Monday, August 28, 2006

A Hot Whisper is all it Takes

Last Thursday and Friday afternoons it rained big fat drops for all of thirty seconds. It was enough to accentuate the dust on the white plastic chairs on the lanai in a bold polka dot pattern, an anti-spot of white surrounded by rippling layers of dust in varying degrees of thickness. The two relatively spotless chairs were the one I sit in and the one Greyman has been crashed out on for the last week as his current nesting spot.

We get teased by rain more often in Kihei than actual rain itself. Most of our twelve annual inches comes in the winter with low pressure cold fronts. In the summer there can be mauka ( mountain ) showers that can get large enough to drop some water at lower elevations on the leeward side. This used to happen more often it seems but even in the past they were quick fat drops or sudden downpours that lasted less than two minutes.

Sometimes it only has to be the faintest whisper of a rain but that is the only thing it seems that will induce my Zephyranthes rosea to open themselves for reproduction. It must be a late summer or fall rain when the temperatures are hot. The more ample only slightly cooler winters rains don't cut it. A steady supply of fake irrigation rain does not fool them. It must fall from the sky. Maybe it is a hot wet gravity boosted slap that gets their juices flowing. Nature has some very interesting chemical messages still hidden away from us.

I found this dark pink little bulb blooming in a tall grass pasture that had to be crossed to hike through the Bamboo forest to Waimoku Falls at Haleakala National Park . Naturally on my way back from the hike I stopped to look for seeds and found one large but still green pod to pick. A decade later from that one pod of seeds I have produced thousands and thousands of bulbs.

Last week they received the hot whisper they needed and tomorrow morning I will be rewarded again by a striking but delicate display of ephemeral beauty.

Click the image for a larger view.


Monday morning bright and early we capture the small dark pink Rain Lily in its full flush of fresh bloom. Its larger cousin with a very pale blush of pink Zephyranthes grandiflora looks on. Not quite as temperamental and fussy, the Z. grandiflora will bloom on and off all season once it warms up. It doesn't seem as dependent on the hard slap of genuine rain drops to show off its magic.

My larger light pink Zephyr Lily began as seed from the house in Florida where I grew up. It too has been multiplied into the thousands of bulbs. It seeds itself in the garden with much more abandon than its smaller cousin.

There are some non-native plants I will not feel bad about letting loose in Hawaii. Perhaps one day like a hillside of golden Daffodils in the early spring up north, a hillside in Hawaii will erupt in a show of proud pink after a good hard rain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Member of the Board

Around the first week of December 2005 a main water line for the irrigation system sprung a leak in a previous repair site and there was a lovely artesian spring in the middle of someone’s driveway coming up through the concrete. I reported it to the property manager many times for repair. Over the course of several months the wet spot became a small creek and the owner tired of the pee stain on his drive requested I shut the system down.

The winter rains had ended and without water the island beds in the association began to die. Water on and water off to try and save the landscape, but the leak had become so bad the beds of pink and lavender Pentas all died.

I emptied the beds of the dried brown carcasses. When the leak was finally repaired in May of 2006 I was told to hold off on replanting the island beds. After a summer of meetings to discuss what to plant and it seems a replenishment of funds to the account depleted by warring factions, I got the go ahead and instructions to plant the second week of August 2006.

They liked the entry of another association and wanted something similar to that.

I was told to plant two rings around the trees. The outer ring was to be the striped grass like they have at that other place. The inner ring at the base of the tree was to be Impatiens. Sounds lovely, no problem.

I went and purchased a shorter variety of the Aztec Grass, Ophiopogon jaburan and several flats of pink and lavender Impatiens to replant the tree wells. The shorter Liriope I felt would be easier to rake the Royal Poinciana pods out of since their birth control experiment on the trees was not looking successful.

There are three identical beds in the association. When I was planting one of them an owner walked over to look and I could tell he did not look pleased. Oh Lord here we go I thought. He said nothing just grunted.

This morning El Presidente pulled up by me while I was working. I looked at him and said what have I done wrong now? He said it isn’t you, they are after me. So and so had a major screaming fit over the new plantings. It is unbelievable how irate these people get. I followed your directions correctly didn’t I? Yes you did.

