Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Boogeyman!

The first time I saw your glowing green eyes staring at me through the window I froze. I couldn’t breathe, my heart began to race, my stomach twisted and I could feel the blood drain from my face. A scream got stuck in my throat on it’s way up to my mouth. It seemed like I stood there for hours as you jerked me from the reality of a 53 year old grandmother back to that of a frightened 8 year old little girl…

Mom and Dad had gone out to the N.C.O. club that night to play bingo and left Helen, our 15 year old neighbor to babysit me, my sister and two brothers. I had always liked her when she had watched us before during the day, but this was the first night our parents had left us with her. The four of us ranging in age from eight down to five were a handful but Helen knew how to keep us entertained. I can still see her red hair bobbing as she played the newest rock and roll hit records and taught us how to do the latest dances. She wore us out and then had us racing to see who could get their pajamas on the fastest. “The winner gets an extra graham cracker with their milk.” she promised.

My sister won but only because she kept her clothes organized and was the first to find her PJ’s. After the rest of us greedily gobbled up our graham crackers, my sister took great delight in dipping her extra one in her milk slowly, savoring every bite. My brothers and I sat there staring at her, our eyes following every movement of that last cinnamon sprinkled graham cracker. Helen must’ve sensed the envy because she whisked my brothers and I off to the bathroom to wash our hands. Within seconds after we left, my sister joined us.

To complete our bedtime routine, my sister and I knelt down and said our prayers while Helen tucked the boys in, then I climbed into the top bunk and covered up. “Great!” she said when she came in “You girls are already in bed.” She turned off the light and said “Good night.”

“My mom always leaves the door open and the hall light on.” I anxiously informed her as she pulled the door like she was going to shut it. 

“You’re a big girl, you don’t need the light.” she said impatiently.

“But I’m scared of the dark!” I whined 

“Which are you more afraid of the dark or the boogeyman?” she asked, obviously annoyed with me. 

“Who’s the boogeyman?”

“He’s who’s gonna come get you if you don’t lay down and go to sleep!” She warned. “He’s got green glowing eyes and he’s right outside your window!” she yelled and shut the door. I instinctively looked out our second story window and I swear I saw two green glowing eyes staring back at me through the opening in the yellow gingham curtains! I yanked the covers over my head and trembled. I couldn’t bring myself to come out from under those covers. 

A few minutes later I heard the front door open and listened intently for my mom and dad’s voices before I even considered venturing out from under the safety of my covers. What I heard was a strange male voice followed by a loud “Shhh!” and barely audible steps down the hallway on our wooden floors. Had she let the boogeyman in?! The living room door closed and I heard no more. 

I lie there for what seemed like an eternity, too frightened to come out from under the thin yellow blanket that was my refuge. I couldn’t even conceive of calming down while believing that you, some green eyed monster was in my house and that you would come after me if I didn’t go to sleep. How could I possibly sleep? I got more and more frightened lying there imagining you coming in after me. 

Every noise I heard startled me, the wind howling, my sister moving around below my bunk. I wanted to call out to her but when I opened my mouth no sound came out. It wasn’t until I heard the front door open and my mom laughing followed by my dad warning her not to wake us, that I remember breathing again. Seconds later light streamed in from the hallway and I pulled the covers off my head when I smelled my mom’s White Shoulders perfume mingled with cigarette smoke.

“What are you doing still awake?” she asked me taking a drag of her Salem menthol. “Your sister is sound asleep.”

“I was scared and couldn’t sleep with the door closed.”

She blew the smoke towards the open door, kissed my forehead and reassured me that she’d leave the door open and the hall light on. “Thanks Mom.” I said relieved. She walked over to the window and pulled the curtains completely shut. It was as if she somehow instinctively knew what I needed. When I finally looked toward the window all I saw was the lit end of her cigarette glowing red in the darkness and the smile on her face in the light from the hallway. I smiled back and rested my weary head on my pillow. I took a deep breath in, welcomed the familiar smell of her and finally slept.

What I had no way of knowing then was that Helen had wanted the door closed because her boyfriend was coming over. I was already afraid of the dark. Helen throwing you, Mr. Green Eyed Boogeyman, the mythical embodiment of terror, into the mix so she could swap spit with her beau was thoughtless and bordered on cruel. 

Forty-five years, two grown children and one grandchild later I came around the corner toward the kitchen in my new place and saw your two green glowing eyes peering at me through a window again. The legacy of fright that Helen had left with me had awakened after lying dormant for over four decades. Standing there frozen with fear and no yellow satin edged blanket to pull over my head I just stared back.

