- My home is on the north east shore of Maui.
- On Wednesday morning, I drove to Wailuku to catch the volunteer bus to Lahaina. Wailuku is in north west, and a little inland.
- From there the bus drove from north to south around the West Maui mountains to Lahaina, in the south west.
- I repeated the same journey, in reverse, to get home.
Wednesday of last week I went back over to Lahaina to spend the day volunteering. It was hot, very hot, but rewarding. As I drove home I was reflecting on where I had been for the day. I had traveled across a good part of Maui in traveling from my home to Lahaina. Let me try and give some perspective…
I went from the lushness of north east Maui to the dryness of the south east. I went from the rural habitation of the north east to the more built up Central Maui. From there through rural dryness, sparse populations and small beaches, to the towns of south east Maui.
The distances traveled were not great, the travel times were relatively small, but somewhere back in the day traveling from one side of the island to the other and back again in such a short period of time would not have been possible. Traveling took time. I found myself wondering as I was on the final stretch of the journey home, how does being able to experience so much in such a short time affect our experience and interaction with land and place?
A lot was seen in the time that I journeyed, but maybe not experienced? I can get used to seeing scenery, I can know it well through vision, explain what it looks like to others, but what is my experience of being on the land, of being in place?
By moving more slowly across the land, I’d suggest that we get to experience it more closely. And perhaps through the greater experience, our relationship with the land is closer, deeper? Expand that thinking out to the world in an age of global travel.
I sit in a hotel - on the move.
I look out of the hotel window onto a busy freeway intersection - people on the move, going in all directions.
I look out on the adjacent airport - people on the move, across the country and across the world.
People on the move fascinate me. The human race, it seems, have always been on the move - exploring, hunting, grazing ground, searching for a better life, conquering, pilgrimage. I have traveled a lot in my time. I have learnt a lot from it. AND I value staying at home.
I think of a saying that I once heard. It is not for all, but it informs my life when I stay still, and when I wish that I could stay still. It informs the depth that I can find in staying still, if I choose to look for that.
They who stay still, travel furthest.
I usually can’t start my day unless my bed is made. It is 7:45am on Sunday morning and the bed is made for today. I can now get on with my day. But yesterday was different…
I didn’t make my bed. No one reason - I felt unwell and so got up later, and went back to bed mid-afternoon - but I was also up and about doing things through out the day. In the evening I went out to see friends for dinner.
So last night I climbed into an unmade bed…and you know what? It felt kind of good.
…but I still plan on starting each day making my bed.
Spinning wheels today…that’s what it feels like right now. The day started off well, but the wheels got progressively bogged down in the mud as the day has gone on, at least that is how it feels from where I sit right now. Maybe I am too hard on myself and need to take a break, and do something different when the results aren’t coming?
I stopped reading a book recently, and for some reason that process of putting the book down sits very uncomfortably with me. The book had been recommended to me by a friend a number of years back. I purchased it at the time, but ever since it has languished, other titles jumping the queue.
I finally picked the book up a month or so ago. I wanted to enjoy the story because it had been recommended to me, but I found the plot rambling, as though it was trying to keep going by padding itself out.
After a couple of weeks, where I was busy and distracted and did very little reading anyway, I decided to give up on the book. I picked up another one and have been consuming that and over the last forty eight hours. My change in reading patterns just by picking up a new book justifies to me the decision to leave the first book…..and at the same time that choice is still sitting uncomfortably with me. I’m not sure why?
I’d still like to know the outcome of the story. Maybe I’ll return to it once I have a couple more good reads under my belt? My sense though is that I won’t. The book is long and just the thought of picking it up to slog through it to find out what happens in the end, does not feel very appealing right now. The word ”slog” probably says it all?
I think that part of my disquiet is simply the enjoyment of reading different stories and wanting to enjoy this one. However, in doing so I am putting aside the fact that not every story is for everyone. Some movies or television series aren’t my cup of tea. My wife loves them, friends love them, but for me….meh. This is not for me. Why should books be any different? With time and reflection, my hope is that this sense of unease will come to sit more comfortably.
