WILD HURRICANES I HAVE KNOWN
June 2, 2015

I’ve weathered four.  My husband and I escaped the ravages of Typhoon Jean, dodging caribou and ballistic teak logs the size of a Kauai bus shooting by us in a Philippine Airline jet taking off from a beach in Aparri, a primitive village in the province of Cagayan, Luzon-one bar, one outdoor movie, one hotel- on the banks of the South China Sea.  Aparri survived. Today it’s a first class municipality.

We made the fastest flight- ever- back to Manila that day. Jean was the biggest typhoon of the season.

A typhoon is a hurricane that swirls and whirls and rips around in another neighborhood.

The Aparri memory is a cute storyI tell often.

But hurricanes are not cute. No one can ever say ‘been there, done that’ or ‘seen one seen ’em all’ . Platitudes don’t apply. Each storm’s different. They’ve personalities all their own, and always a very human side.

In 1970 we were in Mississippi a year after Hurricane Camille demolished Gulfport and were amazed at the mess. A tug boat still  balanced  on its keel in the middle of a forest. It looked as though it’d just been planted. Along millionaire’s row, all a two story mansion had to show for itself were water pipes standing upright indicating bathrooms on a vanished second floor.

Hurricane Iwa-November 22, 1982-sent our beloved boat, Warpath in Kukuiula Harbor, over the top of a swimming pool and broke her back. She was headed for safe port in the red barn across the street.  We’d built the barn for $900.00. All by myself I tar- papered the roof. Not a corner  lifted. On Kauai’s millionaire’s row, it looked as though a war had gone through.

I’d spent a terrifying night in the barn with my horses in the lava rock house up the Alexander Dam Road. All I was was the howl of that wind

Bill-who was needed at the power plant in Wainiha- and I, coming home that  night, had a most incredible surprise in store for us.. On the north shore at Tahiti Nui, Louise Marston  prepared-on the beach-a Thanksgiving dinner to end all Thanksgiving dinners-the works-to those who could find their way to her open door. A generous, marvelous, wonderful woman, I miss her. We sat at a savory table with locals, hippies, surfers, tourists from everywhere, survivors, and indulged. I’ve never felt so thankful. I didn’t say grace but I thought it.

Back home, we’d just put the roof on our new house. Not a shingle lifted.

September 6, 1992, Iniki- the strongest storm to hit Hawaii-barreled through. I was alone. I spent the night here.  Three horses locked in stalls. Me and the dogs and cats hunkered down in my old Buick. I had carrots for the horses, nibbles for the dog and cats, and a bottle of wine for me. Before the night was over, the horses were eating dog food while the dogs and cats munched carrots. I didn’t share the wine.

My experienced advice during hurricane season? Be prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FUN OF BEING 84
April 25, 2015

It’s been a busy morning. Fed my beloved old horse, Aristotle. I prepare him a warm mash, salt, carrots, bran and molasses. He loves it. My handsome movie star vet, Scott Sims, says horses don’t have a sense of taste. I reply, “Well don’t tell Ari, he hasn’t read that part of the book.” Since I was five, I’ve bribed horses with sugar cubes. Amazing what you can get a horse to do with some sugar cubes in your pocket.

I was taught, as a little girl, a good horse soldier feeds his horse first.

My first riding instructor was General Cress- the Tiger of Luzon-a total pussy cat. He said I was a natural, which pleased my father. His daughter, Cornelia Van Ness Cress, was a brilliant, patient teacher. A lesbian I learned from a gossipy friend of my mother’s. It made no- never- mind to me. I always got to ride her dressage horse, Indian, on foggy wet morning jaunts through the Mills College Campus. She said I wasn’t a ‘lemon drop’ because I was one of the few kids who showed up for lessons on a rainy day. I loved the fog. Still do. Even voggy fog on Kauai. I love the smell of sulfur dioxide in the morning.