My logical adult mind pushed aside my vivid childhood memories in an attempt to find an explanation. After all, I reassured myself, the boogeyman isn’t real and no person  has eyes that glow green in the the clock on the kitchen microwave.

It's amazing to me that at my height, in that one spot, at night, the double paned kitchen window reflects the green microwave clock lights in a way that makes them look exactly like the two green glowing eyes I saw almost a half century ago.  As the logic set in and my body attempted to recover from the fear, I rubbed my eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled and then laughed with relief.

I had imagined you often over the years lurking in the shadows, but I had never seen your eyes again until that night over a year ago.  I’ve made my peace with you now.  Every night when I venture from my bedroom I see those green glowing eyes and if not aloud then in my mind I bid you “Aloha.”  I know, I know…it’s the kitchen appliances. Tell that to the frightened little eight year old girl inside of me, and bring her a blanket. There were no appliances in her bedroom.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Was...What Is...

On the 6th day post hurricane Iselle, without electricity for seven days, living in an all electric house, I'm allowing myself to mourn the loss of what has been so that I'm able to find joy and peace in what is. 

What was once a faucet with water flowing in from the 8,000 gallon, rain water, catchment tank in our backyard has been replaced by 2 ½ gallon sun tea jar with a spigot, filled with spring water brought in five gallon buckets from seven miles away. 

What was once a freezer is now a still slightly smelly makeshift cooler filled with ice from daily runs to the convenience store (that may or may not be out of ice) three to six miles away (depending on road detours); or from Great Samaritans pulling up to the door yelling "Need ice?" (which they've frozen in their home freezers); or from runs to the unused during the week farmer's market where ice is the complimentary side to a free beef stew dinner from 4-6pm

What was once an electric stove is now an extra countertop space. What was once a charcoal starter now sits on the lanai between two, five gallon buckets topped with stepping stones and a grill grate with a broiler pan turned upside creating a rocket stove that lights quickly, burns big sticks instead of logs, has to be constantly fed to stay hot, smokes like crazy, cooks our food and heats water for coffee, bathing and washing dishes. Whew! 

What was once a plant watering can is now an awesome warm, albeit short, backyard shower when filled with boiling water from the rocket stove and cool water from the spring...we have no neighbors except the trees still standing. I imagine they delight in our joining their nakedness. 

What was once a warm, occasionally muggy house with ceiling fans running almost 24/7 is now a sauna unless I'm sitting right in front of the open french doors when a breeze decides to grace me with its presence.

What was once a brightly lit dining room in the evening is now candle lit so I can barely see my food and wonder where the flies are that I saw come in during the day through the open, unscreened french doors. 

What was once a brightly lit living room at night where lights were purposely dimmed for movie watching is now un-purposely dimmed with no movies to watch and where looking like a coal miner, I blind my honey with my five LED headlamp, when I look up from reading a book.

What was once a ritual of accessing the Internet anytime for any and everything from recipe Googling to Facebook posting to Netflix watching is now a twice a day walk to the road to check for vital emails on my cell phone (which only gets a spotty signal in my house) while I pray it doesn't run out of power...again. 

What was once a simple plug into the wall to power up my cell phone, laptop and iPad is now..."I must remember to plug my cell into the cigarette lighter/cell phone charger while I'm driving to get water or ice so that I can get a 26% charge to send 3 texts, 2 emails and make a phone call."

What was once a flick of the wrist to flush the toilet is now a gallon bucket dip & dump from the bathtub of water, filled before the storm, refilled two gallons at a time with water lugged in from the catchment tank on day three and refilled again today with five gallon buckets of catchment water siphoned out and hand trucked in by my honey. 

What was once a dishwasher is now a drying rack full of dishes that have been washed & rinsed in water lugged in from the catchment and boiled on the rocket stove.

What was once a 17 gallon bucket and a brand new, never seen the inside of a toilet plunger is now filled with siphoned, catchment water creating a hand powered outdoor washing machine.

What was once a long piece of braided rope is now a outdoor, clothes dryer stretched between two trees in the sunshine.

