Sacred Dog
April 20, 2016

American Indians called the horse  ‘sacred dog’ and acquired him  in the mid-1500s when De Soto and Coronado brought it to our shores. The Indians took to the animal like brilliance takes to  rainbows. The horsemen of the plains were considered by many in the American cavalry,”The finest light horse cavalry in the world.” They were never defeated in combat.

The Horse Culture on the plains  lived with their animals, and like the riders in the Spanish School in Vienna today,  came to call them ‘friends’. They lived with their horses. They knew them with their heart.

Lives of the nomadic Plains tribe, especially the Comanches,  were revolutionized by the horse and they became  skilled thieves perfecting the art of  rustling.  They were the best of horsemen and we treated them badly. In 1874 thousands of animals, considered by the southern Commanche to be their best, were senselessly slaughtered.  Ari often reminded me. Horses have a different sense of history and time. All of them recall what earth was like when the world was young and no grunting four-spinning upstarts jammed the roads and fouled the air.

I ‘d tell Ari stories like a silly human–dates and names and stuff like that–and he’d look me in the eye the way a good horse does–and  snort,  reminding me his roots on our home planet went back 40 to 60 million years. His earliest  ancestor, little eohippus, the Dawn Horse showed up a lot earlier in the game than we did. “How long you been around skinny two legs?”

He had me there.

He loved  me to tell him stories.

An incurable romantic,  he loved  fiction best.   Hidalgo, the mustang,  and Frank Hopkins who raced him’cross the Ocean of Fire were his favorites. When Ari was recovering from  surgery,  I constructed a paddock at my end of the barn and rigged  a projector and white sheet sharing the Disney movie with him. He watched it over and over.  For a horse who’d been free as a  feral hen, to be corralled in a 20×20 foot  area for three months–the recovery was long–was an ordeal. I  had to relieve his boredom. Mine, too.

I mean, how many organic carrots can we munch?   He  loved  dearly cornflake butter crunch cookies.

For over forty years I’ve lived with  a horse like the Indian lived with his.  He was a friend.  My best.  He slept in the bedroom next to mine.  I couldn’t ask for a sweeter neighbor. I met him first on Oahu in 1993. We looked each other in the eye and immediately bonded.  Born on Kauai in  1987, he was 29 years old.

The night he died, peacefully in his sleep, he said, “What you skinny two legs need  is another Seabiscuit.” He loved that film best.

His death left a hole in my heart the size of Diamond Head Crater, and a chunk out of my life the magnitude of Mount Kalihi.

But this he gave me: the joy of having known him.

 

 

 

 

 

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AGREE TO DISAGREE
March 17, 2016

Thank you Editors, for the wonderful Forum page, Thursday, March 17.

Gene Lyons’ column is always a joy to read. He has many admirers all over the country. He’s articulate, funny, serious and profound.  (Hope you read The Hunting of the President.) To Google ‘Battle of the billionaires’ –that ‘fool thing’– would be, “…several minutes of your life you’ll never get back.”,  is so perfect I, as a writer, am green with envy.

Also, in case you didn’t know, Gene Lyons  loves horses, cows, and dogs. If my memory serves me, he has Great Pyrenees and his house, which makes his wife happy, too, looks a little bit animal worn and torn and friendly.  How could anybody help but love a guy like that? I know he’d love my house. Anyway, I hope everyone read TRUMP’S BRAND IS CHAOS.

One suggestion: Editors, please restore the discussion site. I think we’ve all grown up enough we could handle it well. It’s so wonderful to respond to other letter writers– politely, reasonably, with passion–it’s so much what America was and what it could be again.

By the way, your OTHER VOICES column is always a pleasure to read. Even if we don’t agree, what’s fascinating is how often we  find a moment when  we do agree with  the person with whom we disagreed.  We’re multi dimensional folks. We’re not gingerbread men. Wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all agreed about everything?

Please give us another chance.

 

 

MILK AND MONEY
March 7, 2016

Why so many of us object to a milk factory  in Poipu…

…“Factory farm pollution turns drinking water – a basic substance we need to survive – into a silent killer,” said Elisabeth Holmes, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “These industrial operations pollute our air and water under the guise of agriculture….  lawsuits will help  safeguard public health and the environment.”

