Connections to my Guitar and my Aikido

As a requirement for my upcoming Aikido nidan (2nd degree black belt) test, I have been asked to write an essay.   I have written about music and aikido previously but this exercise gave me a chance to look a bit deeper at how the two arts of music and Aikido have crossed paths and have informed me of the value, joy and beauty of each.  My essay follows here:

Growing up with guitar and martial arts

I have been fascinated by the martial arts since I was a small boy.   I’m not sure where I got my first glimpse.  It must have been a TV show, but I was hooked from a very young age.  My grandfather took me to a karate tournament when I was 5 or 6 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA.  I remember very nervously walking up to a black belt and asking for his autograph.  He signed my program and I thought that I had died and gone to heaven.  I remember coming home and putting my bathrobe on, pretending it was a keikogi and wrapping around my mother’s scarf around me pretending it was an obi, and getting into the all familiar Elvis Presley stance with my two hands out ready to karate chop my imaginary opponents.

I begged my parents to enroll me in a martial arts program.  They didn’t want me to do karate because they thought it was too rough.  My mom found two programs through my elementary school’s summer program: Judo and folk guitar.  She struck a deal with me.  “Mark, if you want to do martial arts, then you have to do something artistic.”  I didn’t want to do guitar.  It felt weird and girly and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  But I really wanted to do Judo, it wasn’t Karate, but it was at least something, so I took her up on it.  So, two days a week, I would roll around on the mat, and two days a week I would take my Sears & Roebuck Silvertone guitar and learn songs like “Feeling Groovy”, “Today While the Blossoms”, and “Where have all the Flowers Gone”.   I found that I was actually pretty good at guitar, much better than judo and that summer I’d strum away to my hearts content.

As a kid, my interest waned quickly from both music and martial arts.  But through these two things that came together in the summer of 1969, both music and martial arts have intertwined throughout my life.   Some times these passions would fall away.  I would get distracted, want to do something different, learn something new, or just simply not want to practice.  I only practiced Judo for the summer.  I got reintroduced to the martial arts when some of the Asian kids on my street started practicing and sparring in their back yards.   Bruce Lee had heavily influenced us around this time. They would invite me over, most likely because they were older and I was an easy target, and we would spar in the back yards.  They started practicing Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu and started bringing me to class.  Class was held on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.  I would stay there for 3 years practicing the kodenkan curriculum.

Our sensei, Professor James Musselman, would talk about weird things… about something called “key” or “Ki”… How there was some kind of life force or something.  I didn’t quite know what he was talking about.  I just wanted to learn technique.   It was weird and uncomfortable to talk about this.  I didn’t understand it.   It sounded like fantasy and fairy tales.  It was something similar to that new movie at the time, Star Wars was talking about.  Only in Star Wars they talked about something called the Force.  One of my friend’s dad practiced Aikido at Aikido West under Sensei Frank Doran.  This was my first introduction to Aikido.  I would talk to him sometimes and we would compare notes.  If Ju Jitsu was hard to understand for me then Aikido at this time was incomprehensible.  He would show me kokyu ho techniques and I would instantly think, “this stuff doesn’t work”.

Around this same time, the rock band KISS had come into view, I wanted to play rock music now and started playing the electric guitar.   Some of the same kids that I would practice martial arts with would also teach me some chords and songs.  My mother bought me my first guitar and amplifier and found me a guitar teacher.  At some point, because my school grades were suffering, I needed to make a decision whether I wanted to play music or continue with Ju Jitsu.  I chose music.  There was a long period of time that I didn’t think about ki.  I thought that this was silly anyway.   At one point, I rebelled against the family norm and converted from Catholicism to a Southern Baptist church.   Then, there was no way that any notion of spirituality that was not fundamentalist Christian thought was valid.  Certainly notions of some star warsy hocus-pocus was not.