The last 36 hours has been fun and games with jet lag. Waking up at odd hours, trying to function clearly while really wanting to put my head down, and then finally doing so midway through the day. I write this after a sleepless night. Yesterday afternoon around lunchtime I could not function any longer and decided to put my head down for, I thought, an hour. Four hours alter I woke up. The good of that was that I felt better, fresher. The downside was that I was then feared sleeping this night just gone would be difficult. It was indeed.
Returning though to when I woke up yesterday evening. Apart from the drive from Heathrow Airport, I had not been out of my mother’s apartment since arriving. I needed to get my feet out on British soil. I needed, needed is the correct word here, to get outside and breathe the cold British air, to hear the birds singing, to experience the smell and atmosphere of nature here – that which I grew up with. With The Downs being on my mother’s door step, despite being in a city, I had the perfect environment to do so. Until I step out onto The Downs, I never feel as though I have arrived home. That area was my stomping ground as a kid.
It was late in the day. The sun was not long off setting. I wrapped up and went out.
I don’t know what the expression is. If it exists, great. If not, I shall make up environmental recollection, or environmental association. Walking up onto The Downs, walking into the darkness of late evening, the cold air wakening my senses, the whole experience awakening my memory, my deep-rooted memory, I was transported back to a deep sense of home.
The end of a day. Cold darkness enveloping everything around it. The final bird song of the day, sharp and clear. The trees bare. Mud on the ground from a wet winter and no growth happening. Wrapped up against the cold.
I walked home via the supermarket to pick up a couple of things. The cars taking people home. Shop lights shining out into the night. Warm houses offering a refuge from the cold.
I arrived home invigorated. My nose running from the cold outside. I was grateful to have touched the Earth of my hometown, to have breathed the cold air of winter, to have felt the nature that so resonates with me.
I was home.
I was doing some reminiscing online a couple of days ago, checking in on some organizations that I use to be a part of when I lived in Portland, OR. Specifically I was looking through the pages of The Transition Network and Transition US, movements to build resilient communities reimagined by the communities themselves.
In doing so I came across this Flickr page of photos of the Northwest Transition Summit that took place in Seattle - when, I can’t remember now? - and which I was a part of. It was wonderful to look through the photographs and see people who I have not been in touch with for some time now. Happy and inspiring times.
I’m sitting at home reading a book. Next door my stepdaughter is hosting a party. People are beginning to arrive. There is the sound of music. Voices are getting louder as they compete with the music.
As I sit here reading I find myself thinking, ”parties are so much work, not too host (through they can be a lot of work to host), but just to be at, to attend.” That’s the introvert in me talking.
This evening I am happy with my book. At least for now. We will be heading over to some friends’ house for dinner later. That could also feel like work, though not so much.
Last night I went back through some slides from my 1989/90 travels through Pakistan, China, Nepal & India. I have numerous slides, and they are in an ill arranged mess at the moment. As I loaded up the carousel to put into the projector, I had little idea as to what I would be looking at, even whether I would recognize the images.
My fears of not recognizing images were unfounded. The photos were mostly from the Solo/Khumbu (Everest) region of Nepal and my first forays into India.
This all happened towards the end of 1989, over thirty-three years ago. It was a time of great change for me. I had left home confused, lost, maybe angry, with many questions going through my head. I’m not even sure that I knew what those questions were? I just wanted some space, to get away from all that appeared to hold expectations over me and would not hear questions (or at least I did not feel comfortable going to them with questions). So, I threw a pack on my back and hit the road. This was my second trip and I felt that some pieces were beginning to fall into place, though I had fear around what I would do with those pieces once I was home. For now, I was in a safe place.
I spent a month in the Solo/Khumbu region. Two weeks trekking in, about a week in the area, and then a week or less trekking out. The walk out is mainly downhill, and my blood was pumping with oxygen due to all the red blood cells that it had produced in the rarefied atmosphere at the roof of the world. I found it hard to leave. I felt at home there, especially once I got up in the Sherpa region, dotted as it is with signs of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Something was seeding my growing interest in this faith.
