.

When I gaze out to sea I know that they are out there.

And I don’t feel so all alone.

Molokai Madness

Molokai Madness

For those of you readers wondering “How long can someone live alone in almost total seclusion on an almost deserted island before she looses her mind?”

The answer is… six months.

Coo-coo for cocoa puffs.
Lost her marbles.
Gone bananas.
Off her rocker.
I’m breaking down and falling apart,
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
No one could put humpty dumpty back together again.
I’m cracking up and there is no nice way to say it.

Maybe if I could go into a Starbucks (judge away!) every once in a while and sit in the cool comfort of plush upholstered chairs, air conditioning, canned hip music, and consistent coffee beverages… maybe then I could make it.

Maybe if I could get a jar of almond butter without having to donate a kidney to pay for it….

Maybe if I could wake up to a world of cement and pavement where the voices of the trees and bushes demanding attention like unwanted step-children could not find me…

Maybe if I didn’t have to stare into the mysterious chemical abyss that is my swimming pool…

Maybe if I could have one day of rain...
Just one day.
(strangely just started raining when I wrote this)

Don’t get me wrong.
I love Molokai…
I just can’t stand it!
I want to sneak out while the cats away and jump on an airplane headed to somewhere HUGE with coldness and lots of hard ground and traffic and Starbucks on every corner (continue judging). I want people in my space, getting all up in my grill, invading my privacy and what not. I want to see folks in the rat race, working for “the man,” complaining about pensions and retirement packages and the failing economy. I want to feel the vibe, the pulse, the heartbeat of a city!

"Try Wait" I remind myself.

Then I take a moment here on my little island to walk outside under the cool moonlight.
It throws itself over the ocean where the waves are growing everyday with the promise of surf and winter storms.
My cat’s white hair glows as she sits calmly on my lap and we smile as we listen to the wind rustle through the palm frawns.
I smell the ripening mango from the tree next to me as it wafts over through the night air so fresh and so clean.
My skin and body and all the places in between let go and relax.
And I hear the island say: “Not yet, you are not ready yet. We have other things to show you before you leave.”

“How about showing me a decent Americano for crying out loud???” I joke (but not really).
I know the island is right.
I know this madness is only temporary.
I know I am just growing and I know that this current frustration will schluff off like an old skin in the coming weeks revealing something… I know not what.
Something amazing I guess!

Like a Starbucks? (i am shamed)

Try Wait

A mysterious buzzing sound around the main house had been swirling around my sub-consciousness for several days. My mind must have put it in one of the far corners of my brain in a file marked “Signs that Casselle is going Crazy” and forgotten about it.

But when I noticed the giant swarm of bumblebees around the front cottage my mind quickly re-filed “mysterious buzzing sound” into conscious memory. The swarm was like nothing I’d seen before. It was dark and massive and full of fury. I courageously looked under the cottage awning to see what the jazz was all about and it was there that I was confronted by a giant nest of clustered bees.

Thousands and thousands of them working furiously on their hive.

I was horrified.

And yet I could not take my eyes off of them.
They seemed to have an energy so frightening and intense that it captured me and stuck my feet in place.

Later, after I had pulled myself from their trance I called the bug man. I am fond of this bug man for many reasons. Number one reason: he kills centipedes and scorpions that would otherwise feast on my flesh. Number two: he calls me “sweetie” and “honey,” (terms that endear me to someone immediately).

The Bug Man comes the next day with his special bug killing arsenal, takes one look at the nest and says that he will have to kill them unless I can find some bee keepers to come and take the nest.

I frantically call two folks who keep bees but not one answers.
I have guests coming in two days and the Bug Man will not be able to come back this way until too late. It is now or never.

I wait a few more minutes for my phone to ring with hope that the bee keepers will respond but… nothing.

I look into the sad eyes of the Bug Man and give him the go ahead nod.
I feel as if I have just pushed the button to have the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

Minutes later an entire colony of bumblebees, thousands and thousands of them, lie in a puddle in the bushes, their hive in shambles. A few stragglers who were away collecting honey during the massacre fly around in vain looking for their home, for their queen, only to find the sick smell of poison and a pile of bodies.

Just as the Bug Man loads up the last of his equipment the phone rings; “We would love to come and collect your hive!” she says.
I am speechless.
Eventually I squeak out “They’re gone.”

The tears swell up in my eyes.
I try to hold it together for the Bug Man but he knows he better get away quick-like or he is going to have one broken down, sobbing, inconsolable, caretaker on his hands.
He speeds away to his next appointment just before the tidal wave of shame and sadness and anger washes over me. I run to the shower in hopes that I might wash away the great crime I have just committed. But I fall apart anyways and great waves of sobbing choke out my heart.

There is a popular saying here in the islands about taking your time.
"Try Wait," they say when us mainlanders are pushing and racing around like we got a lion at our back.
"Try Wait."