There was a time after this that I threw it all away.  I was not interested in martial arts, and not interested in playing guitar.   At this part of my life, I decided that I didn’t believe in God, or even angry at God.  Sadly, for a multitude of reasons, I was just simply angry.  I got busy with life, barely graduated from high school, took a few semesters of college and dropped out.  I found a job at a restaurant and thought that this was a good place for me to hang out.  I did that for a few years.  I decided a couple years into my job at the restaurant to go back to school.  I took 2 or 3 classes at the local junior college and then transferred to San Francisco State University to pursue a degree in political science.   It was here that I started training Aikido, not because of the philosophy, not because of any misguided notion of that stuff people called “ki” but because I saw the ass kicking capabilities demonstrated in the movie “Above The Law”.

Steven Seagal to the rescue

Back in the days when video stores existed, a friend of mine and I were perusing the shelves looking for something to watch on a Friday night.  We found the movie “Above the Law” and brought it home.  We watched it.  The acting wasn’t great but we were both fascinated by Steven Seagal’s fight scenes.  We couldn’t figure out what he was doing with some of his techniques.  The technique that we were most puzzled and amazed with was irimi nage.  He would do it so quickly and yet we didn’t understand how people were dropping.  It didn’t look like he hit his opponents.  He did something, maybe some kind of “clothes line” move but that didn’t seem right either.  On the back of the VCR box it described Steven Seagal as a 7th degree black belt in Aikido.   I would rent the movie several more times and fast forward to the fight scenes.  As luck would have it, I found an Aikido class taught at San Francisco State.   I enrolled and quickly found that what I witnessed on a Hollywood produced movie was drastically different than how Aikido was taught at a state college.  Nevertheless I was intrigued and had the sense to stay and finish out the semester.  I liked it.  It reminded me in some ways of my Ju Jitsu training.  Our teacher, Cress Forester, would talk about ki.  Now it didn’t seem so foreign.  It didn’t seem to sit in the realm of fantasy and Star Wars but started to make sense.

I came to learn that the “ki” part of Aikido was the same thing that I had learned about in my youth.  Ki: energy.  But more than just energy.  Life energy.  Something that all things share.  I started to think about this a bit more.  She would be able to demonstrate the practical applications of Aiki, harmonizing movement with your opponent.  She would talk about O Sensei and his transformation, first into a fierce fighter, and then the moment that O Sensei had his experience in his garden, when he transformed again through the realization of the true Aiki spirit: That Aiki and true budo is based on love, not conquering others.   She repeated the story of the late Terry Dobson, and how, eager to prove his martial arts prowess, was humbled by an old man on a train, who overcame violence and belligerence with loving kindness.  At an earlier time in my life, I would have run screaming.  But for whatever reason, and in spite of my preconceived notion about the art, I did not.   I stayed and listened.  I visited other dojos.  I joined Aikido West for a time while I still lived on the San Francisco bay area peninsula.  I moved to San Francisco and trained with Steve Gengo Sensei at Noe Valley Aikido.   Something happened.  My heart softened.   Aikido teachers would talk about O Sensei’s notions of masugatsu agatsu katsuhayabi, that the only victory is true victory, right here and right now.   These were seeds of the art that were planted in my mind.

From Discomfort to…

Still, I was inconsistent, both in my guitar playing and my martial arts.  Life got busy.  I would find excuse not to practice.  I would walk away from the art, come back, walk away, and come back.   I moved to the North Bay.  I started attending classes at Aikido of Petaluma under Sensei Bob Noha.  Sensei Noha has a very unique approach to Aikido, much of which consists of describing our aikido experience in words.  I was uncomfortable about this.  I felt ashamed, embarrassed about answering questions posed by sensei in class.  I wanted to sound smart and intelligent and had a deep seeded fear that I would sound exactly the opposite: I would sound dumb and uninteresting in my answers.   But there was something that was different about the way that Sensei conducted class.  There was no judgment from others or him when I would speak.  He spoke simply yet touched many esoteric concepts: Concepts of spirituality, of cosmology, of self-development.  He talked about the “I” and the “functional unit”.  He has an amazing way of tying this into Aikido technique, and of demonstrating the hugeness and vastness of the art.  He showed us how we can tap into the greatness of ourselves.  Mostly, he showed us how Aikido is not a series of techniques but a way that we can tap into that greatness, today and every day.