So last night brought back happy memories for me. Memories of a sense of meaning being found, of self-discovery. Such I believe is always available to us, but there are times, such as those days for me at the end of 1989, when there is space to take time to explore, inquire, and look around. The incorporation of my discoveries into regular life were still to come, but at that moment I could take in, appreciate and start to reflect on what was beginning to emerge.
Below is a photograph of me with the Himalayan range, including Mt Everest, in the background. Mt. Everest is on the left of the picture, the triangular peak lying slightly to the left. The photograph is an image taken from a slide projected onto a wall, and then tweaked a little.
In central north Maui are two small hills. They are man made. They started life as massive holes in the ground, a third has been dug, those holes were slowly filled up and then stuff was continually piled on top of them. Dirt and grass create the facade of a hill. They are garbage dumps, filled with the unwanted products of life styles on Maui.
Someone once said to me words to the effect of,
You can’t throw things away. You can only put them where you don’t have to look at them.
Well what we throw away here in Maui is in daily site of everyone who drives through the central island, albeit covered in grass.
I don’t like going there, because in doing so I know that I am contributing to the growth of the next hill. I am contributing to a potential hazard for future generations. I don’t like putting my garbage bins out every Thursday, as I know that I am contributing to the growth of the next hill.
”Well, be more mindful of what you consume and throw out,” I hear people say, and I hear you. I am not saying this with any pride, or looking for solutions. Simply an observation and a feeling of overwhelm following a visit to the dump this morning. We are installing new doors due to the weather giving a beating to our old doors. Some material is being recycled, some is going to Habit for Humanity here on Maui, and some I took to the dump.
It is nice to have the mess off our property, to feel the cleanness and see a job done, and I can see the rubbish in the hills of central Maui.
Allow the vicissitudes of life smooth the hardness in your heart.
Grief is a beast, I was going to call it that but will return to what it is, an emotion. Grief is an emotion that appears to always have a surprise up its sleeve. Right now I feel as though I have been hit by that wave that catches you at the beach when you are looking in the wrong direction, hitting you from behind, toppling you over, tumbling you around, sending salt water up your nose and down your mouth, before depositing you in the shallows.
My dad passed away a year ago. Yesterday my wife and I arrived back in the UK to visit mum, to spend a couple of weeks with her. My sister and her husband will arrive here from New Zealand in two days time. Mum and Dad lost their kids to the other side of the world. I’ve often wondered what effect our decision to move away had on them? I know for myself that I have felt the push/pull of feeling good about my decision to move, while at times deeply missing home. The British Isles for me is where a deeper sense of home is, even if other places also have their own claim to that title.
I write this at dawn, jet lag seeing me up and about early making coffee and toast. I walk around mum’s apartment in the silence of early morning, peering out of windows over Bristol, the city where I grew up. In the early morning shadows, lights turned off, I find images and emotions of last year’s visit here, a time spent with dad as he navigated the last two weeks of his life. Then the further weeks that I stayed on to help mum and also to navigate my own immediate experiences of grief. It was a special, important time for me, being alone here with mum and my grief and emotions, having time and space. Yesterday, memories of last year brought on by my return struck me more so and unexpectedly.
Grief’s presence has never left me, at times apparently going silent, at times giving me a heightened sense of our collective mortality, and at times hitting me with a profound sense of loss, that Dad is no longer physically in my life and memories of my time with him.
This morning’s quiet walk around the house was like being hit by that unexpected wave. I was looking the other way, walking to the kitchen to make coffee and toast, when the silence and shadows of pre-dawn brought fourth the memories and emotions. Like the wave that leaves you in the shallows, disorientated and trying to regain your balance while taking in what just happened, this morning’s wave gives me another, deeper level of grief to breathe into. Grief is no longer the stranger it was to me a year ago. Even though I need sometime now to be with, process and reorientate myself following the wack of this wave, I know that it too shall pass…no, it too shall be integrated, be made a part of me - even if that is difficult to believe in this moment.
