Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hike into Haleakala Crater

(Click on any image for a larger view.)

Entering the crater from Sliding Sands Trail.

A row of the multi-colored cinder cones that rise from the crater floor.

Martian Memories or the Silversword, Argyroxiphium sandwicense.

Crossing the crater floor and headed to the other side. This is looking back from where we came once we reached the crater floor at the base of the crater wall.

The meadow above our crater cabin accommodations.

A friend waiting for us at the cabin. Nene the goose.

Part of the Posse.

Looking back on the lovely green valley before the ascent.

That would be me.

That's all for now folks.

Thursday, March 23, 2006




Yes, this is Roberto speaking.

Hi Roberto, this is Corrine Walters. I have a puddle by my front door.

Hi Mrs. Walters how are you? You have a puddle by your front door?

I’m fine but every morning when I go outside there is a big puddle right by the front gate.

It has been raining a lot in the last few days Mrs. Walters.

Yes I know it has been raining but I don’t think…could you hold on I have another call.

Ok…..Lord grumble grumble



I think the puddle is coming from one of the sprinklers. Could you please check it out and fix it. I have to sweep the water away every morning. There is a big puddle there by the gate at the front.

Did you turn the sprinklers off when it started raining?


Could you turn the sprinklers off and see if there is a puddle there in the morning?

I don’t know how to work the sprinklers. Oh I have another call……


Roberto I am going to take a picture of the puddle with my phone and e-mail it to you.

That isn’t necessary Mrs. Walters. How long has this puddle been there?

It’s been there every morning for over a week. I can see where it runs down the driveway. It must be one of the sprinklers. I need to have it fixed now. I have company in the morning. I won’t have time to sweep the puddle in the morning. Oh excuse me my Google search is coming up on the phone now……………………..So can you come over and fix it today?

Can I have you just shut off the irrigation system until I get there on Thursday?

I don’t know how any of that works. I don’t know what to do. Could you just come and see what’s wrong. I need it fixed by the morning. I have an important video conference call set up and people are coming here in the morning.

It is really very simple. I can tell you how to shut the ….

Hold on my DVD just finished copying, hold on just a second……….. I’m back Roberto.

I can tell you how to shut the irrigation system off. With all this rain it should have been shut off anyway.

But there is a puddle by my front door and I need that fixed.

If the water is from the sprinklers and we shut the system off there won’t be a puddle there in the morning.

But I don’t know how it works. Can’t you just come by and fix it. There is a puddle by the front door that I have to sweep every morning.

Are you sure I can’t just tell you how to shut it off?

It’s too complicated. I don’t know how that kind of stuff works. I wouldn’t be able to figure it out.

It’s really very simple.

Please Roberto. I really need it fixed now. I have to get my TiVo programmed today so I don’t miss my shows tomorrow.

All you have to do is turn a knob.

I wouldn’t know which knob to turn. Please Roberto can’t you just come fix it. There’s a puddle….

Fine! I will be over later this afternoon.

Oh thank you Roberto. Gotta go. My other phone is ringing. Bye.

X!@C^M&%K/” Mrs. Walters grumble grumble Aaarggghhh!

Roberto pulled his truck into the drive around 3:30 that afternoon. He was tired but it was still early enough that he figured he might as well turn the sprinklers on and see if there was a problem. Mrs. Walters came out the front gate as he was getting out of his truck.

Hi Roberto. The puddle is right here every morning. See this spot. See where it runs down the drive to this spot.

I will turn the sprinklers on and see what they are doing.

I have company in the morning and I don’t want a puddle here then.

I will check out the sprinklers.

It runs down the driveway. See this spot. That is not from rain. That is not a rain spot.

Let me show you how to shut the system off if there ever is a problem or when it rains.

Oh I won’t know how to do that. Oh I hear my oven timer. You’ll fix it for me won’t you Roberto?

Yes. Fine.

Roberto went back to the irrigation clock and turned on the three different stations that watered out along the drive. Two of the sprinkler heads were actually turned around and pointing in the wrong direction and were spraying out over the drive way. He wrapped his palm around those two heads and turned them back around to face the garden. There was a puddle by the front gate for the last week because the irrigation system was watering the driveway. That was easy to fix.

He went back to the clock and turned the big round knob to the position that said OFF. With all this rain the garden wouldn’t need any more water until he came back later in the week.

Mrs. Walters the sprinklers are all fixed.

