Moonlight Princess

Moonlight makes me happy.  I noticed it a long time ago.  When I was still a girl living in Clackamas with my father, I asked him once if the plants in his garden needed moonlight to grow.  Being a man of a practical turn of mind, he said, “Yes, I think they probably get a little bit of growth from moonlight.”

But that’s not really what I was asking. 

I think there are elements to things that we can’t explain.  They are magical, mystical and wonderful.  Moonlight shining on the ocean and backlighting the clouds is glorious. Feeling your baby move in your womb for the very first time is spectacular; holding said baby on its day of birth is even more amazing.  Some things are beyond our puny comprehension and defy description.

Let me create an old Hawaiian legend. Many hundreds of years ago, there was a princess.  She lived alone in the moon’s rays and could only appear once every hundred years, on a soft summer night when the moonlight touched the sea. She would softly tread the moonlit path, come out of the sea and onto land, granting one wish to the first human she would see. Her black hair hung straight to her waist. She was clothed in a shimmering gown of light.  Her dark eyes were mischievous but kind and her beauty radiated from within.

One night, a young man stood on a cliff above Kapalua.  He was miserable.  This boy, Kimo, loved a girl who had died recently of a wasting disease.  Heartbroken, he watched the moon on the sea, his desire to live waning. He contemplated a last final plunge into the murky blue. The waves pounded below, keeping time with his heart.

Moonlight Princess touched down on the sea, hair blowing in the warm breeze.  She stepped lightly on the waves. Her eyes lit the night, glowing like two dark stars in her luminous face.

Kimo saw her.  He’d heard the legends as a child before but had put them away as he grew older.  Moonlight Princess?  Couldn’t be.  His eyes were playing tricks on him as he grieved.

But she got closer.  She stepped out of the water and suddenly appeared before him.

“Mortal,” she said kindly, “I am the Moonlight Princess. What is your name?”

“K-k-kimo”, he stuttered.  What was happening here?

“Kimo, why do you cry? What makes you so sad?”

Faced with such a sympathetic though otherworldly ear, Kimo poured out his troubles.  Moonlight Princess had compassion on the poor boy.  Never known love, she’d seen it in the humans before.  She would like – no, love – to experience it for herself.  It seemed to bring out the best in people.  They sought to please someone else rather than themselves.

Kimo finished up by saying, “She died last week.  She was my sun.  I orbited around her. I don’t know how I can live without her. My parents died long ago and I was an only child.”

Moonlight Princess paused. She did not have the power to bring anyone back from the dead. But she had an idea.

“Kimo, if you come with me, you will never be sad again.  I can show you a world you’ve never dreamt of.  I know this world no longer has any hold on you. We can be free there together.  In time, perhaps you will grow to love me as you loved your girl. And you would live forever.”

Now Kimo paused.  Could he really live forever – in the moon?  It seemed preposterous, yet here he was, talking to a legendary creature.

“If it is as you say”, he cautiously began, “can you prove to me that you are real?  I want to believe you and go to a place with no more sadness, but I can’t help thinking my mind made you up!”

Moonlight Princess thought for a moment.

“I can prove it.”  She touched the ground with her right hand.  “Now watch.”

Up sprung a trailing vine with a white bud.  The bud opened.  An ethereal white flower unfolded. 

“This”, she stated, “is a moonflower.  It lies dormant during the day and unfurls at night to catch the rays of the moon.  Touch it.  It is my proof to you of my existence.”

Kimo gently caressed the petals.  They were warm and soft, like skin.  They reflected the moon’s light.  The plant was alive.

Suddenly overcome, he said, “I believe!  Take me with you, beautiful princess.”

So she did.  And every one hundred years, they walk arm in arm down the path of light beamed down onto the ocean. They still grant one wish to a lucky mortal every century.  They had one child together whom they named – what else? – Moonflower. The moonflower plant still grows there above Kapaula, a testament to the power of love and believing in dreams.

I just made that legend up, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?

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Eye On the Sparrow

It seems like just yesterday Jonathon and I were getting to know each other.  We were hanging out and goofing off, free of (most) obligations and hassles of adulthood. Now, we’ve been married twenty years.  We’ve grown and changed and taken on the trappings of being grownups. The years have been good overall, and I’m happy with who we are and how we’ve learned to care for each other and those we come in contact with.  However, we are no longer carefree. We are – gulp – adults, with a mortgage, bills and children to consider.