If I just would have waited 15 minutes.
If I would have not let fear guide me I could have saved them.
The colony could be on its way to a special new home where they could buzz, buzz, buzz all day long and be no harm to anyone.

My mother, who is visiting this week, saw the cracks appearing in my already rocky sense of self and got on the internet to find some validation for the crimes I had just committed. “They say swarms in July mean there is no queen so the hive would not have been useful to the bee keepers anyway.”

I decide not to remind her that it is the end of August and that the rules of "mainland" seasonal rituals don't necessarily apply hear to the tropics.

I stare out the window and look down at the bumble-bee mass grave under the palm trees and cry a little more. I say a little prayer but I know it’s no use. In my faith, you don’t get away from atrocities like this no matter how much you pray.

Days later I am still hearing the buzzing sound.
I think I'll try wait next time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Don't tell anyone...

Around the table a new group of acquaintances discuss the recent Molokai gossip. An unpopular man from the west-end was found semi-conscious in a pool of blood. He was placed in a helicopter headed to the nearest functioning hospital off-island. Even before his body had left the ground folks began to satisfy their curiosity of events by making up their own stories.

“He was shot,” they say.
“No, his wife pushed him off the roof.”
“He jumped after finding out his wife was having an affair.”

Even at this small gathering of people I can see the roots of some good rumors taking hold.

Interspersed between tales of this man’s recent demise they bemoan the difficulty of the rumor-mill that is the reality of living on a small island. After three hours of listening to them discuss the woes of who said what about who and who about what one of them turns their attention to me.

“Wait,” he says, “We have all been talking about ourselves and yet we know nothing about you.”

Six hungry faces stare at me hungrily.
“What do you want to know?” I ask.
“How did you come to live on this island? What were you running away from?” they probe.
“Well, it’s a long story,” I begin “And I don’t tell a lot of people. But I know I can trust you all.” Their faces glow in anticipation.
“One word,” I hint, “Mafia.”

Living on a small island means that nothing you say or do is in confidence. Even the things you don’t do or say are subjected to public opinion as one woman tells me, “I stopped going to parties because I didn’t want to get so misconstrued by everyone. Next thing I know I have a new diagnosis in the community as an Agoraphobic (someone who never leaves the house). “
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I’ve decided that if people are going to spread rumors about me then I want them to be good ones… hence the mafia story. I am also working other avenues… maybe some scandal regarding me being a serial killer.

You see, when you live on a small island, especially on Molokai, and ESPECIALLY on the West End, there is very little that changes. Locals fight to keep things the same, and then create drama, adventure and intrigue as naturally as the sea creates the shoreline.

I want to make it clear that I am not complaining about my new acquaintances’ ability to gossip. I quite like it… to a point. The characters of their sagas have as little to do with me as I have to do with the sheep herding practices on New Zealand and yet… It feels good to be around a group of highly animated folks discussing such trivial things that have nothing to do with me. I don't have television you see and so have spent way too much time in my little hobbit hole (the caretaker cottage) thinking and am in dire need of something or someone to bring me out of this self-obsessed state.

I indulge myself in the stories, and place as much attention to them being truth as I would in believing the reality of a sitcom. It’s still good entertainment though, no? And maybe by adding some red herrings about myself into the mix I can stir things up to the point where we will all get so sick and confused of the gossip and start talking about the things that are real… like the Venus star arriving as the first light in the sunset sky.

“What are your secrets?” he asks.
“I’d rather put my hand in a bee hive,” I think to myself.
But instead I say, “Don’t tell anyone… but I used to…”

You fill in the rest.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Love This Island

I love this island.

I love how it reminds me of everything I cherish about Africa, with its dry western hills of brush, and pock marked roads. On an evening walk you almost expect to be confronted by a lion’s roar or a giraffe galloping across your path.

I love this island and its night sky; staring up into the heavens and becoming lost in the magic of shooting stars so clear and bright it looks like the fourth of July in the middle of June.

I love this island with its long white beaches filled with seashell treasures that collect on my bookshelf. Little piles of white, orange, purples and pink.

My papayas grow tall and green along side the small sprouts of kale, arugula, beets, peas and carrots. The red dirt almost vibrant in contrast to the fresh leaves it gives way to.

Days quickly flow into months as marked by another full moon and I wonder if there was ever a time in my life I felt as connected to the ground, to the earth, water and sky around me.

Was there ever a time I felt so connected to myself?
What a gift. What a precious gift.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Blue to Green

All around me I am being confronted with the fragility of the human body. Everyday a friend comes to tell me of another family member with cancer, another stroke, another baseball to the eye. Sometimes the sadness of it and my inability to help them rolls me up into an angry little bowl of frustration. Can we really be this susceptible to injury and disease? My own body struggles to fight a virus and fails, leaving me aching in bed, sad and blue, unable to get out into the garden and take care of all the green that is just as fragile as my own human form.