So it seems there was a slight alteration when I was given the directions or there was a misunderstanding among the board members about what they agreed on. The basic concept for this planting is exactly what you see. There are two tiny variations that caused a major screaming fit according to the account I heard.

Are you board member material? Can you pick out what is wrong with this picture? Any and all thoughts are welcome. You may even disapprove of the planting concept itself.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


The cool almost cold shower felt especially good today. It hadn’t been any hotter than usual. In fact there had even been a bit of a breeze. A cool shower just felt better in this climate. Hot showers were a rarity on the few cold days in the winter.

The water pouring off of his body was twice as black as usual. It mixed with the dust and dirt and goo that attached itself to him during the day. A black puddle formed in the bottom of the tub before it drained away. The removal of this extra thick coating of filth must account for the bliss he was feeling.

As the dry summer wore on the layer of dust that covered all the tropical foliage kept getting thicker. The last garden he cleaned today was always filthy. The scale, aphids and all the other sucking bugs were out of control on a regular basis, the result of a routine pest control service. They added their own sticky wax and excrement to the plants that helped the dust cling to them even better. When he left this place his skin and hair was coated in sticky dust and bug excrement and the black mildew that grew in it.

Underneath the five extra pounds of a firmly established middle age was a strong taut body. The cool water rushing over his skin began to turn clear as the first layer of dirt was removed. His hands and forearms were constantly covered by small scratches and stab wounds injected by thorns. The dried flecks of blood from today’s injuries began to soften and wash away. As his skin aged and his eyesight got worse the number of tiny wounds increased. Things that used to bounce off of firm flesh now left their mark.

His right index finger started to sting when the soap began to penetrate the layer of dirt that hid a fresh scrape. He squeezed his finger with his left hand to ease the sting. In a way he was enjoying the cleansing sting and stopped his mind to examine the feeling.

Company was coming this weekend and this was the beginning of a long overdue beauty treatment. Everything needed to be attended to. Several rounds and procedures were needed to get this aching body looking refreshed.

He wanted the news he had to share to be seen in a positive light. Despite the turmoil in his mind he hoped to portray a calm appearance. This last month had been some what of a strain. His usual routine and predictable maintenance of lush tropical landscapes was being disturbed. As it kept getting hotter and more crowded in town and as the news of the world kept getting more ominous, his clients individual oddities seemed to become more pronounced. The determination to have every thing just so in their landscapes was becoming more intense. It was also possible that his tolerance for these long standing oddities was lessened from the same causes.

Carol had a particularly bad spell of her Munchausen by Proxy of plants. The lawn was finally beginning to turn green again and the shrubs were recovering and growing after her extended absence, when she flew in for a week to abuse the garden.

She refused to use the irrigation system and insisted on watering by hand with a jet spray nozzle. It seemed she felt the plants needed a deep water injection right at their base. When he told her she was damaging the roots it had no effect. She liked to weed this way as well and the lawn and beds where constantly filled with craters from a full force pinpoint spray nozzle. The weed seeds and dirt went flying and the wet lumpy ground made excellent germination conditions and the process fed itself nonstop.

The Pikake shrubs were half burned and leaves littered the ground. The impatiens were just green sticks, stumps of their former selves from just a week ago. Possibly a pest control service had done a treatment around the house or Carol had doused them in a strong potion of Miracle Grow. He didn’t ask. He didn’t want to know.

The dueling addicts were still at it and the cat lush with a feral colony seemed to be gaining the upper hand over the plant junkie with the birth of three new litters. Despite the loss of a kitten in the swimming pool and the large territory of the cats, they multiplied faster than the garden could cope. The whole place was a giant litter box with all the digging that entailed. Every tree and palm and most of the shrubs were covered in claw marks from climbing cats and kittens. Several new plants were added every week despite the carnage. The place always stayed lush. The plants were incredibly resilient, if tattered, but too many new purchases to count had just slowly faded away and been forgotten.