Unlike the birds here in Maui.  There’s a particularly cheeky bird I’m really enjoying.  He’s got the coloring of a sparrow but with more detail.  He’s a mynah bird, black head, white circles on the outer wings, orange outline around his eyes.  I looked him up this morning.  Lest you think I’m some kind of birder, a.k.a. “The Big Year”, think again.  The bird life has been difficult to ignore here.  The birds just come up to you if you’re sitting outside.  They try to eat your crumbs and if you’re not watching, they’ll eat your food for you! One took a bite of my banana bread yesterday when I wasn’t looking.  Goober!

They seem to have found a perfect balance.  Since I have very few obligations on this trip other than sightseeing and shopping for needs that pop up, I find myself watching them.  They flit around looking for food.  They gather twigs and leaves for nests.  They bask in the sunshine and ride Kihei’s incredible winds.  They don’t worry about anything.

This morning while out running, I caught the sunrise.  Majestic Haleakala was the backdrop for the sun’s early morning appearance, the volcano wreathed in coral-colored clouds.  A flock of birds rode the updraft of warm air in the foreground.  Later on my journey, I passed groups of chickens and chicks, foraging right on the main road.  A couple of roosters strutted around proudly. 

Later, driving to pick up some supplies, I caught a glimpse of cattle egrets.  They’re similar to our egrets  in the Northwest – skinnier and smaller yet still white.  I’ve even seen a couple of cardinals. 

All these birds remind me of Jesus talking to the disciples.  In Luke 12:6-7, He says, “What is the price of five sparrows – two copper coins?  Yet God does not forget a single one of them…So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows”.   Here, in this land of tropical beauty, I can see that fully.  Kihei is a resort and community carved out of a desert wasteland.  It’s become a place for birds to flock, as well as tourists.  The flowering trees around my hotel room host a variety of birds and their offspring. I’ve seen almost none of the birds I recognize, save a couple of ducks floating on a freshwater canal and the aforementioned chickens.  Here, I can see God’s care for even the feathered ones.  I am inspired to cast off a little care during this vacation, to embrace some freedom and soar with joy. And I’m reminded of Jesus’ care for me.

Combo Platter

Eat up!

Today’s post is a bit of a combo platter. A little of yesterday, and a little of today. Enjoy!

Today, I am in Maui.  I can see the ocean from my lanai.  I am watching the trees and bushes bend in the wind.  It’s churning up some whitecaps. The birds flit around actively, collecting leaves and twigs for their nests.  I recognize none of them.  They are as unfamiliar to me as poi, as are their cries and calls.

We are here to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  We got in very late and I am still pretty tired.  The sunshine and gorgeous scenery are reviving me, as is just being with Jonathon.

We are staying in Kihei, which appears to be a desert-type climate here in Hawaii.  But the desert here is right next to the ocean and it’s incredibily humid out.  So…not my idea of a desert. 

But I love it.  Everything feels alive.  The smells of the earth and flowers and sky are all different.  The people are very friendly.  Out on my 3-mile run this morning, almost everyone greeted me like they knew me.  Not used to running in humidity and apparently wearing entirely too many articles of clothing for this pea-soup air climate, I was sweating before I ever left the parking lot of the hotel.  But the ocean.  Ah. How can the same Washington Pacific Ocean, so cold, forbidding and merciless be the same ocean here in Hawaii?  It’s blue and serene and accessible.  People are out surfing, sailing, rowing longboats, you name it.  With the currents in Washington and Oregon and the much colder water temperatures, you’re taking your life in your hands doing any of that.

And yesterday, we were in Portland.  We took Ruby down to do an art camp at my mom’s church for the week.  Zac will stay in Shelton with family and friends.  I went out to do 5 miles of hills in Mom’s neighborhood.  I did hills until I hit the Glendoveer golf course, a lovely spot of green right in the heart of NE Portland. 

There’s a 2.5 mile track that runs around the golf course, a saw-dusted doozy of a trail weaving through old  cedars and pines.  It’s well-used by locals for running and walking.

I set out at about 5:30 a.m.  It’s light so early in the Northwest during summer, I thought I should knock out my workout while I had the time and nobody needed me for anything.  I hit the trail about 5:45.  I thought I would do part of it and then head back down to Mom’s. Well…

I got into a groove on the trail.  It wasn’t particularly hilly, but it was scenic and I didn’t have to worry about traffic.  I encountered an old black man with his walking stick and a couple of other old guys.  I came upon a set of chin-up bars.  Really?  Like I’m going to suddenly have an urge to chin myself.  Anyway, I kept running and then I hit the driving range.  Now what?  The trail disappeared.