What was once an Internet addicted princess who was afraid to sleep with the windows open is now a humbled, grateful, wiser, woman.  After a long day of lugging water, chopping sticks, cooking over an open flame, plunging clothes and hanging them on the line to dry, she is exhausted and peacefully slumbers while the breeze wafting in through her open windows cools her perspiring body.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Silent Jump

Driving down what is known affectionately as, and literally was "The Red Road" on the southeastern side of the big island of Hawaii, I was, as always, struck with awe at the magnificence of its surroundings.  Originally formed from red cinder asphalt, it drew a brick red crayon line along the coast of the ocean it bordered. It rose and fell in undulations that seemed to mimic the waves that at some points almost kissed its charcoal shoulders.  

It was along those shoulders about a quarter mile ahead of me that my awe was interrupted by the all too familiar Puna hitchhiker's thumb begging for a ride. This particular thumb, the color of deep, dark, semi sweet chocolate was attached to a man with the bottom half of his face shadowed by his kinky, black, scruffy beard. As I passed him I took my foot off the gas while simultaneously accessing the facial recognition software in my brain. 

I've been really trusting my intuition lately and felt completely safe as I pulled over and stopped in the gray gravel. He had to run about thirty yards to catch up to my car and I watched in the rear view mirror as he approached.  He was the same man I had passed two days before with my girlfriend Riox in the car. "He's deaf." I remembered her mumbling. She was quite disappointed because the shoulder he was walking on was too narrow for us to pull over and pick him up.

I pressed the button on my armrest to unlock the passenger door and his tobacco stained, snaggletoothed smile lit up his entire face as he opened it. Before getting into the seat he put his calloused hands together as if in prayer, closed his bloodshot eyes and bowed his gratitude to me. I bowed my head in response then asked "Pahoa?" making certain he could see my mouth speaking the name of the nearest town. He shook his head yes and climbed in.

The moment he closed the door I smelled the alcohol. It oozed from his pores and explained the red lines crisscrossing the whites of his eyes. He lowered his window and I mine.  The breeze blew in and as if Mother Nature had turned on an air freshener the smell of day old vodka and gin blew out the window. 

He reached over his right shoulder and fastened his seatbelt as I put the car in gear. I smiled and signed "Thank you." He looked surprised, then pointed to himself and signed "Jump." He repeated the gestures until he saw the confused look on my face transform into one of understanding. His name was Jump! I smiled, pointed at him and signed "Jump." He clapped his hands together in delight then pointed to me. I hand spelled "Ima," put my hand over my heart, then gave him a thumbs up before pulling back onto the road. 

Like starting a conversation with someone who is a native Spanish speaker when you’ve only completed Spanish 101, I was worried because my sign language vocabulary was very limited. I knew I wouldn’t be expected to sign while driving so, I tried to relax. I would soon discover that the anxiety I was feeling had nothing to do with my sign language fluency.

A former hitchhiker myself, I've picked up many a hitchhiker here in Puna and yet didn't realize until that day that I have developed a hitchhiker protocol somewhere along the way. It usually begins with "So, where you headed?" and ends with aloha, mahalo or namaste. In between there's usually anything from light conversation about weather to deep discussions about spirituality and the intensity of the Big Island's energy. Jump was my first silent hitchhiker.

A lifelong chatter box, certified even, thanks to my first grade teacher's report card comment that I would not keep my mouth shut in class, being quiet has never been my forte. I've even been known to talk in my sleep. 

So then, how was I, a bonafide breeze shooter to converse with this silent traveler and why did I feel the need to?  Although Jump and I had connected briefly during our introductions, I realized that the rising anxiety I was feeling was because I believed that I needed continued conversation to confirm my intuition’s initial judgment that I was safe.

My heart is not a court of law needing testimony and character witnesses, to determine guilt or innocence, safety or danger. It simply needs space to love, trust and breathe...silent space. 

In the car that afternoon, in the space of our human silence I heard the world speaking. Birds chirped, wind blew, leaves rustled, tires rolled. In that vocal silence I heard my breath flowing in and out carrying the anxiety with it up and out of my body. Not the kind of anxiety warning of impending danger, the anxiety borne from my logical mind trying to make sense of my heart's truth. The truth that I was safe. 

Within that safety and tranquility time disappeared and that twenty minute ride felt like mere seconds. I was surprised to find us quickly approaching the single traffic light in Pahoa.

I pulled over and stopped the car just past the intersection. Jump, the conveyor of quietude with the bittersweet chocolate thumb, climbed out of the car, turned toward me and bowed once again with gratitude. I watched him turn and walk away and remembered the first line of the poem Desiderata. “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence."