Kitten, take two

I had been thinking for a few months that my kitty, Makana, was ready for a new feline pal. We were both traumatized when her sister was killed by the neighbor’s dog last July, and more than one animal whisperer told me shortly thereafter that Makana didn’t want another cat friend, at least not yet. That was about 10 months ago and while Makana is very independent, she is young (a year and a half) and still likes to play. Playing with me is not nearly as fun as when she and her sister, Hehoa played, although she likes when we stalk each other inside the house.

To make a long story short, a friend came to visit from the mainland last weekend and when I happened to mention I was thinking about getting a kitten friend for Makana, the next thing I knew, we were at the Humane Society! I didn’t really have any idea if Makana wanted another cat in the house and wondered how much I was projecting her desires based on my own likes and dislikes. I looked at the kittens with trepidation, knowing this could backfire if Makana did not want a feline companion. There were plenty to choose from, including several with my favorite black and white coloring, but those kittens weren’t as personable as the black one with green eyes that came and sat on my lap and started purring (black was not even one of my preferred cat colors!). Still being unsure about this idea, I signed the papers and brought him home with me. He is a 2 month old male and I named him Kūlia, which means stand tall, lucky and distinct beauty (and the last pane in I Ku Mau Mau) . The Kū part of his name is for male energy, and I like the kauna of a black cat whose name also means ‘lucky’.

Kitten, take two_2So far they’re still checking each other out from a distance although with each passing day, that distance gets smaller. The advice I read online about introducing a kitten to a home that already has a cat seemed a little over the top as far as isolating the kitten for several days, etc. I’m dreading going through kittenhood again with all the climbing on table tops, knocking things over, worrying about him getting stuck in something. I already accidentally shut him in the fridge when I didn’t see him climb in before I shut the door! And soon enough he will want to go outside, but that’s definitely not going to happen until he and Makana are friends, and hopefully he will figure out to stay out of the yard with the dog. In the meantime, the Hawaiian Humane Society is great place and I hope all the kitty cats there, old and young, find homes.


Local vs Organic/Happy Earth Day!

There was an article in the newspaper this morning about a crop of Thai basil growing on an ‘Ewa farm that had to be destroyed because a pesticide not approved for the basil was found on it.

It reminded me of the dilemma I have every time I shop at a farmers market or even Whole Foods – should I go with the organic produce grown in California (or China) or the more recently harvested and not organically grown local greenery.

Ideally I would grow most of what I eat, fresh produce-wise, and I’ve actually made inroads towards that end. How totally cool is it to eat food I grew in my yard – apple bananas, coconuts, mangos (piries!), basil, arugula, swiss chard, various kinds of kale, tomatoes, hawaiian chili peppers and soon, with any luck, papayas! I am fortunate to have a yard in which to grow these things, not to mention a yard in Hawai’i, although other than the trees, I grow everything else in flower pots – chemical free, of course.

A friend told me awhile back that her goal was simply to reduce her carbon imprint on the earth, and since then, she has created an amazing ecosystem in her yard, from chickens to a worm farm to a rain catchment system to an elevated fishpond that somehow generates fertilizer for the garden. How odd that it takes such effort to live the way people lived in the old days, growing their own food, making things from scratch. Even something as minor as making salad dressing is unheard of, yet the resources and materials to make it with are often right in front of us and are less expensive and healthier if we can spare the few minutes to make our own food. For that matter, growing vegetables in flower boxes on a concrete balcony isn’t all that difficult, either.Local vs Organic:Happy Earth Day!3

All this to say that I have always appreciated having a yard and now that I have made a conscious decision to have a real relationship with it, whether it’s raking leaves every morning, watering my flower pots or admiring everything that’s growing, it is my small contribution to sustainability – and to healthy living. And as far as local vs organic, I guess it will continue to be a dilemma.



What an honor to have been included in a ‘canoe pull’ in an Indian canoe last week. Mostly, it was an adventure.


Protocol2I woke up in Vancouver, B.C. the morning of the paddle to snow on the ground and a heavy gray sky, and wondered if we were really going to go. While I could have been talked out of it if no on else wanted to go (i.e., if saner minds prevailed), my hosts, who were members of various Northwest Coast Indian tribes, were more than happy to bring the canoe out from its winter hibernation and go for a paddle, or ‘pull’, as they call it. No matter that the temperature was barely above freezing.

What I loved and appreciated most about the experience was learning the paddling protocol. We picked up Wes Nahanee at his home on the Squamish reserve in North Vancouver, where the canoe also lives during the winter. Wes is a very accomplished Squamish-Hawaiian waterman (among many other things I was not surprised to discover when I googled him later) and was our ‘skipper’. He introduced us to the canoe, Xenohite, and instructed us in the proper protocols for paddling, which even included protocols for getting in and out of the canoe, how to hold our paddles, and what the different commands are while in the canoe. Paddling in a Hawaiian outrigger canoe is different from paddling in an Indian canoe, where paddlers sit two abreast rather than single file, so one paddles only on one side. We switched positions with the person next to us to paddle on the other side only once during the time we were on the water. Changing places can be tricky because there is no outrigger to stabilize the canoe, so only one seat at a time trades places. Wes sang traditional canoe songs as we paddled, some of the women also knew canoe songs that they were happy to share. That helped to take my mind off the fact that my hands and feet were completely numb and my left arm was about to fall off as I am not used to paddling more than fifteen or so strokes on one side before switching over to paddle on the other side.