The lawn freak was having him apply fertilizer on a monthly basis to rid the lawn of some yellow bands of grass that he was unable to detect. Some other worldly color of hyper-green seemed to be the goal. What he was noticing was a shift in the dominant grass species away from the seeded and intended one to a wide bladed crab grass and an increasing number of weeds. The first suggestion that the half acre lawn needed to be hand weeded of the thorny sensitive plant was not a good sign. He could only hope this would be forgotten.

There was also the regular list of plants to spray for scale and aphids and the regular admonition that he was causing this problem by the routine non-discriminate use of preventative pesticides. That was met with the usual you wouldn’t believe the centipedes we have here, countered by the, I crawl around this place on my hands and knees rooting through things and have never been bitten and a centipede never killed anyone.

He came to with a big knot on his head lying halfway in the tub. The towel was tangled in his legs. It took a few moments to grasp the position he was in and try and make some sense of it. He must have fainted and fell backwards into the tub. With the breeze today he hadn’t felt so bad from the heat and didn’t drink a Gatorade for lunch. He must have been more dehydrated than he thought. He had felt dizzy before from the heat but had never fainted. Getting older sucks he thought because this never would have happened in the past nineteen years he had been doing garden maintenance. He would only have to last just a little bit longer, rubbed the knot on his head and got out of the tub.

The next morning he loaded the truck for work and topped it off with a few extra bags of rubbish from his own pile. The largest dumpster a garbage truck could lift was parked at his morning job. It was fortunate that he had one real gardener for a client who allowed him to keep his green waste dumpster at his house just a few blocks from his own. The lay of the land at his place made a truck pickup impossible. He filled this dumpster to the brim and overflowing on a weekly basis with the excess growth and natural shedding of jungle plants that never stopped growing over the course of the seasons and were crammed onto small suburban lots. He attempted to keep these landscapes under control with a non stop editing process that produced mountainous heaps of rubbish.

This garden was different. It had a wonderful park like setting because there was no separate cottage and tenants for income on the property and no swimming pool to take up space. It was a single family home with large open grounds. The owners lived here four months of the year and unlike most of his other clients, the Gardener’s joy was to actually work in his own yard. Each year he made improvements. When he left at the end of the season he asked him not to pull or cut certain things that had come up on their own because he was curious to see what they were and how they would grow. Compost was the only chemical he used and the garden thrived.

It was already muggy and he was sweating profusely as he walked the grounds gathering up anything on the lawn and doing some light trimming before he mowed. It was nice to have the dumpster so close at one place and not have to load the truck with piles of fronds to be driven away. He wondered if all his other clients had any concept of what dealing with all this refuse meant for him or if with “out of sight out of mind” they never gave it a thought. On the rare occasions when he was forced to leave a pile in front of their house because things were backed up, they were sure to let him know this was a major inconvenience for them.

He tossed some large fronds into the dumpster and the bin began to look full. He would need some more room in there for this afternoon’s job and if he was lucky would be able to top off the dumpster with more from his own pile at home before it was emptied in the morning. The filling of the container often left plenty of fluff so he climbed into the dumpster to pack it all down.

The moment he put his full weight on to the pile of rubbish, both his legs sank up to his hips in to a cavity hidden beneath the top layer. He steadied himself against the sides of the metal box to begin to extract his legs from the green waste when his body started to convulse. He thrashed uncontrollably and sank deeper into the grip of the tangled branches and fronds heaped into the dumpster. Exhausted his body slumped over and lay down.

Every once in a while the next door neighbor couldn’t resist the temptation of a green waste dumpster so close by. The Royal Palm fronds at twenty feet long were sometimes just too much to deal with. The leaf base in particular was an open cylindrical six foot long mat that was difficult to cut and dispose of. That evening knowing the garbage truck came in the morning, Karen snuck over and under the cover of the Bestill shrub that the taller back of the metal box was up against, she dropped two of the six foot long open cylinder leaf bases of the Royal Palm into the can.

The next morning the garbage truck arrived and emptied the dumpster.