That was fast. There was water running all down the drive and a puddle here every morning.

Yes some of the sprinkler heads were pointed in the wrong direction and were watering the driveway.

How did that happen?

I think it is because some people have trouble keeping their large cars on the driveway.

But you fixed it Rosario?

Yes Mrs. Walker I fixed it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The End of the Line

There is a fine line between lush and a big ol’ mess. I like to call one of my gardening habits sheet composting. Half the time that I am trimming or cleaning any plant I will cut the pieces into smaller parts and just leave them on the ground as a mulch or a hidden pile of rubbish. This works pretty well if you don’t have an obsession for cleanliness and have a fairly large garden. It cuts the rubbish hauling by half and most assuredly improves the soil. For the most part it will all disappear into the soil within a year.

My advantage in getting away with this is my warm tropical climate where decomposition happens 24/7, 365 and ¼ days a year. Stuff rots just as fast as it can grow. My disadvantage is that my annual rainfall on the leeward side of the island is only about 12 inches and if things don’t get wet they do not disappear. They may actually desiccate and petrify. You can find some interesting things in really dry places. This guy hung himself in a Kiawe forest in the middle of town and they didn’t find him for about two years. Think Peruvian mummies.

There is also a fine line between patience and laziness and the two can commingle to the point where you aren’t sure whether you have a virtue or a flaw.

About three years ago the house next door sold for $850,000 after being on the market for only three days. It was a rental unit for the first year and before the owners moved in they had a cottage built on the property. That construction was quick and painless. Once the owners arrived it was time to build a pool. When I saw who their pool contractor was I knew they were in for a long and drawn out process.

The work started and part of the irrigation system was cut which for some incompetent reason caused the entire system and thus the entire landscape to be shut down. Things dry up very quickly in a desert.

A good portion of the screening between me and this new cottage new pool was a hedge of Heliconia bihai, a beautiful upright red and green flowered tough and reliable tropical plant. This hedge is also under a massive Monkey Pod tree which gets a semi-annual limbing up that tends to mangle the Heliconia in the trimming process.

The neighbor’s irrigation system gets shut off. The Monkey Pod gets trimmed and the Heliconia get smushed. As usual after the tree trimming I went in a cleaned up the mess.

During the surveying for the sale of the house next door it was discovered that our upper fence and hedge had bowed out in a slight curve and was as much as four feet over the property line. The Heliconia hedge started the slow curve back in at the point farthest over the line. The construction for the pool next door and the loss of the water had removed most of landscaping barrier that had been on their side and all that was left between us and the dragging dusty construction zone in the center section of the property line was a mushed row of Heliconia.

This is where patience comes in. You expect that the pool will get finished, the landscaping redone and that they just might want to use all of their own property. I had cleaned the smashed heliconia knowing they always come back just fine from the rhizomes from which they grow. Beyond that I didn’t want to put out much effort until the new neighbors were done with their project. Lord save me these people are slower than my own landlords when it comes to getting anything done.

This is where laziness comes in. The Heliconia weren’t coming back and were beginning to slowly dry up. At first I thought they just weren’t getting their former gravity fed borrowed water from the irrigation system next door. Winter started and I expected the usual rains to give the Heliconia an assist to keep them going until the project was done. It hasn’t rained much in Kihei this winter. The Heliconia continued their decline. The whole row was pretty much over the property line. I didn’t feel like checking my own drip line.

It is almost spring now and the Heliconia are pretty much dried up carcasses. My patience for looking through the void at their now filled and busy pool surrounded by dust and dirt and rocks has come to an end.

This is where lushness comes in. If I get adequate water to the area anything I plant will grow very quickly. I finally turned on my drip line to inspect it and discovered two major leaks. No water at all was being delivered at the end of the line to the Heliconia hedge. Not bad though for a fifteen year old drip line.

This is where a big ol’ mess comes in. The dried remnants and my years of sheet composting of this once lush hedge, none of which had seen much water to aid in the decomposition process in the last year and a half had to be dealt with before I could find the drip line and even decide what to do to refill this void.

This Heliconia hedge ends at the uppermost highest elevation of my portion of the property and from this vantage point I can gaze down over my house and much of my garden. With the great void that looks into the endless construction zone to my right, a sweeping view to the left that takes in my garden and thousands of potted plants that make up my nursery and a giant pile of dried brown rubbish right down the center I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. What is this place I have created? I had put fifteen years of my life into a garden whose soil it grew in I did not own and here I was now contemplating how to fix a longstanding problem that neither actual owner of the adjoining properties seemed to notice or care about.