“Congress gave citizens the right to act to protect themselves when  regulatory agencies fail to do so,” said an  attorney in court on the mainland. “Citizens have no option but to act when their families’ health is at stake.”

“Unlawful dumping of manure at industrial dairies hurts the environment, the community, and our food supply,” said Jessica Culpepper, staff attorney at Public Justice. “When these same factories do not report their toxic air emissions, the public is endangered and left in the dark and we are standing up on behalf of those harmed to change that.”

“Fast Food, Fat Profits highlights what is arguably one of the most disturbing health trends of the 21st century – the fact that today’s generation may be the first to live a shorter lifespan than their parents, and this is a direct result of too much cheap (nutrient-deficient and toxin-laden) food. Avoiding processed food requires a change in mindset, which is not always an easy task. It CAN be done, however. Rather than looking at processed foods as a convenience that tastes good or saves money, try thinking of it as:

Extra calories that harm your body
A toxic concoction of foreign chemicals and artificial flavors that will lead to disease
A waste of money
Likely to lead to increased health care bills for you and your family.”

Do you eat to fill your belly? Or do you eat to nourish your body?

Do you understand the relationship between ingesting nourishing food and good health?

How much green pasture  does a  healthy grazing milk cow need?  A general rule of thumb for grown cows is about 2 animals per five acres.”

Factor in the stench–cow poo is not perfume–which is  wafted in the wind. So, if you live close to this  ill-conceived and badly maintained and managed milk factory–2ooo cows on five hundred acres which produces a nasty liquid for profit not for nourishment– a  gas mask when the wind blows wrong might come in handy.

Now factor in flies. Flies are unpleasant. Under the best of circumstances. They are not the healthiest of neighbors and they, too, are wind-borne. Think of them as tiny living drones that carry disease and discomfort.  You’d complain if a neighbor’s yard was so filthy it grew flies on an open garbage dump. In this instance a caring  Health Department would involve itself. Sadly, however, we cannot know what it’d do for milk factory  flies on Kauai.

Most likely it’d decide they were good flies…

…which, unlike feral cats,  crowing roosters, and barking dogs, should not be diminished, destroyed, or defamed.

Fast profits? Just say ‘no’.

 

 

MAKE KAUAI GREAT AGAIN
February 28, 2016

…again?

Doesn’t this imply  once it was great and now it’s not?

If  so, then wouldn’t it  be true, only one who lived on Kauai during its great period could respond? I mean,  what changed? To go from greatness to not so great must mean something changed.

My husband and I sailed to Kauai in 1969. We tied up at the sea wall in Nawilili, just around the corner, as it were, from one of the hottest hot spot saloons on the island. The first person we met was Walter Brian–Head of the Water Department–we’d known  him on Oahu–and my husband was headed towards a job as Engineering Department Head of McBryde Sugar.

Sugar was King.  Actually, managers of sugar plantations were Kings. Department Heads and their wives were Lords and Ladies. There was an inside joke:  haolis lived in the haoli camps;  field hands lived in Japanese camps, Filipino camps,  Portuguese camps. But– by our time– racism was floundering. There were lots of  shanties.  Warm. Dry. It was a feudal state,  but McBryde was  benevolent.  Mules–Brownie, Blackie and Caliban– wore saddles filled with seed cane to replant at planting season. It was a great life, for most of us. Bill loved the men he worked with, they loved him. Bobby Pfeifer was President, Ceo, and  Chairman of the Board of Alexander and Baldwin of which McBryde was a totally owned subsidiary.  There couldn’t have been a better man at the helm.

Cane was a dollar crop. Grown to maturity for almost two years.  Burned to harvest. Cane fires flared in  splendor in the still winds of early morning sky. Then milled and shipped to California to be refined and packaged and sent back home.  Alexander and Baldwin is Matson, remember?  Those guys didn’t go to school to carry their lunch. Sugar kept their ships full going out and full coming back.

This glorious field of long tall grass worked with grace and beauty to keep our air fresh. The air on Kauai,  clean and invigorating,  filled our lungs with the essence of life. Of health. Breathing is the most important thing we do on this planet.  Breath bad air, breath illness and misery and death.