Music and Aiki

It took me a long time, almost my whole life to understand the parallels between my music and Aikido.  At my vantage point now, almost 50 years after I first picked up the guitar and first rolled around on the judo mat, I can see now how my music informs my Aikido, and Aikido informs my music.  As O Sensei said, “Fighting and farming are the same”, I would venture to say that my music and aikido are the same.  They are both vehicles that allow me to strive for excellence, they both give me what I put into them, and they are both how I can more deeply divulge the “I”  behind all of the different costumes I wear, through artistic interpretation and expression.

This is what I see now

In some ways, Aikido practice is no different than music practice.  Both share many of the same principles.  I am blessed that each informs the other as well as they do.   I can now see clearly how both arts have allowed me to develop, and how each discipline shares the same principles.

In both Aikido and music we have to take time to learn.    Some of this means doing certain movements over and over again.  We have to have a clear understanding of movement.  For Aikido we need to understand correct posture, foot placement, distance between our partners and coordination between our arms, hands and feet.  Playing guitar, we need to have a firm grasp of chords and scales.  Both arts require me to drill, moving through repetitions of techniques, repetitions of chord progressions, repetitions of scales.  Both arts allow me to develop a sense of rhythm,  timing, and sharpen my coordination as I practice.

In Aikido we move to connect with our partner and blend with the gifts of energy our partners give us in a sincere attack.  We take this motion and move with it, and claim our partner’s movement as our own.  We find that place where we can perform a technique that is efficient, flowing and filled with love.  As musicians we connect with our instrument and other musicians in the same way.   We receive the gift of music and melody given to us by our accompanists, and work with love and devotion with our own musical contribution to make something greater than the sum of our parts.

Aikido training requires us to move slowly until we know technique and can move fluidly.  We cannot move fast before we know how to move slowly.  Likewise, if we practice our music too fast, we find ways to gloss over mistakes and we do not get the true essence of the music we try to express.  We can “fake it” but there will always something a bit blurred in our musical expression, obvious to those who really listen to us.  If we try to substitute speed with the innate knowledge and muscle memory we gain from learning our fundamentals, we will miss some beautiful experiences either in our music or on the aikido mat.

In Aikido we must train without ego.  We must take an active role both as uke and nage.   Taking ukemi from our partner teaches us balance, perseverance, and gives us insight into techniques that we normally wouldn’t gain if all we did was perform technique.  It gives us a chance to train and share in the joy of our partners being able to perform technique and improve.  We learn what it means to humbly allow our partners to shine.  So too, in music, we learn to step in and out of the spotlight.  As a soloist, we learn to share our talents with those who will listen and play to serve the music, not ourselves.  When our solo is over, we step back and support our fellow musicians, giving them the opportunity to shine themselves.  We share in the joy that our combined efforts bring in the music that we play.

What I learn most on both the mat and the fretboard is that both arts offer the challenge and show the beauty of navigating through transitions.  Music is a set of vibrations, tones, rhythms, timbres that come together for a certain amount of time.  There are some magical moments in music and there are tedious ones.  Some progressions from one chord to another or one note to another are sometimes easy and sometimes very difficult.  Notes are played, heard, and the moment passes.  That note will never be played exactly as I played it for that moment.   Aikido will always provide uniqueness as well.  We will never throw our partners the same way.  Beautiful moments will come and go on the Aikido mat.  We will have good experiences and bad experiences and those moments pass.  Ultimately both arts reveal to me the small and larger metaphors of my life.   My life is a series of transitions and experiences of joy, sadness, love, loss, anger, sorrow, and elation, made that more apparent and wondrous through the practice of music and Aikido.