Is this where foolishness comes in? I got to work cleaning the dried remnants of the hedge and pulling the drip line from under the piles of rubbish. To my surprise there seemed to be one viable portion of the rhizome within each clump of the Heliconia that had once constituted the hedge. My thoughts of planting a row of various stock plants for propagation vanished. The job was already done. A water hogging tropical had clung to life in a sloped rocky desert soil that had been sheet composted for a bit more than a decade.

There are some rewards to laziness. With my sheet composting I avoided hauling massive amounts of rubbish to the dump and my soil gained enough vitality to sustain life for an extended period of drought.

There are some draw backs to patience. I could have checked the drip line nine months ago at the first signs of thirst and avoided the hole in the hedge all together.

The water is back on to the Heliconia hedge. Let the Lushness begin.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gardens in Time

The teenage years were a trying time for my family. The three oldest were just 15 months apart and all those hormones hit my Catholic parents like a ton of bricks. Vietnam briefly made 18 year olds legal adults. A strong work ethic and a lower middle class life had the first three hatchlings leaving the nest for their first solo flights at seventeen.

The chronology of that time gets foggy in my mind. I have been accused by my mom of having a faulty memory and my best friend of 30 years would concur. I prefer to see it as a different form of memory retention and markers. Don’t ask me to remember a particular day or a particular conversation. I remember a stretch of time, a place where I lived, the garden I had there.

The Student Ghetto was a section of town on the north side of the University of Florida campus. It was several streets of ramshackle wooden buildings, apartments made from old boarding houses for a different social ethos in the Universities younger days. This is the part that is foggy. Some how I ended up living very briefly in the ground floor of one of these decrepit old buildings and I don’t think I was in college at the time.

The place was sad, just barely white with long faded paint and was shaped like a big rectangular barn with stairs up one side wall to the second floor. The yard was a dirt parking lot strewn with bits of trash and edged with uncut grass and weed trees.

Florida gets real hot and swamp muggy in the summer and I was lucky that this downstairs back unit had some nice shady entry steps to sit on outside when it got too hot to be inside. To the left of the steps was this patch of neglected earth and it called out to me. So I cleaned up the trash, pulled up the weeds and planted myself a small flower bed. I planted the big leafed Elephant Ears and a few other things. Not much really, just enough to look at while I sat sweating in teen angst on the cool back porch.

A friend came by to visit one day and saw my little garden. Looking at the dump I lived in they couldn’t help but ask why I would go to the trouble of planting a garden in this horrible place that I would not be staying in long. Without thinking I just said “I want this place to be better when I leave”.

I have had many gardens in my life now. Each one unique and many not expected from a tenant. My mysterious generous behavior that most people did not understand was that I was not tending the house. I was tending the earth, making it better than how I found it and it was tending me back in return.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thin Places

A Lizard Laying Low

Michael was so very tired. The exhaustion registered in his lean muscled body in several vague ways. He knew however that it was not his body that was the problem. When he could motivate himself to just get started he could work for hours non-stop and not be any more or less tired than when he began.

This weariness had plagued him for too long. He had tried all sorts of solutions and distractions to alleviate the problem. Many worked temporarily but the tiredness always came back as soon as the normal routine of his life held sway. He could no longer avoid the fact that it came from deep within his soul. Michael’s spirit called out in anguish. It was time to make a decision.

He had no particular place in mind when he left the house. He just planned to drive and listen for which stream valley might call to him. This abandonment of his routine, which also meant abandoning his responsibilities, was an act of desperation. He was afraid that very soon he would say or do something he may regret. Nature which had always been his muse kept taunting him and it was time for a long chat between the two of them.

Michael came to rest under the branches of a massive Koa tree. The dappled light it created danced and played with the stream he had followed up the mountain. A grouping of large flat boulders was nestled near the trunk of the tree about ten feet from the edge of the stream. A small waterfall was just upstream. Michael sat down here when he was told to.

Did he need to explain what his dilemma was? The essence of this sheltered haven spoke directly to the problem. It was untouched by the hand of man yet it was perfect in every way. The ease with which he rested here and the quiet it brought to his mind was the lure that had drawn him into gardening and landscape design as a career. Plants talked in quiet humble voices that stretched over eons and his mind heard this better than the demands of human sound. He had wanted to spend his life creating and sharing that feeling with others, to show them the gift he had some how been given intuitively.