I stopped.  I could follow the driving range fence.  It was saw-dusted there, too, albeit in a much wider path.  I looked to my left.  It was paved.  Maybe if I got on that path, it would take me back to the fenceline and I could follow it down to the exit.

I took off.  The asphalt felt better on my feet – less chance of rolling my ankle – but harder on my knees.  I saw plastic bags and places to deposit dog poop and informative signs about it all.  The trail looped around.  And then it just ended.  What now?

I saw another paved path.  That looked promising.  I followed it ofr awhile.  Then it ended.  I stopped again.  And now?  I found an unpaved path that led to a paved path.  Each path started out looking good and then ended without warning or explanation.  Nothing was marked.  I started to figure out the paved paths were for golf carts to run on, and sometimes an extra length was added as a turn-around. This is what I get for not being a golfer.  None of the holes were marked, either.

It got me to thinking about our paths in life.  We may think we know the way.  I sure did!  We run off, cocky and self-assured, along an easy trail.  Then our guidance system fails us – or completely disappears.  We try to figure it out on our own and end up getting more and more lost, like I did.  I did remember where the fenceline should be and I kept taking paths that should’ve led me back there…but didn’t. 

Finally, I’d had enough.  It was getting late.  I took off across the perfectly manicured grass (fun to run on, by the way – springy!) and over the rise to the fence.  I felt bad about running on the grass that I knew was so carefully cultivated so little divoted balls could sail across it sans friction, but I couldn’t see any other way out.  I went back to the plumb line, the level with the bubble in it.  I counted the cost.

And that’s what we have to do when we’re in the wilderness and we’ve lost our way.  Go back to God.  Go back to the user manual, the Bible.  Remember He will do you good and not evil all the days of your life.  He will bring you through and help you find your way home again. It’s never too late.

Roller Skating

We went roller skating to celebrate my niece’s 6th birthday the other day.  We drove out to Olympia on a beautiful sunny day to go into a run down, 1970s-era building with rotting ceiling tiles and beat up carpet. The air smelled dank and sometimes sweaty, the stench of a thousand kids trapped in the walls.

It was fabulous. I grew up in the 1970s, ya know? 

Roller skating was big.  Oaks Park, an amusement park and roller skating  rink down on the Willamette, had been the premier spot. When I hit the scene, it was on its way out due to its fogeyish organ music.  But us kids still enjoyed skating there.  I felt free.  I didn’t feel self-conscious or shy or weird. Whizzing around the rink, getting out of the way of people skating backwards and “show skaters” made the experience more colorful. And of course, whenever they announced “couple skate”, rolling to the carpet. At the end of our 2-hour session, we would do the hokey pokey as a group, trying desperately to stay balanced on our eight teeny wheels. 

I remember learning to rollerskate in my old neighborhood in NE Portland. I could walk to my gradeschool. On the weekends, I could skate there. The school and the park took up a whole city block. The playground had a lot of paved paths as well as a large covered basketball court. In fact, about half the playground was asphalt. We even had monkey bars over the asphalt. But I digress.

I got my first pair of roller skates for my 9th birthday.  They were bright white with sparkly red translucent wheels.  I loved them.My then-stepmom took lots of pictures of me trying them out with my friends holding me up, tooling down our bumpy blacktopped street.  And no, this is not where my love affair with red started, though I’m sure it stoked the fire.

I think my first skates were hand-me-downs from my cousins.  They were great and I got around on them with joy.  Nothing fancy, just pure speed.  I tried to learn to skate backwards but that skill still eludes me.

Fast forward to sixth grade.  Living out in Clackamas, there was Skateworld in Gresham.  But Clackamas and Gresham are very far apart when you’re 11 and don’t drive.  Enter…South Skate.  An old oak furniture company next to K-mart went out of business and a skating rink moved in.  Huzzah!  They didn’t play tired, sappy songs on the organ.  They played Top 40 hits! 

Whenever I hear “Freeze Frame”, I remember our 6th grade field trip to the new skating rink.  The kids at Sunnyside were a lot nicer than the kids at my old school.  Or maybe it was all the square dancing we had to do that loosened everyone up.  I even got to couple skate once.  Woo hoo!  South Skate wasn’t around for long.  It went out of business as it caught the tail end of the roller skating trend, briefly boosted by Olivia Newton-John’s role in “Xanadu”.  I can’t go roller skating at all without thinking of ELO songs, either.

All of these memories and good times flashed through my mind as I reacquainted myself with the thrum of wheels on the elliptical rink.  My skates this time were old brown leather.  Nothing pretty to recommend them.  And they wobbled.  But I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I cruised around the room. Tell me I’m not alone.