 

Throw Far, Son

I see you line yourself up inside the circle.  You are focused, your face full of intent.  You hold the discus and spin it back and forth between both hands.  You square up, wind up, unwind, step, step and hurl.  The discus flies.  You do this again and again.  I don’t know your sport.  I may have watched it a couple of times in the olympics but never really concentrated on it, till now.

You would tell me, “dad you don’t have to come to my meets.  It’s not a big deal.”  I made the mistake of believing you, till now.  It is a big deal.  I am sorry that I was not there before.  I am here now though.  You are poetry and grace and beauty in motion, son.  There is nothing that you can do to make me prouder or love you more.  You are whole and perfect as you are.  But that said, I love watching you excel.  I love watching the beauty of your perfect and impeccable form.  I love seeing you have such a mixture of smoothness, precision and such raw power that allows you to fly that discus free and to the far reaches of the field.

I asked you what was after this meet.  You told me that the North Coast Section will be held this next week.  You are going.  You placed in the top 5.  I asked you what was after that.  You told me this, “State is after this, but I know I won’t be going to that.”  Let me tell you something.  You do not know this.  you do not know and won’t know until this next meet.  And until you don’t know, until you hear the call of the ref saying that your distance was not far enough, you don’t know.  There are so many variables.  A gust of wind, perfect form, or just brute strength and intention could put you over the top.  Please do not count yourself out until you know.

I will be there for you on Friday.  I will be there with my camera and iPhone taking pictures and video.  I will be rooting for you.  I will love you whether you came in last or first.  I will be proud of you and hold my head up simply because you are a great and amazing kid.  I will love you as I’ve loved you since you were in your mother’s tummy.

Now, throw far, son.  I am with you, your school is behind you, your friends are behind you, we want you to succeed.  Throw far, son.

New Years, 2013

All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day
– U2

2012 was a topsy turvy year for me. There was a lot of good, and there was some loss and some chaos as well. I am grateful for all of it though. I am grateful for the vantage point I have, today, right now, sitting in my bed, typing this post. I am optimistic about the future and what it holds for me and am happy for such abundance of good in my life.

This last year, I achieved the rank of shodan in Aikido. As a small boy, I wanted to “do karate” and often ran around my house in my night robe, belt wrapped around it like an obi, doing karate chops to imaginary opponents. I was fascinated with martial arts. My grandfather brought me to a karate tournament at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1969 or ’70 and that spurred my interest. After many starts and stops I was able to finally get consistent in my Aikido practice and test successfully for shodan with two of my other dojo mates, Aldo and Nancy. We tested twice, even, because Sensei broke from his teacher and affiliated with another Aikido organization. The first time we tested in March, we did not have the proper paperwork to have our belt ranks officially recognized by the main governing Aikido body in Japan. So we tested again in June under Hiroshi Kato Sensei from Japan and that made it official. Sadly, I was only to meet Kato Sensei the one time. He passed in December of 2012.

I lost love in 2012. I met Leah in 2009 on Twitter of all places. We quickly found that so much between the two of us and we decided to meet. This was no small task. Leah lives in Iowa. We found us drawn to each other. It was uncanny, beautiful, and wondrous. We spent almost 3 years together, but because of some things that happened early on, and because I couldn’t get over these things. We parted. It wasn’t my choice. This was probably the hardest thing I had to deal with all year.

My son played excellent football in 2012. I got to see him most of the season this year and I was so happy to be able to be there. He is an awesome football player. He walks with confidence, plays hard and plays well. He supports his team, motivates them and gets motivated by them. I am sure that these are qualities that he will have for the rest of his life, cultivated on the football field, refined through life’s lessons.

in 2012 I experienced Hawaii. I was blessed to have a friend that lived there and kept asking me to come out. He said to me a few years ago, “Many years ago a friend told me to come out and visit him when I lived on the mainland. I kept on telling him I would but never did. I don’t want you to make the same mistake as I did.” I am so happy that I listened to him. I was devastated from my break up and Jim’s offer could not have come at a more perfect time. I remember at one point in my trip writing a facebook status that said simply, “I can’t stop smiling.” Hawaii refreshed my heart and soul. The sheer beauty of the island, the water, and the camaraderie of my friend Jim really helped to give me a huge reset.

In 2012 I built an altar. Well, I designed an altar. It is a wooden hanging piece that my practice sword sits on, and my calligraphy rests against. My friend Richard from my Aikido school helped me with this and did a lot of the work joining the sides of the frame. He also helped me take my design and make it real, mentoring me through the small project. This may seem like an odd thing to put into my list of things that are memorable to me, but it really isn’t. This came at a time when I really needed a friend, and really wanted to be able to erect something to acknowledge my milestone achievement of achieving shodan. This was shortly after Leah and I broke up so this was also much needed therapy and catharsis for me.

In 2012 my work world got crazy. My team lead went on maternity leave for three months in late August. My coworker and I were left to tend the farm while she was gone and, well… it went kind of bat shit crazy. But I got through it. I’ve always appreciated her but the time she spent away gave me even more of an appreciation for what she does.

In 2012 I bought my son his first car. His mom and I watched him learn to drive, get his license, and now we get to see him pull up and drive off in his 2000 Subaru Outback. It’s a weird milestone to see. I’m filled with cheer and dread. But if Steven is anything, he is very responsible. So this is an awesome thing to see. My son is growing up.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I found love in 2012. I’ve known Ro for 5 or 6 years now. I’ve worked, talked, joked, laughed with her. She was involved for the longest time with her man, and I was with Leah as well. But in the early summer of 2012 we found each of us alone. We had dinner shortly before I left for Hawaii and then again, when I came back. By our second dinner it was apparent that we have more things in common than we knew what to do with and, well… sparks just flew. We’ve been together since then and haven’t looked back. We ended 2012 and started 2013 together in Jenner and, well, the world is our oyster. It’s funny how we can know someone for so long, and then, when opportunity presents itself, we can look at someone at just a slightly different angle, and see the world in them.

I am looking forward to this next year. There is a lot to do and a lot to live for. I will look forward to creating, conversing, being healthy, happy, and enjoying all the things that we can and should enjoy here. Happy New Year!

What Little We Can Do

I came home today and picked up my son to get a couple things from the store.  When i walked in there was a mother with her son holding up a sign, asking for donations.  I make it a habit not to give money to homeless or people asking for donations but I’ve also started making a habit that, if I see someone in need, I’ll pick up a little something extra at the grocery store, some fruit, etc, to give to someone.  Today, I thought that for the price of two beers on tap (i’m making a guess because i don’t drink anymore) I could feed her and her son.   I found a rotisserie chicken at the deli and put it in my cart.  I paid for my groceries and started walking out.

As I’m walking out, some man was giving this woman a piece of his mind.  The usual, “In America we work for a living, don’t pretend you don’t understand English.” bullshit.  I smiled to her, gave her the chicken and wished her a good night.  He didn’t turn his attention away  from her and spent a few more moments telling her basically what a shitty person she was for having to burden people with her sign.  We could still hear him as we got to the car but by the time we go to our car he started walking away.  By the time we started to pull out we saw him get into his fucking gas guzzling big ass Chevy truck.

A part of me feels like I failed this woman. I had a choice to go back and tell him to back the fuck off.  I didn’t.  A part of me feels that to have gone back from my car to this conflict would have been to have made it my own.  After I type these few words, I think that I did the right thing.  I hope that she and her son is enjoying her simple dinner.  I hope that others would view this simple act of kindness and maybe do he same.