My memory of the day was not about the cold but rather about everything I learned about paddling an Indian canoe. Protocol is everything on a canoe journey. At the heart of protocol is respect– respect for the canoe, for the ocean, for the land, for the winds and all the elements of nature, for the ancestors, for the gods, and for each other, and that is what makes the experience so powerful. As I mention in most blogs that I have written about canoes, paddling is a metaphor for life, and I believe the metaphor is no different for Indian or Maori or any other culture that still has a canoe tradition. The renewal and continued practice of our canoe traditions have done much to heal our people and our souls and to move us forward together as indigenous people. For that, we are blessed.


Addendum to An Unquenchable Thirst

I spoke with a Catholic friend about An Unquenchable Thirst and got a very different perspective from that of the author (see my previous blog). My friend is very spiritual, not necessarily in a Catholic way but more in a Native Athabaskan way that reflects her heritage and culture.

She reminded me that there is a level of spiritual connection that can occur between any spiritual person and God that in fact transcends the need for the human connection and material satisfaction that the author so desperately sought. This enlightenment is the ultimate goal of a spiritual journey, whether one is Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, shaman or otherwise, and sacrifice is always a major part of it. I already know this and didn’t consider it as I reacted more to the words on the page of the book.

Rather than delete my previous blog altogether I feel compelled to amend it with this note because the story is still legitimately the author’s experience and either way, I commend her for her honesty and integrity and inspiration to live a meaningful life. But I do feel sorry for her that she never fully transcended the every day drudgery and politics to achieve the bliss and compassion that would have come with enlightenment. I will continue to believe that the majority of those who dedicate their lives to a spiritual path will eventually arrive at the unitive way they seek, and I will continue to be happy for the author that she found her peace elsewhere.


An Unquenchable Thirst

Two weeks ago a newly published book arrived in my mailbox that I was to forward on to a friend. The title and first few pages intrigued me, as it looked like it was going to be a book about life in the nunnery and insights into the life of Mother Teresa. In my romanticized view of what goes on behind the cloistered walls, I have always imagined monks and nuns sitting in the garden much of the day, meditating and contemplating God, doing a few odd jobs to keep them busy and singing Gregorian chants in the chapel, so I was interested to see if I was even half right. Not surprisingly, that is not how they spend their days! The more I read in this book, the more horrified I became about the so-called contemplative lifestyle, and then I needed to keep reading to know what it was going to take for the author to get out of her commitment to God and leave the Missionaries of Charity. My friend generously let me finish the book before sending it on, and I completed it this morning. This is the fastest I have read 544 pages in recent memory!

The book is called An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service and an Authentic Life, a memoir by Mary Johnson, a former sister in Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I am not Catholic, was not raised Catholic and in fact have issues with the Catholic Church as I do with most organized religions and their dogma, which are more about greed and self aggrandizement than anything else (like the missionaries who came to Hawai’i to do good, and in fact did well). Yet I was curious, wondering what the life of a nun is like in the twentieth and twenty first centuries and wanting to learn more about the mystique of Mother Teresa. Who knows, maybe I would have changed my opinion, at least about the Catholic Church.

‘An Unquenchable Thirst’ is simply written, the author recreates dialogue with the sisters she encounters over the years to move the story forward. Although the author’s journey began almost 35 years ago, the events feel fresh, raw, like it all happened earlier this year. Her story includes a fascinating, sometimes voyeuristic exposé of life in the convent. The sisters are expected to live without any of the conveniences of modern life, they are worked long hours, they are not particularly treated well by their superiors, they practice disciplines (self punishment) and probably harshest of all, their marriage to Jesus is expected to fill every need in their lives, including the need – and desire – for human closeness. I find it hard to believe that Jesus would have wanted his followers to live under such conditions or to practice such a lifestyle. As a reader who was getting my first glimpse into life as a nun in this day and age, I have to say I was shocked, and I started wondering how this lifestyle differs from that in any other cult in which Faith and Rules and a Strict Hierarchy are the cement that holds everything else together. What moved me about this book, however, was the author’s courage to tell her story, including every mistake, every painful decision she had to make that finally led her to realize that she could no longer be part of this society. As Joseph Campbell said, “follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls”. It took an enormous amount of bravery and integrity for her to follow her bliss, and it’s not clear how much God helped.

I am grateful that this book found its way into my house as I would not likely have sought it out or otherwise found it. I am enriched by the author’s perseverance and compassion and mostly by her honesty and willingness to tell this powerful story. It further confirms my poor opinion of the church, but mostly the story renewed my desire and motivation to try and live a life that matters, which I think is what this book is ultimately about. Mahalo ia ‘oe, Mary Johnson.


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