I think as well that this grief is showing me my connection to and grief for the deeper place that I call home. My life and family is many miles away from here, but a deeper connection to the British Isles is also present within me and what I must spend some time exploring. There is grief present for what I can no longer be in and around on a day to day basis.
In this moment I am grateful for recognising these emotions within me. They are disorientating and I might want to spend more quiet time with myself than commitments allow right now, but in their presence they give me a greater sense of myself in time and place.
I have been tired through today after staying up until the early hours for The Queen’s funeral, but I am pleased that I made the effort to watch as much as I was able before succumbing to weary eyes. It meant a lot to me to see and be a part of the day as it happened, or as much as I could sitting the other side of the world, being in the solemnity of the moment, and saying goodbye to Her Majesty.
I have had the live stream of The Queen lying in state in Westminster Hall playing in the background as I do other things. Every so often I’ll come back and sit and watch people file past Her Majesty’s coffin. Every twenty minutes the flow of mourners is stopped as the there is a changing of the guards.
When I started watching it, the time would have been 3:00am in the morning in England. The flow of people paying their respects has not stopped. As I come back to watching the scene, I find myself pausing for reflection.
This last Wednesday was the first anniversary of my Dad passing away. I was blessed to be at home for the last two weeks of his life, helping to look after Dad and just sitting with him. I might not have used the word blessed as I dropped everything and made quick plans to return to Britain following a sudden turn for the worse with Dad’s health. I was really unsure what I was returning to, especially on an emotional level. However, I was at Dad’s bedside when he breathed his last. I won’t forget that moment. The time at home had been two weeks suffused with love.
I stayed on in the UK for another four weeks after that. In part to help my mother with the transition, but truth be told it was also to help myself start the grieving process for having just lost my father. Sitting chatting with mum, helping her around her flat, taking long walks around the city where I grew up and in many ways still consider as “home” was an important and nourishing time. If I had had to leave and fly home soon after Dad’s death, with the benefit of hindsight I don’t know how I would have managed it?
Dad and my relationship had not always been an easy, but the current of love I believe ran underneath it, or at the very least the wish to express more closely our love came from us both. I have much to thank my father for, something that I have understood more as the years have gone by. I know that I have struggled with some emotional aspects of my life because of those times when he was not present for me in my life. I have had wishes in my life for his being there, listening, talking, discussing. As I have grown older I have seen in Dad his own struggles, and raising someone who differed in his outlook on life was probably not the best place to have to live with those struggles. I’d like to think that through our differences and misunderstandings, love, respect and gratitude for being in each other’s lives was supreme.
This last year has been a reflection on and learning about grief. Not long after Dad passed away a friend here on Maui was killed while out cycling, knocked off his bicycle by a careless young driver. At Henry’s funeral one of the facilitators that morning said something like, “we are grief illiterate here in the West.” I won’t speak to the absolute truth of those words, but his words certainly rang true for me. What experience did I have of grief? Loosing pets as a kid. There was a period of upset, but my young life moved onto the next stage. Relatives had died, but no one as close to me as my father. This year has been learning about the waves of grief. That I don’t “get over it”, but with time learn to integrate it. That there is nothing wrong with me in how I am feeling in any given moment. That this is my grief, and there is no need to question or make excuses for it. A good friend texted me just after Dad has passed with a message which I have come to understand more deeply with the passage of time,
grief is pure love with no place to go
I feel that I have started to see mortality more clearly around me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming any profound change in how I show up in the world, but I am noticing some internal change in how I experience the world. Again, like learning to live with the waves of grief, I have found this to be about integration. It’s a learning and integrating experience, a process.
Even in his passing, Dad is giving me lessons to learn from.
I love you Dad and miss you. Thank you.
What I am reflecting on today,
So I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right here, when you want to get away.
~ Pema Chödron, Practicing Peace In Times of War
Unintentionally this post is following close on the heals of my last post. I came across the article to which I refer in that post while writing this one.