Unfinished maybe? What do you think of this story?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Haleki'i Heiau

( Click on any image for a larger view )

I have lived here for nineteen years and never been to this place. Last week it called out to me. For several days it insisted that I needed to come and listen. I kept putting it off because I was too tired to drive to the other side of the island at the end of the day. I finally managed to get there on Sunday.

These are the remains of a Heiau or religious platform used by Hawaiians for their ritual practices. It is located on the top of an ancient very tall sand dune and has sweeping views of the entire island of Maui.

To the west in the valley between the sand dune ridges is Waiehu and the West Maui Mountains in the background.

To the east is Wailuku Industrial Park and Kahului Harbor. Haleakala rises in the distance. Its summit is hidden in clouds. At the base of this steep dune is a section of the Iao Stream that has not been cemented and channeled as it moves through town. It is bone dry since all the water has been tapped further up the mountain. The industrial buildings back right up to the edge of the dry river channel.

To the south is Iao Parkside Condominiums and the town of Wailuku.

Directly west as the dune ends is another place I have never seen or knew of. It seems to be a remnant of the old Maui, a farm along the sides of Iao stream and surrounded by the growing city on all sides.

Hawai`i `78
( Sung by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole "Braddah Iz" )

Ua mau ke ea o ka `âina i ka pono `o Hawai'i *
Ua mau ke ea o ka `âina i ka pono `o Hawai'i

If just for a day our king and queen
Would visit all these islands and saw everything
How would they feel about the changes of our land
Could you just imagine if they were around
And saw highways on their sacred grounds
How would they feel about this modern city life?

Tears would come from each other's eyes
As they would stop to realize
That our people are in great, great danger now
How would they feel?
Would their smiles be content, then cry

Cry for the gods, cry for the people
Cry for the land that was taken away
And then yet you'll find, Hawai'i.

Could you just imagine they came back
And saw traffic lights and railroad tracks
How would they feel about this modern city life
Tears would come from each other's eyes
As they would stop to realize
That our land is in great, great danger now.

All the fighting that the King has done
To conquer all these islands, now these condominiums
How would he feel if he saw Hawai'i nei?
How would he feel? Would his smile be content, then cry?

(E hana hou i ka hui)

Cry for the gods, cry for the people
Cry for the land that was taken away
And then yet you'll find, Hawai'i.

Ua mau ke ea o ka `âina i ka pono `o Hawai'i
Ua mau ke ea o ka `âina i ka pono `o Hawai'i.

* Being perpetuated (is) the sovereignty of the land to righteousness/ to balance, Hawai`i

On Thusday I learned that a friend of mine was missing. By Friday I learned that she had most likely committed suicide and that her body had been found on a rocky beach very near to this place. The days she was missing were the same days earlier in the week that this place had been calling out to me so loudly.

On a sand dune ridge so old it has largely turned to stone is a high point with sweeping views of the past, the present and the future. A monument still stands to remind of us of a people whose strength and glory have passed, leaving many still, who struggle to remain.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Monumental Tasks

In a Forest setting or the Tropical Jungle, even in my own garden from certain angles under proper lighting the scene can look down right gorgeous. I hear accolades all the time from folks who come down to the nursery and are bowled over by the jungle lushness laid out in front of them.

The surface that presents itself to the eye can be deceiving and I know that. Under all that lush green it is often hollow inside due to lack of sun. To the trained eye a lot of that lush green is out of control weeds. I am not fooled by the dramatic colorful floral displays and held captive by them. I can see between the plants. I know what I planted and what planted itself.

But when you look closer another surface may appear. Some where in the top right is a row of fragrant gladiolus. Maybe most folks are too kind to notice the giant patch of weeds when they are looking at the tabasco peppers.

So today I continued chasing amok. It has gotten a good running start in front of me. In the absence of regular help since last December things can begin to pile up. A lack of energy is also part of my dilemma. I wonder how I did this twenty years ago, work all day and come home to work in my garden until dark. Now I work during the day and come home.

There are far too many things that need to be done and I have discovered that to think about it is a major mistake. When I have the energy it is best just to get up and move. It doesn't matter what I do as long as I am moving.

Piles of a different sort begin to form. Some piles were made a long time ago at the ends of the day.