I see more cars–spewing stink and CO2 and sporting angry drivers–driving to Lihue  then there were on the island when we arrived. Today, on Kauai, there are places where you should wear a little white mask to keep your lungs working.

We’d little crime. Few homeless.  Few unemployed.  We weren’t rich, but, for the most part, we were happy. Put a dollar sign on that.

Recently someone suggested we contact young Mark Zukerberg–philanthropist– to get us back on track.

May I humbly suggest we contact Ted Turner? He’s a philanthropist. He owns over two million acres of land. “The sad thing about destroying the environment is that we’re going to take the rest of life with us…” I think Bobby and Bill would have loved him. I do.

 

 

 

 

TURK’S CAP
January 11, 2016

Two roads lead to the national Tropical Botanical Garden’s main office, one of them is mine. At the top of the hill, from the office to the library, to the visitor’s center, is a view of a magnificent valley that descends to Lawai Bay.

Once upon a time, Queen Emma lived there and rode her horse there. Years ago, I used to sneak in on my leopard, Beauregard. I always got caught, but I seldom got scolded. John called me a ‘siren’–I think he meant the noisy kind.–and I responded, “John, if you walked about four  miles up hill and I walked about ten thousand feet up hill, we could fight over the back fence.”

I loved the old guy.

Anyway, along my brief stretch of land in a valley on the other side of the hill, old Hawaii, wild, natural, surrounded by cows and sheep and goats and horses, and gorgeous feral chickens, and birds that sing me to sleep and crow me awake, rain or shine,  grew a wondrous natural beauty, a Turk’s Cap. Malvaviscus penduliflorus.

So beautiful, people in cars, on foot, on bikes,  on horses–still–would stop blissfully  enthralled with wonder. Pictures were snapped. Some sent back, and I do want to thank those that sent them. Respectful requests for cuttings were cheerfully responded to.

Did you know the entire plant was edible? Herbal tea could be made and grocked  to  fullness. Snip off the green tip and suck a delicious  syrupy sweetness that put the delicious syrupy sweetness of the honeysuckle to shame.

A grim crew, an army of death and destruction, in county trucks armed with  many powerful expensive new weapons of life- denying machines, mowed it down. Butchered it. It wasn’t pruned, it wasn’t cut back, it was  hacked to death. It cost me one day, one worker, two, maybe three, handheld and powered tools, to prune it properly. All that remains are naked brown stems, reaching upward, hungering for their large green leaves, their brilliant red flowers, Turk’s Caps, sleeping hibiscus, Cardinal’s Hats, that bloomed throughout the year offering a vivid  eyeful of playful bobbing  jewels displayed against  a hedge, a tall, rich green- leafed backdrop, a curtain of life that never need open to an artificial set. An entire enactment of life. It loved to grow. it loved to please. It did no harm.

I plan to live to witness it’s return. Hope you do, too.

The war we have going on here–on Kauai, in the world–exists of  war trumpets instead of song birds. Ugly, noisy, stinking machines–the epitome of power and ugliness and sacrilege– consuming all in its wretched outreach.

Today, on my road, we stand  witness to a love for concrete, cars, credit cards and childish hi-tech toys. What, for goodness sake, is an iPad? I’ve managed, for 85 years, to have lived with out one.

My hope?  You’ll learn to live without one, too.

In 2016, drink a toast to life and living things.

 

THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY
January 1, 2016

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love animals. They’ve played an important role in my life. Right from the gitgo. Cats and dogs and horses, exotic  birds and cougars,  pygmy bears and feisty lamas– who played monumental parts in my humorous book THE SCAM–and a precious  little Capuchin monkey, named Tonga, who lived in a  fancy red circus wagon, on wheels, in my mother’s kitchen.

This was not a caged lab animal.  Tonga  was a skinny, long-tailed  Elizabeth Taylor,  who was born in the Chinese Year of the Monkey.  Tonga was the star of the show. At least in my father’s petting zoo.

While  crunching buttered  popcorn and smacking her lips–they’re omnivores–she loved to watch television  I Love Lucy was her favorite. She’d lie on her tummy in her bed, tucked in with her favorite security blanket,  her chin resting in her hands , never taking her eyes off the screen.