I still have an image in my mind of when I left my house in South Wales about sixteen years ago. All personal belongings gone, just an empty shell, echoing loudly with that sound only an empty house has that is now just full of memories. For the new owner they see possibilities, excitement, a future. For me, having also helped design and build the house, I felt gratitude for having living there alongside the sadness of departure…possibly disbelief as well that I was moving on. There was a whole confusion of emotions running through my head and heart, all vying for attention. I just lay on the floor, spread eagled and looking up at the ceiling, not believing that this time had come.
This image was ignited again when I saw Robert van Vliet’s photo taken as he moved out of his old apartment to a new home. I was caught by surprise at the emotions that it brought up for me. It was as though I had seen that image before, and indeed I had - movies, houses for sale - but something in this image triggered memories more readily, and they still sit with me vividly a couple of months after Robert posted his photograph.
Many, many years before that moment of sale I had been talking with a wise friend. Much older than me, he had grown up in Europe through the last World War and traveled a lot in his lifetime, putting his roots down only to move again some years later. He spoke to me about the importance of internalizing what it is that a place gifts to you. Then if, when the time comes to move on, you can take the essence of the place with you and what you have learnt from your time there.
I sit here, many thousands of miles from that house in South Wales and many years from when I lived there, grateful for what that land and property gifted me. It was an unexpected and unplanned blessing in my life. I’d like to think that I have internalized the gifts of that house as my old friend shared with me…and then at times I can feel the pain of loss. For me the trick, if I can call it that, is to be with that discomfort without making it go away. That might be easier sometimes than others, but the intention is there. Can I touch the centre of the discomfort, to be with it, and allow that to open me up to the gifts that are hidden inside?
Remembering my father: sitting at home on a Sunday morning, listening to Classical music and reading (though he would probably be doing the weekly difficult crossword puzzle in the Sunday newspaper).
Summer has arrived here in Maui, at least a preview of what summer is to bring. The last few days have been devoid of wind, hot and muggy - and has included a well timed air conditioning breakdown (hopefully that is not a preview of summer as well!). By late afternoon the air is still and feels as though it is sitting waiting for something to happen.
Thankfully mornings are still cool. That will change as we go into summer, but for now I will take the fresh air.
While sitting doing my meditation practice this morning and then later out watering plants I was transported back to memories of time spent on the road in the way that sounds, senses and smells can do. One’s senses pick something up in the air and in an instant one is transported to a time and place of memory.
Today those memories took me back to India, traveling there by myself in the late ’80s and subsequent visits through the ’90s. I saw myself midway through a long train journey, the passengers now very much moved in and settled for the long haul. The heat of the day rendering the overhead fans almost useless unless you were sitting directly underneath them.
Sitting by the open door of the train, my feet resting on the footplate as the train clickerty clacks through the dry country side, a red sun hanging low in the sky.
Sitting in a small hotel room, the noise, dust and confusion of the town outside making its way into the background hum of my rest from the days travels. Smells of life in a foreign land touching me, making me feel at home.
Memories of the road. Fond memories. Happy memories. At ease with myself and the world, and bringing peace to my heart in this moment as well.
Watching the performers, the creatives, the writers, artists and musicians, those who have dared to put themselves out there unsure of return. Doing so simply because they couldn’t imagine doing anything else….other than sharing their creativity with others.
We arrived at the restaurant. A sign hanging from a rope in front of the door asked us to ring the doorbell. A waiter opened the door, greeted us, asked if we had a reservation, "no," we replied. This did not appear to matter as the rope was unclipped, we were gestured to enter and shown to a table. One couple was already seated and were perusing the menu. The other tables sat empty, awaiting the arrival of lunchtime customers.
The meal was not rushed. As we ate, people arrived, first ringing the doorbell as was required. Sounds of voices and mixed languages filled the room, comfortably. The waiters moved between tables, taking orders, placing plates, serving drinks, filling requests.
Nearing the end of our meal, we looked out over a full restaurant. In my mind`s eye I saw a time-lapse film showing the tables slowly fill.
We stood up, ready to leave, and put on our coats in readiness for the brisk weather outside. Customers chatted enthusiastically, the waiters thanked us for our custom. We headed out, satisfied and ready for the afternoon.
