Monday, February 18, 2008


While these download, you might want to fix a cup of tea, slip on warm socks. I'm listening to Sufjan Stevens, Sondre Lerche, Jack Johnson, and Tia Carrere... she's singing "Aloha Oe." If Apple hadn't mucked around with iMovie, I would be making a DVD, and in lieu of making a family slideshow, I am posting a lot of pictures today. Part travel diary, part remembrance of moments and emotions... If I hadn't taken pictures I am not sure I would believe that 16 days have gone by, that we were far away, that we cried together and wore flowers in the rain and light.

Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, Kona, Hawaii.

Our first trip to Hawaii was in 1989, Ruth and Corm had moved there the year before. They greeted us with leis. Have you ever been greeted by someone who loves you, who embraces you with a necklace of vibrant, fresh flowers? A kiss on each cheek and a kind message of aloha... I find little else on the Mainland that evokes such warmth, sincerity and tenderness in a greeting. It makes you comprehend the meaning of being welcome. We returned to Hawaii in 1992 with our son William and we were met with aloha. We have never landed or sailed to Hawaii without a generous lei greeting. Welcomed home by dear and familiar faces everytime.

Ellison S. Onizuka was on the Space Shuttle Challenger. We always stop at the museum at Kona airport. His sister recognizes us after so many visits. It is a small, yet favorite museum. A lot of aloha there.

The idea of someone's death does not take hold suddenly. It comes, like the surf, in waves, sets. Sometimes gently rocking, and sometimes crashing. Stepping off the plane, walking through the terminal, I looked for that familiar face, even when I knew he could not be there, and it was a crashing wave, as I tried to absorb the realization of Corm being gone. Even crying is like the surf taking you under, the salt, the wet, wet waves crashing down.

Banyan tree in Queen Liliukolani Park, Hilo, Hawaii.

Maria, Geoff, Holly, Ruth, Paul and Margie. It always rains in Hilo, and we laughed, because we were spared rain. We sat together, and walked. We talked and listened. One could not help but think how much Corm would have loved this easy, gentle afternoon.

After Hilo, somewhere along the Hamakua Coast, Geoff and I pulled over and walked with the children, hiking down to the ocean and a waterfall, then back up a rain swollen gorge, green and growing. We skipped the highway and followed a tiny back road. Where we found more beautiful sights.

I love old towns. Small towns. I love tiny back roads.

Geoff and his brother, Paul, cleaning the kitchen after a curry dinner. Many of our favorite family dinners I learned from Ruth and Corm, like turkey burgers and curry chicken. Ruth's lemon bars are the best. They always took turns... one cooking, the other doing clean-up. True teamwork. Partnership. They built their home, working together. It is beautiful.

Paul lives in Wisconsin. He's an engineer. It was so nice to hear and see him and Geoff working together. Max helped too. The riding mower needed repairs and the parts Corm had on order were waiting in his workshop, along with his tools. So the guys fixed the mower. Paul and Geoff made a list and diligently worked at the little and big jobs that needed doing.

Holly's administrative skills were applied to all the tedious details that have to be addressed when someone dies. She had many lists going. Maria's giggles and wiggles were a welcome distraction for all of us.

Hugs for Tutu.

Riding back to our hotel room, Maria whispered to me, "I like Tutu. She's daddy's mommy. I like Tutu."

Corm's sister, Margie and his son, Paul. They came to say goodbye, to help Ruth... to absorb and appreciate the saturated beauty of this place Corm made home.

We spent 4 weeks in Hawaii in 1998, looking for an ideal place to build houses side by side. This lot was 5 acres, and ideal for sharing. I was very pregnant with Max at the time. Almost everyday we were out seeing properties, comparing them, doing research. It was a long process, and full of hope and idealism. We were so certain we would find a way to build a home there too. Geoff especially helped with the paperwork and inspections, finding soil testers and learning about water catchments, running power, building fences. All the way from the Mainland we had our spirits invested in this little spot.

Life is what happens when you're making plans... how many times have I been reminded? The state changed a law and we no longer had the option of splitting the lot... it was to become the first of several missed opportunities to finally move to Hawaii. I have learned you don't have to actually live in Hawaii for Hawaii to get under your skin, into your heart and soul, your feet.

Between lawn mowing and errands, this and that, we tried to move forward. Water balloon tosses can really help on this front.

Riding waves. Between sets we found ourselves smiling and breathing.

Learning new skills.

And Valentine's Day? That turned out pretty nice after all. Geoff and Tutu bought sweets for the children. Geoff gave me a flower lei. I gave him a Keiki Hula DVD, so we could watch Maria learn to hula, and I brought home pizza for everyone.

Max with his Tutu.

Alex after his first driving lesson.

Gracie and Pearl, the Kitty Sisters of Kalopa, have run of the place, coming and going when they please. Mighty huntresses. Feline fairies of the cane fields. Poor Gracie was matted with burrs and Geoff was determined to give her relief. She was so cooperative and grateful, while he cut away furry clumps all full of stickers.

She practically sighed with relief.

Maria sympathized about those tangles in Gracie's tresses.

It feels so good there...

Thank you for all the love and kindness you have shared with us through Chickenblog and in emails. Every word, every contact, has been a guiding light.


Anna Banana said...

Glad to have you back...thanks for the photos and pretty words. Wondering if anyone is staying with Ruth now. (((Sending aloha to all.)))

Mama Spark said...

Such a beautiful post. Tutu is lucky to have you all. It is a very beautiful place. I have never been there and always wanted to visit. Maybe someday. I hope she will be OK when everyone goes back to their homes. Take care of yourself, Natalie!

Laura Jane said...

My heart is warmed, and my eyes a bit full Natalie.

Bless you all

village mama said...

What an incredible post Natalie. xo VM

Jennifer said...

Home again. Home. Different, changed, but home. I'm glad you are safe and that you had that time to be there in Hawaii to mourn. Not that it ends, but the first part, the formal part, is important. Steady on, with plenty of time for unsteadiness and reflection. What about your own life will you choose to change as a result of this? Something always changes, and I believe in the healing power of being aware, taking over the choice about the change. Now on one day at a time....

Missy said...

Thinking of you all these last couple weeks and sending prayers up for you. I'm glad your were able to be with loved ones during such a sad time and made it home safe.


nikkipolani said...

I can see why you wanted so much to live there, Natalie.

Julie said...

Beautiful words, photos and memories. Welcome back and thank you for sharing it all with us.

Oiyi said...

Wonderful photos and words. You make me want to move to Hawaii. I have only been there once, but it was as a tourist, so I never got see the beuty that you have shown us.

Tracy said...

Such a special, beautiful post, words and photos. The photos speak a lot for themselve too. Thank you for sharing all these moments with us. It looks so wonderful there. I never thought much about going to Hawaii before. Originally from the East coast, Hawaii seemed so distant, exotic. I now have it on my to-see-someday list :o) So glad you are home but still soaking up memories from your trip. Love & ((HUGS)) to you all!

calamity kim said...

I love you

Tarie said...

I enjoyed reading your "photo therapy." Makes me want to visit Hawaii! Makes me love your family even more! My favorite picture is the one with Maria dressed up in a bikini and grass skirt and dancing. Beautiful. :)

I completely understand the metaphor of grief being like ocean waves... *hug*

Andylynne said...

So simple so sweet, you have a wonderful way with words. Glad your home safe and sound, with love and joy scattered amongst the grief.