Language Lessons

I don’t speak any Spanish.  Those of you who know me can verify this.  I can say hello, goodbye, my name is and thank you and please.  That’s it.  And only if they pop to mind when speaking to a Spanish speaker.  Otherwise, fuggedaboutit.  I have no confidence in speaking the language and the last thing I want to do is insult anyone by speaking their langauge poorly.

I took 4 years of French in high school.  My counselor, Mr. Crimmins, strongly advised against it.  He shook his white head disapprovingly at me. He said Spanish would be more useful to me in the future.  Bah!  It held none of the romance of the French langauge.  Useful?  Who wants useful?  I’m 14 years old.  I want glamorous and mysterious. I held my ground and learned to read, speak and write in French. 

I just dropped Ruby off for a playdate with one of her friends.  D.’s mom speaks no English. 

I want useful.  Pronto. Mr. Crimmins, forgive my stupidity.

It only makes sense.  Ruby’s in a dual language school.  One day is English and one day is Spanish, with Fridays split between the two languages.  At least half of her class are native Spanish speakers.  They speak Spanish to each other most of the time and English to us Anglos.  Ruby’s best friends have been boys, and a good portion of those are of Hispanic origin.

Mercifully, Ruby’s teaching me.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she is.  She’s got all her  notebooks from her Spanish classes for the entire year.  She’s going through them with me.  I am interested.  She sings the songs and reads the poems, her accent flawless.  Does she understand it all?  No.  I told her for next year she’s going to need to pay a little better attention to comprehension.  It’s great to speak it, but if you don’t know what you’re saying, what’s the point? And how can your mama learn if you don’t know what el foca means?!

Something else I’ve noticed while living here in Shelton is that despite having a high Latino population, the races don’t  mix much.  I can’t recall ever seeing mixed-race outings to lunch or even park visits. When we attended the benefit dinner for G., I spied no Latino families at all.  The five-plex next to us is all Latino families. There are none in the next neighborhood but D.’s family. And perhaps language is part of the barrier.  The families next to us work 6 days a week, leaving at 5 a.m.ish every day to do work somewhere.  So time is probably an issue as well.  They are quiet families, unlike the rowdy partiers who used to live next to us, with drunken fights and drum circles at all hours of the day and night. We had the police on speed dial.  You’d never even know these neighbors had kids, except they play outside sometimes. 

I would like to cross this divide and learn something new.  I’m hoping that we can meet some other families and continue to get to be more a part of this community.  School is a great place to meet new friends. You can argue that they’re here in America now; they need to assimilate.  I agree.  But perhaps they feel, like so many other people groups who arrived here before them, that their language is inextricably linked to their culture and way of life.  And who wants to lose that? Maybe they can teach us a thing or two along with their language. Guess school isn’t out after all.

Respecting Your Juniors

Today is the first day of summer.  And it’s sunny.  What are the odds? Not really good up here, but I’ll take it.  It’s in the low 70s.  There’s a light breeze.  Roses bloom. The birds and butterflies are out en masse.  It’s beautiful, inspiring and wonderful.

Today, I can drink a homemade iced mocha outside without freezing.  Today, I can fill tiny water balloons for Zac and not screech if one happens to pop in my face – which they have a habit of doing.  I can drive with the windows down and the heat off.  The heat off, you dig it? I can wear shorts (provided I’ve shaved) and bear arms.  I can walk places without getting wet or freezing.  Ahh…

Serendipitously, today was the kids’ last day of school.  They attended for 1.5 hours.  I saw Ruby’s last half hour of kindergarten.  They gathered on the covered basketball court and took turns beating the heck out of a multi-colored metallic star-shaped pinata. 

It seemed symbolic, somehow, of their future.  Not that they are thugs-in-waiting or anything.

They stood waiting their turns at the pinata, holding hands in a semi-circle, boys and girls, girls with girls, and boys with boys.  This is still the age where boys can hold hands with each other and no one questions their sexuality or their manliness.  They whacked and smacked, each only alloted one swing.  We only get one time around in this life.

Other kids, bigger kids and kids from other kindergarten classes also at recess, stood behind the smaller kids and watched the drama unfold.  Some of the kids’ hits were weak and didn’t do much damage.  Nothing spewed from the dilapidated heavenly body. Nothing to lose, so hit hard.  Don’t hold back or be afraid.