Time and other large forces had caused the opposite effect and the connection to nature that held much of Michael’s sanity was being stolen from him. He worked for people that had no time. Their gardens were no more alive than their living rooms. They needed to be scrubbed clean and sanitized and the plants were just objects that were allotted this amount of space, no more and no less. There was no time for things to grow. No seasons were allowed. Each piece of the display had to instantly fill the intended purpose. Nature and the garden had become another commodity and money was supposed to buy you exactly what you wanted on demand. The garden had become a display of status and position and no longer represented a person’s connection to the natural world.

Nature was not so easily convinced of these notions and the battle to bend nature to a consumer mentality tore at the fabric of Michael’s being. His spirit was running on empty and it cried out for help. Michael was just as trapped by his culture as his clients and he could not afford to just fire them all and tend to his own garden where the voice and the will of nature had a much stronger role to play.

He had reached that boiling point again and decided it was best to get in his truck and drive away before some lasting damage was done. He surveyed the natural garden where he had come to rest, trying to quiet his mind, to be able to hear or to feel what he must do. His eye moved smoothly over this scene. Nothing tugged at him to be the center of attention. There were dozens of variations of the colors green and brown and a hint of some yellow, but no blazing displays of color that were demanded and bought for the tropical landscapes he planted. Some neighborhoods had become so overwrought with color they had begun to take on a freakish appearance and you could expect Michael Jackson perhaps to live inside one of these Hollywood set designs that posed as homes. The color green was passé. Red was the new black for gardens.

Under the Koa tree all was quiet. The few flowers he could spot were subdued, only wanting to be noticed by the proper guest. Closer to the base of the tree in the deeper shade, between the large flat rocks where he sat and the tree trunk, the ground was carpeted by the fallen leaves of several plant species. Very little green showed in this carpet of many colors of brown. He looked at the different shapes and sizes of the fallen leaves that had banded together to protect the grey-brown soil.

Then Michael’s eye was drawn like a magnet to one very tiny spec of green in this sea of browns. He looked closer and saw the tiniest of seedling sprouts. He looked closer again and saw that a tiny seedling had sprouted on a small chunk of wood. He reached for the little piece of wood, picked it up gently and placed it in the palm of his hand.

Staring at the miniature scene he held in his hand he was transported back in time and back to his own garden a decade ago. He had held this same piece of bark with its inhabitant once before. After a long day of work he went to sit in the bench under the avocado tree where he could relax and watch the garden and watch the sun set in the western sky. A tiny piece of bark in the mulched bed with a little sprouted seedling called out to him on that day too.

He had picked it up to look closely at this world in miniature. With a reverence he peered inside this hidden world and saw that not only was there a tiny seedling growing from the wood chip but an even tinier beetle with a high round back was crawling across the surface. It felt like he was holding the entire planet in the palm of his hand. He felt tiny and large at the same time and contemplated his own place in the scheme of things.

Now here it was again a decade later this same tiny sprout on a piece of wood cupped in his hand. When the tiny beetle with the high round back crawled into view from under the chunk of bark a shiver ran through his body. The portal of time opened again and Michael looked into the future. The seedling had become a vigorous young Ohia tree but it was growing fifty feet further up the stream from where he was now gazing through this thin place in the fabric of the universe.

The little seedling was telling him that it needed more sun to grow and would like to be moved from underneath the great Koa tree. Again Michael did as he was told and hiked up the stream and found a more open spot away from the bank of the stream. He scooped out a shallow depression and placed the wood chip with its burgeoning life gently into contact with the soil. He remembered the last time he held this miniature world in his hand when the moment had passed and it was just a piece of wood again. He had thought to just fling it into the garden and be done with it but instead out of respect he placed it back where he had found it, unable to act as if that contact had not been made or that it meant nothing.

Michael returned to the shade of the Koa tree and the boulders beneath but did not stop to stay. He had heard what he came for. It was also time for him to move from the shadows of all the trees he had planted in the past and find some new light to grow in. The path he was on was taking him in that direction. He had already reduced the gardens he tended for others by half and he should continue with that plan. He too needed to give time its due in the course of this process of growth, but it was also important that he keep striving to reach some new light.

Dedicated to Wellspring