I gaze out at my browning Carissa plants and am reminded of the Pygmies (also known as the forest people) of Africa.
They classify the death of a loved one in three phases; “dead”, “completely/absolutely dead”, and finally “dead forever.” “Dead forever” being the stage when the pygmies would throw themselves onto the ground with demonstrative wailing and flailing of arms followed by three months of mourning including dancing, singing until dawn and offerings of bananas to the sacred Molimo instrument.
Looking at the brown twigs that line my drive, I hate to admit it, but someone better find me a Molimo.
Fragile little things, the Carissa and I…

When feeling powerless over your universe I always find it helpful to take one area of your life and become overly obsessive about it. In doing so one can hopefully dive into a fantasy of imagined control. (Oh, sweet delusion, you are my friend.)

In lieu of the increased cases of illness around me and in me I turned my focus to health and wellness.
My obsession? My diet. Not like a loose weight diet. More of a cleanse, clear, feel better, gain superpowers (with which to heal all mankind) kind of diet.

Over the past week there have been many failed attempts at this shift ranging from saying goodbye to coffee to doing a lemonade fast. All attempts put me in place of sheer despair and drained my essence like a Gelfling from the Dark Crystal.

(Note: If you have no frame of reference for the above metaphor please rent The Dark Crystal because I can think of no better analogy for the complete dilapidation of my spirit and life force caused by the cessation of caffeine and food products)

So I decided that instead of restricting my diet I would simply begin adding more healthy components. And this has worked wonders. I feel like ME again!!!!

Secret of my success?
It’s called a Green Smoothie my friends and though superpowers have not fully manifested themselves, I have no doubt that within a short time I will be X-men, Heroes, Marvel Comics material.

Simply place green leafy things in a blender, add frozen fruit and water, hit chop, pour, slurp and whabam! You are on your way to happy wellness.

A few days into this Green Extravaganza it rained for nearly 12 hours. This is unheard of during the summer months on the west end of Molokai. As my body was finally feeling better I went out into the garden to work and enjoyed the cool drops falling on my skin as if I too were a plant in need of a good watering.

Then this morning, after blending my Green Drink of All Goodness and rejoicing in my restored wellness and health, I happened to pass the Carissa plants. Wouldn’t you know it?? They are only “completely/absolutely dead” and some you could even go as far as to call just “dead.” Put the Molimo back on the shelf and peel yourself a banana kids, it’s a Molokai Miracle.
How can this be???

I have two hypotheses.
One: The Carissa plants need more water to be green just as I needed more green to be me.
Two: I now have magical powers and bringing plants back from “forever dead” status is only the beginning.

I increased the sprinkler times on my completely dead plants only as an act of precaution.
You see, I am convinced that I am magical and have the power with which to heal life forms, not only those of the leafy variety, but also those of my friends and their families and beyond. Any requests loved ones?

(Oh sweet delusions! What would I do without you?)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Letting Go, Goodbyes and Other things that are hard to do...

I don't understand.
My Carissa plants are dying.
They are getting water, they are getting sun, they have everything they need and yet... they wilt, they tilt, they brown and crumble.
"Sometimes plants just die," Boots tells me.

But why?
Surely there was something I could have done differently?
Surely I have made some grievous error that I must amend!
Or, is he right?
Maybe sometimes, things just die,
and it has nothing to do with me at all.

The other day the pool turned green.
This is a most feared experience of all caretakers..
I weeped, I cried, I shouted.
I called friends from far and wide for support
What had I done to deserve this?
Hadn't I given it everything it ever wanted and this is how it repays me?
"Sometimes it just happens and we don't know why. It's a mystery," the Captain states.

Boots jumps into his car.
His brown guitar case next to his packed bag in the back seat.
Cowboy hat sits passenger.
He's shirtless and beautiful and I can see the excitement of upcoming adventure shine through those blue eyes.
They are getting ready to fly far, far, away.
"Do you think we will ever see each other again?" he asks.
"I don't know," I say.
He drives off and I walk back down the road lying to myself about how "fine" I am. "Perfectly fine," I think.
Just wish I had some whiskey lying around in the rafters to swallow this big lump in my throat.

"Funny how love comes and goes," she says.
Staring out across the ocean I understand.
Love is the tide in the sea and we are the shore.
We are not the sculpting it. It is sculpting us.
And I feel powerless again...

Plants are going to die, pools are going to turn green, friends will leave.
And though whiskey does solve a number of problems these are not any of them.
Sometimes you have to let go, say goodbye and then get on with the shovelling, the scrubbing or the sobbing as the case may be.

In the end, despite the difficulty and pain of it all,
new plants will arrive,
the pool may mysteriously turn clear,
and I'll be glad I loved while I had the chance.

Just wish I could skip over all this hard part.