Some of the kids had natural ability.  Their smacks were productive and deadly.  Ruby, possibly due to having a big brother, hit with considerably force. Some had obviously played t-ball for at least a season.  Their hits counted.  If you only get one hit, make it count. Size doesn’t matter.

 They patiently waited for all the candy and trinkets to fall out. They cheered each other on as they whacked at the shiny star of goodness. They gathered the candy into little plastic bags, some more and some less.  The ones who got more shared with those who had less or planned to share with other siblings later on. Sharing is good.  Caring is even better.  Nobody felt left out, shortchanged or forgotten.

They filed back into the classroom for the last goodbye song, sitting on their specific colored shape on the carpet.  Coats and backpacks on, they were now almost first graders, ready to leave the classroom behind and venture out into the sunshiny world and grow up a little more. Get the best education you can for as long as you can.  Trust the process.  You can be anything you want to be if you believe.

Perhaps the guy who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was right after all.

The Scattering

I’m generally not a hugely sentimental person.  I throw things out.  I abhor clutter. I don’t like trying to find places for everything and so out it goes.

But right now, with the school year ending, and our anniversary trip and full-blown summer looming on the horizon…I’m struggling. I am feeling nostalgic.  Please bear with me.

Ruby’s kindergarten teacher, the English one, was so stellar.  I almost want Ruby to repeat kindergarten.  She had such a good time. Ruby now reads at a first-grade level now (if not higher) with understanding, writes and illustrates her own stories, and continually comes up with fresh art items.  I don’t know anything about the first grade teachers.  I knew this teacher, also a Christian, would do her prayerful best with each kid. It’s been a pleasure helping out in her class from time to time.

I  didn’t help out at Zac’s school this year, at his request, so I don’t know anything about his teachers.  They seem concerned enough about Zac’s academic application.  However, Zac  is chomping at the bit to get out and finish already. Nothing mushy here.  He’s going to stay with his grandparents for the first part of our Hawaii jaunt, then a good friend and his family for the last part.  He’s very excited.

And then, every summer, there’s the scattering.  Each year, it seems, Zac gets close to a couple of boys.  And each year, without fail, they either drop him or move away.  Nick.  Noah. Chase.  Jimmy.  It’s been painful for him. He made some good friends in 5th grade.  Then…they grew apart.  One took a ton of lessons – trumpet, catechism, piano and on and on.  The other become a huge soccer star.  Zac is…neither of these.  If they had a Varsity X-box group for Minecraft, he’d be in it.  In fact, he’d be the team captain. He has yet another friend, a good kid, whose mom wants to take her primary custody of him with her to San Diego.  While I love San Diego (Sea World!), I don’t want him to move away. He’s a good student and polite.  He has a little sister Ruby’s age as well, so he appreciates the dynamic. He’s one of the few boys that “get” Zac and aren’t frightened off by his intelligence or intensity.

And Ruby is not immune to this phenomenon, either.  One of her best kindergarten homies will probably attend a different school next year.  He seems to have trouble “conforming”, though a bright, happy, creative kid. SHe doesn’t know it yet, and I dread telling her.  She also doesn’t know that the cadre of kids she went through with this school year will probably not all be in her first grade class. She might not get to sit next to her very special friend Alex (Alejandro to you white folks) or get picked on by Misael.  Even her bestest bud, James, could be in with another group of kids. 

I had hoped to avoid this sort of thing when we moved to a small town, but Americans move around. I read somewhere that most people move every 4-5 years.  Heck, we’ve done that.  This is the longest we’ve lived anywhere, ever, as a married couple or a family.  This September, it’ll be 6 years in Shelton.  Gulp.

There have been a few constants, though, and I greatly appreciate those.  Zac’s original best friend from 2nd grade is still here, though their friendship has cooled considerably over the years.  Ruby’s got her girl cousins here who moved from Oregon 2 years ago.  She also has girlfriends from church, and Zac made a new friend with similar video game interests and a similar sense of humor at church as well. 

I don’t like this, and yet it appears to be part of the journey. Summer changes things.  The time apart can wear at a relationship. Change is a-coming. Will we be ready?

Yes. God is our anchor, our constant in a sea of upheaval and shifting sand. His love remains. I know He will be there in the time of transition. I would do anything to spare my kids this pain. Alas, it’s not possible.  It is part of living and loving. The kindness and friendship we sow will benefit people for the rest of their lives, returning to us over the years.  As my dad says, “Nothing is ever wasted.” Maybe this “scattering” is a good thing. Maybe we need to think of our lives, invested in others for an unknown length of time, as seed.  May it bring a great harvest of love.