My lovely assistant for the day looked on from his bed of potted Society Garlic. I wonder why the strong garlic scent doesn't bother him.

When the garden and the nursery merge and become one I know amok has gone too far. It is hard to decipher what is planted and what's in a pot. The potted plants themselves merge and begin to get tall and thin. This is not best for sales purposes. Lord this stuff grows fast.

Hidden away in the nursery are plants that have been cleaned and separated, ready to be re-grown to look their best. I propagate very little until I find some more room and sun. The same is true in the garden. As I clean there are no new plantings. The strong and the dominant are allowed to take control. A long process of simplification has began.

Monumental tasks from earlier days may live on. It was a construction using the stones lifted from the ground when the garden was first put in. This new monumental task will most likely go unnoticed. It is a process of removal. Empty space and eventually much more lawn will be all that remains.

It seems I have been discovered by a new search engine wanna-be for shopping that has been placing about four spam comments a day. The last thing I need is another chore to attend to so I turned on the word verification.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Meme

Annie in Austin tagged me for a book meme and not wanting to be a cyber curmudgeon I decided to play along. I have seen mention of memes in blogs, but I am not one hundred percent sure of what they are. I have thought of them as a form of linking internet chain letters, with the link aspect being the important part since links are crucial to how the system works. So now I am going to look it up and find out what a meme is.

The short version of an incredibly long entry in Wikipedia is: The term "meme" coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, refers to a replicator of cultural information that one mind transmits (verbally or by demonstration) to another mind.

I need to do another search.

From a Google search using "meme + blog + definition" comes this from In the world of blogs and bloggers, a meme is an idea, question, statement or project that is posted in one blog and answered to in many other blogs. Memes are used to propagate ideas in the blogosphere. Some blogs or web sites post memes on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.

I guess the linking part isn't as important as I thought. It just happens.

Here goes.

1] One book that changed your life?

Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as The Big Book and one of its companion books Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

2] One book that you have read more than once?

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. It is a primer of sorts for living on a desert island.

3] One book you would want on a desert island?

I live on the desert side of an island and it seems the word stranded may be missing here. This is a hypothetical so I get to have a hypothetical book. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Basket Weaving and Macrame.

4] One book that made you laugh?

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. This book is set in New Orleans with a cast of southern eccentrics and there are some unfortunate similarities of personality between me and the main character.

I also have to add Visit to a Small Planet by Gore Vidal

5] One book that made you cry?

The Color Purple by Alice Walker back when Oprah was maybe just a millionaire and long before the movie.

6] One book you wish had been written?

I am not dead yet. It may still get written.

7] One book you wish had never been written?

This is not likely to be an original thought but it is still going to be controversial. The Bible and the Quran. I think this is particularly appropriate in light of current affairs in the world today. And so as not to appear anti-semitic and to get to the source of both of the above I will include the Talmud.

It does make a handy door stop in a windy environment and yes I stole this book from a motel drawer.

Being that it is a full moon, I will howl. I think the "Civilized" people of the world might do themselves a big favor and take a serious look at some of the spiritual beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples who had more earth centered beliefs and numerous gods and goddesses. The Hawaiian mythology before the missionaries was a long standing oral tradition, a meme, with common roots through out Polynesia.

Monotheism seems to be reaching an apex of sorts similar to Ultimate Fighting contests and is really a rather limited and limiting translation of the mysterious.

8] One book you are currently reading?

Not really reading anything currently. I have put down unfinished because life is so distracting, Grace from the Garden by Debra Landwehr Engle.

9] One book you have been meaning to read

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It keeps popping up in my life as something I should read.

10] Tag 5 people to do the meme.

I hate chain e-mails and those Forward FW [fw] (fw) (Fw) sugary sweet puppy dog kitty smiley cute stories that I have to send out to ten people in twenty minutes or I will die an agonizing death from the plague if I don't or receive a million dollars in the mail in ten days if I do. I delete them all and I feel fine. I am hesitant to tag anyone for a meme as well.

I seem to have as many lurkers on this blog as commenters so anyone who would like to do this book meme speak up and tell us where to look.