Meticulously clean. She had a soft wash clothe and a mini tub filled with warm water–my mother kept it scented and she loved the  whiff of Shalimar my mother shared –and her little face often got a good scrubbing. Her hands, too. She had a cute sense of humor, but she could be a disaster on wheels when she chose. When angered, she’d bite.

I think of her fondly. And often.  Especially now–2016–for this is the Chinese Year of the Monkey. The Fire Monkey yet.  All you guys born in the Year of the Monkey take heed. And heart. You, like Tonga, are lively, versatile, witty and practical. Highly intelligent and talented. Active. You enjoy sports and sports are in. You like being the center of attention–narcissistic up the lagoon–nothing wrong with that. Tonga had a hand mirror into which she loved to gaze. Lovingly.

You’re mischievous.  Masters of the practical joke. Healthy. Creative and intelligent. Persuasive and well-organized.

The Fire part is a goody. Last time the monkey was in  the Fire sign was  in 1956, 60 years ago. The Fire Monkey is aggressive. Domineering. You  crave leadership. The leadership role is your bag. ‘Course you can be overbearing. I mean, you’re headed for the top and nobody better get in your way. What saves you are your people skills and you do love to nurture.

You also jump in where angels fear to tread   Be careful. You’re flamboyant and charming and friendly and have a large social circle and get along best with people born in the year of the Rat and the Dragon.

So it’s said.

As an atheist, I  love the creative, imaginative, make-believe side of human nature. I think it’s one of our most endearing traits. Along with animals, I grew up with the best writers of fantasy. Rudyard Kipling’s  Jungle Book was one of my favorites. A world without Mowgli and the Bandor-log would be dull.

Kids should be taught to love fantasy, but seek truth. Know the difference.Where to look for truth? In Science of, course.

 

 

 

FANTASY AND THE FUTURE
July 26, 2014

Bob Woodruff said, “If you want to change the future, first you must imagine it.”

Not all writers of fiction write about the future, but all fiction writers imagine a world that isn’t true. It’s a story created in their minds.  Characters who do not really exist.  Situations that did not happen. Conversations never put to voice. Struggles that are fantasies.

All readers of classic literature will think of George Orwell’s 1984. Orwell was a prolific writer, and liberal  socialist,  who wrote about a future where the rulers controlled everything. Actions and thoughts  were monitored and manipulated.  Passion, truth, and individualism were a danger to the  members of this  state. His vision of the world has come to an almost eerie pass today.

The American journalist and prolific writer, Chris Hedges, writes in Death of the Liberal Class (2010) “….magical thinking, the idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity….It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”

To bring us current on Kauai’s machine of death, all we need do is turn to the daily newspaper, The Garden Island. Almost every day we read about a living creature on the island who must be eliminated. Feral cats-according to some-responsible for the extinction of wild bird life . Crowing roosters and all wandering free range chickens-practically our island bird, they’re so beautiful-must be killed. Parakeets? Out with them. Coqui frogs? Noise polluters more annoying than helicopters, jets, drones, boom boxes, motorcycles or grumbling, rumbling over-size trucks carrying who- knows what, roaring up and down the highways day and night.  Ubiquitous traffic jams.  Horns honk, brakes squeal, humans and sirens scream.

Our super active military might,  RimPac and a ‘Naval Battle Gun Rodeo’ , with a 28 death quota allowed on mammals of the sea, wage visible war fare off shore.  This morning, Saturday, July 26, 2014, a whale beached itself and died in Hanalei. Coral reefs are dying. Ground water, fresh air, the very earth we walk and grow food on, are fouled by unlimited toxic herbicides and pesticides  sprayed everywhere without disclosure of quantity or brand. We know these toxins kill bees.

Truth, our planet is presently engaged in the sixth extinction and there are many who cheer and some who profit.

So how does a writer of fiction, with a passionate concern for life and living things, tell a story about Kauai that brings all this  madness into perspective?

Pare it down. In Children of the Extinction, I had to, as a friend said, bump off a lot of guys. Our number one problem: too many people? Solved.  Kauai cannot support the existing population and land speculators and tax collectors  want to bring in more. That had  to stop. Our economic system is a disaster. Out. Money is worthless. Power? Lights, water, communication, computers,  sewage and modern appliances out. Traffic problems solved. Can’t pump gas.

To me, as a writer of fiction, it was better  to do the above problems in than living things.