It was last year, 2021. I was back in Bristol, England. My dad was unwell, nearing the end of his life. I went to sit on The Downs, and area of public open space of 400 acres that looks out over the Avon Gorge. Wide open spaces, woodland, trees and bushes. I was blessed to grow up around The Downs. I’m at home when I am up there.
This time I went up there not to just get some air, but to take a break, to fluff the feathers after time spent indoors. I didn’t walk far. After a short distance I sat down. Nowhere in particular, I just sat. People were out walking dogs, jogging, playing games, picnicking. I just sat and looked at what was beneath me. Sometimes I get comfort from looking at the details, the small things, that which is beneath our feet and goes unnoticed. I looked into the grass, watched the ants, noticing the different shaped leaves down at this level, the small spiders.
Paradoxically maybe, this smaller, contracted world cleared my mind, opened my mind, exposing me to a world that don’t spend time in.
With evening approaching, I headed for home.
A couple of weeks back I had an early morning Hawaiian Airlines flight to catch to Honolulu. In flight time the journey is a hop, skip and jump. Throw in airport time and it can take just as long as any long haul flight from parking the car to getting to the gate. And this was rush hour. For the flight that I was catching, to manage the commuter traffic a slightly larger aircraft is made available than the usual interisland airplane.
The road from my home to the airport takes me past Ho’okipa, a surfing hotspot here on Maui. The sun had not risen when I left home, just the glow in the sky of a new day starting. Ho’okipa is a State Park and as such has its entrances locked shut each night. They are not open again until just after sunrise. This does not stop the surfers.
In the early hours of the morning, cars will park up on the side of the road, the surfers will jump out, get their gear together and with surf boards under their arms climb over the gate and head down to the water. They might have work starting in a few hours, have to return home later to look after kids, or be planning a whole morning there. No matter, getting out of bed early presents them with an opportunity to get in the water and perfect their sport, while the rest of us are still tucked up or fumbling for our first cup of coffee.
I have no time
As I drove past these early morning enthusiasts my thoughts turned to meditation. Like everything in my life, if I want to make meditation a part of it, it requires me to make time. I quite often hear the comment from people thinking of starting a meditation practice, that they don’t have time. But those early morning surfers found some time. I know people who will go and catch a few waves before work or other day time commitments that they have. Ironically one of them told me recently that he would like to meditate but couldn’t find the time. I pointed out to him his early morning (or sometimes late night by full moon) surfing exploits - he laughed!
I think that the success or otherwise of finding that time to meditate depends on the rewards that an individual receives from the practice, and how those rewards help my rebelling mind push aside the sacrifices - sleep, etc - that we are prepared to make. As I start to feel the benefits of meditation, I am more prepared to make the time for it to happen…or in those times when days are very busy, like the early flight that I had, to sit quietly in the airport as opposed to checking my phone. This does not mean that there are times when I prefer to stay in bed (or whatever the sacrifice is), indeed occasionally I give myself a rest and do, but I feel that their are benefits to be made and so I get up.
Another strategy to keeping the practice going is to find a community with whom to meditate, or if that is not possible, a remote buddy, someone who you check in with regularly to see how each other’s practice is going - or you text them a message just before you sit.
One does not make it a chore, but rather recognizes that in building any new habit there will be times when it is easy and other times when you just do not want to be there - but you show up anyway, even if you just feel as though you are going through the motions.
Back to those surfers
I often think of those early morning surfers. Their time in the water is that important to them that they are prepared to make that early morning sacrifice. Maybe that is not how they experience their early morning dips, but that is how it works for me. By the time the sun is warming the island, they have put their time in - whether that is for training or fun - their surf time is under their belt.
Eating celery and remembering my dad. I have memories from when I was a kid of a glass full of celery sticks, dad picking out one, dipping it in salt and taking a crunchy bite out if it.
This came to me this morning as I was reflecting on motivation.
You don’t stop because you are not the best. You keep going because you are doing what you love.