Raindrop Bubbles on a Swimming Pool Surface or Through the Eyes of an Alligator

The Meme

1] One book that changed your life?
2] One book that you have read more than once?
3] One book you would want on a desert island?
4] One book that made you laugh?
5] One book that made you cry?
6] One book you wish had been written?
7] One book you wish had never been written?
8] One book you are currently reading?
9] One book you have been meaning to read
10] Tag 5 people to do the meme.

Friday, August 04, 2006

When Things Line Up

Mean while back on Maui multiple forces were coming together to aid in the accomplishment of a major task that has been on my wish list for several years. I have long wanted to remove a hedge of my least favorite Heliconia. It is a tall and rangy solid orange upright bloomer with a medium tendency to spread.

To get rid of it you have to dig up all the rhizomes. This is pick and shovel work. The pile of rubbish that will result from this strenuous work will be mountainous and will need to be made to disappear. It is a task that is easy to put off for another day.

I neglected to take a before shot, but this hedge of H. bihai just down the fence line will give you an idea of what the job entails.

I was fortunate to have a lovely assistant for the week and hopefully for many weeks to come. A handsome, strong, hard working and very pleasant young man who originally hails from Tonga responded to an ad I placed for an assistant.

Together we removed the Heliconia hedge to reveal the neighbor's ohana unit. Ohana in Hawaiian means "Pays my Mortgage". A few stragglers that had escaped under the fence were all that was left between us. Sorry folks but this is the real Maui and Hawaii. Suburbia transcends location.

The long lost trade winds decided to blow in for the day and bring with them some cooler air and a few clouds to block the sun which had been cruel and relentless earlier in the week. The work of removing the Heliconia was going so well that I began to plant my new hedge while the removal process was still going on. The last of the Heliconia latispatha has been removed from the garden. Another patch was eliminated two years ago by a former lovely assistant, a handsome, strong, hard working and ultimate boyscout who originally hailed from Tahiti. It was replaced with better flowered tighter clumping varieties. I took this shot to remember it by. Conquered.

My new hedge is a combination of a shorter small leafed variety of Polyscias quilfoylei and a golden colored Polyscias fruticosa for accent. This should make for a dense low to no maintenance largely pest free hedge in the 8 to 10 foot tall range that someone may appreciate when I no longer tend this garden. In nine months the chain link fence should be gone from my view and the neighbors ohana unit will disappear once again.

The plants all came from cuttings I rooted. The main hedge plant, the Polyscias quilfoylei starts were collected from the waterless foliage table arrangements at a social function at the community center. I kindly offered to help cleanup the arrangements after the event. One bag rubbish, one bag go stay with me.

It is nice to have one of those days where everything comes together seamlessly and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is your reward at the end of the day. Or maybe having a lovely assistant to lighten the work load was what made me feel so tingly today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A River Runs Through It

The French Broad River runs right through the middle of no where. Rafting down the river starts out in a tiny little town were the river guides gather up the adventure seeking tourists. A new friend leaps into the waters that flow through the town.

A train rumbled by on the other side of the street from the few buildings that made up this town. It did not stop. It must have had some where to go.

A smaller stream which feeds into the French Broad also passes through town. This stone building was perched right up to the edge. It looks as if it has in the past and still could withstand a substantial rise in the water that moves at its base.

There were even stairs to no where in the middle of the other half block that made up this town.

Neither of us felt we were ready for our closeup after drying off and changing from the morning run down a scenic river. But here you have us, we look pretty good for River Rats though. We had Sliced Bread Sandwiches with Crusts for lunch. Some of you may be familiar with Bread. One couldn't ask for a nicer and more energetic guide for a stroll through no where.

Most may not even notice this tiny town. I did and it seems a few others have too. A trendy bistro and boutique hotel now offers food and lodging in no where.

Upstairs dining offers a view out onto the railroad tracks and the trains passing by.

A comforting scene and place to rest after a ride down the river if you care to stay a spell in no where.

I missed the Hot Springs the other main attraction in town. Perhaps on my next visit I'll rent a warm tub over looking the French Broad.