Next, two growing up kittens-Reba and Rosa-and my grown up puppy-Boots- get their fare. Today, Duke, the noisy Macaw, who greets me every morning with a cheerful “Hi”,  got fresh water, a  bowl of  parrot food- raisins, peanuts, a crumpled cookie, he has a decided sweet tooth-and  two slices of bananas.

Then I turn a feral hen, and the chick she’s trying to raise, loose to wander and scratch their way into a long day’s journey into night.  Mama’s teaching baby to eat worms and insects and other goodies found in every pile of fallen leaves. Every day her baby gets smarter and bigger. Fluffier, too. This morning she’s teaching it  to fly. She jumped up on a raised bench and clucked, “Come on sweetheart, try your wings.” Today it did. I don’t know if it’s a boy chicken or a girl chicken, but it’s sure cute and, I think, precocious.

Then it’s my turn. A cup of coffee-organic, no GMOs-and half a slice of croissant. No butter. It’s drippy and voggy out and I love watching yellow leaves swing and sway and waft their way to earth.

At 84 ripe I love looking back. There’s a lot to look back on. I love being here.  There’s a lot of here. And I love looking forward.

I love learning. The mother hen is teaching me as well as her baby.

I love time. I love space. We worked hard, my husband and I, to acquire the space. My jungle, which I love. The time, which I got but could not share with him. I love the time I have now to think about our life together. I love to wonder if he would approve. He’d be happy  I’m having fun.

 

 

 

 

Bettejo’s Cat House
November 20, 2014

Cat’s are really getting a bad rap. Not only on Kauai-the largest and most infamous extermination island in Hawaii-where we want to extinct parakeets, feral chickens- ‘specially crowing roosters-coqui frogs, cats and other living things. (Not tourists, or rich guys in gated communities, or military personnel who shoot off rockets and stuff at Barking Sands.} But lately, cat surfing around, I’ve discovered they don’t make  good pets. Too independent, won’t come when called, hate to be petted, undomesticated, night prowling predators, and-for goodness sake- a health hazard.

Cat poop causes dread disease and possible death! Horrors!! Why didn’t somebody tell me? I’ve been around cats and cat poop for 84 years. My first cat, Helen, a yellow tiger, slept with me in my crib. When she and I outgrew the  crib, she slept in an overhead light fixture in my bedroom and once I put her in a flour bin, which startled my mother when she opened it to bake a cake and a white flash of angry feline fur flew out in her face. My mother screamed. My father, busy chopping the head off a fat rooster in the back yard, yelled, “What now?”

“Helen just jumped out of the flour bin.”

“How’d she get in there?”

Neither Helen nor I ever told. When Helen went to cat heaven, my father bought me a Siamese cat.  At that time we lived in an apartment in San Francisco  and she walked around a six-story ledge every night-rain or shine- red eyes scaring the neighbors. We named her Wishee.  We also had a Collie, named Lady,  who chased cable cars. My next cat was a black cat named Moses, who lived with us in Montclair, then Pleasanton, then Marin County. Mose would only enter the house on Wolf’s Grade through a living room window, and exit from my parents bedroom in the middle of the night. He’d put a paw under their closed-door and shake it.  It had a wrought iron handle that rattled down the hallway like an angry wraith. I don’t know that it awakened the dead, but it certainly wakened me and my parents. I guarantee you, one of us got out of bed and let the cat out.

Someone, in the cat bad- rapping scene, asked when and why we domesticated the damn things to begin with and, indeed, it is somewhat of a mystery.

What we know is by the Middle Egyptian Empire the cat as a fisher, hunter, and ratter was known and appreciated. Later on it was worshipped as a god.

So? Well, my two new kittens, Reba and Rosa, love to be petted. Come when called. Purr in harmony. Live in a three-story cat palace that probably cost more than most kid’s cribs. My house is a cat house. They romp in the rafters. Climb the walls. Jump up and down on counters and tables. Sleep in a lump in my water-bed. Eat like horses.

And, dare I ask? Why do you think they call it pussy?