I’m not posting this to pat myself on the back.  I remember in the movie The Constant Gardener, one of the things that was said was that you can’t make a difference in all lives, but you can make a difference in one.  So, I’m making a simple challenge to myself.  Nothing extravagant, and nothing I will do everyday, but a couple times a week.. sure.  If I see someone in need, with a sign, rather than think about how I shouldn’t give them money, I could:

  • Pick up a couple of extra pieces of fruit
  • By a can of tuna
  • Split your sandwich
  • Grab an extra 1 dollar burger at mcdonalds
  • Get a second cup of coffee

Then hand it to that person and wish them a good day.   Think about the little luxuries we have,  a beer, coffee,  trip to the fast food joint.  What small thing can we do?  Times are kind of fucked right now.  We don’t have to be radical in our approach to touch lives.  Just a little kind.

How the Sea Changed my Aikido

It seems funny to write this.  Not because I don’t feel a fundamental shift but for the fact that it was something so simple.

So, let me give some context.  I’ve never spent a lot of time in water that wasn’t a pool or not fresh water.  I remember swimming in Hawaii and Florida when I was a kid.  It was kinda fun but I didn’t have a lot of interest in getting something esoteric from it.  I think the last time I swam in the sea was in 1980.

So fast forward to now.  I’ve re-entered the atmosphere of my regular life, and have been back to Aikido after a break of about 3 weeks.  I was sick, then took my son to Shasta and then went to Hawaii.  My Aikido feels different.  As a matter of fact a lot of me feels different. For now I will limit this to my Aikido.

When I was in Hawaii, I went snorkeling for the first time.  I’ve never done that before and I have some serious issues with water, especially water that has swells and creatures that can eat me.  But my friend Jim took me out.  He was very good with me and although I was scared, I quickly found that the salt water kept me buoyant, and once I figured out the mask and snorkel, it was easy to relax and swim.  The life that unfolds under 20 feet of water is truly amazing.  I went out 3 times the week I was there.  The first time was really helpful.  I figured out the mask, breathing, and there was hardly any swell.  One of my fears aside from getting eaten was that a wave would come over me, my snorkel would be submerged and I would suck up a bunch of water in my lungs.  But that didn’t happen, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The second time, we went t a beach and Jim took me out again.  We went maybe a hundred yards out, and then came back in.  I really enjoyed going out there, it was early in the morning and there were hardly any waves.  I went out two other times, though and each time I went, I went farther out and the swell got higher.  But rather than fear, I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself.  In Aikido, we learn to read the energy of our attacker and we blend with the energy.  I found myself doing the same thing, feeling/anticipating the energy of a swell and riding it, while I sat in a spot and watched a school of fish or the interaction with the other citizens down below.  The third time I went out, I was surprised and a bit scared at how far I had swam out and thought it best to turn around and come back.  But it felt really good to be out there, feeling the ocean, being relaxed and present near the beautiful reefs.

This may not be a big deal to most folks.  There are some people who surf, or swim regularly, but it was a big deal to me.  Feeling the swell of the ocean, seeing the illustrious life down below, it made something shift for me in my Aikido.

Now, I’ve been back on the mat for a week.  I can feel that swell still, so do my partners.  As they come to grab my wrist, I start to move into a technique, but the movement is different.  I feel the energy of the ocean, subtle, strong, the ebb and flow.  I copy the swell with my movement.  I feel the connection to my partners when they grab, I keep that connection as if we are both riding a wave.  When I perform a technique, there seems to be new level softness and support I give my partners.  I am more sensitive to their fall.

To say that the ocean influenced me is not quite correct.  I feel that the ocean, or the very minuscule part of the ocean I swam in gave me a bit of herself.  She gave me a bit of her softness, strength and grace that I can carry back home to the Aikido mat.  I can feel that there is shift. I can feel the swell, ebb and flow.  It’s such a beautiful thing.

Hawaii – Epilogue

Hawaii was truly an amazing experience.  I cannot recall having ever fallen in love with a location before, but I did connect soulfully and deeply with the town of Hawi.  I adored the people there, loved the location and shops, the Kohala Koffee Mill, Kava Kafe, Sushi Rock, Hawi Gallery.  All places I would visit on a regular basis if I actually lived there.  I loved the feeling of brother and sisterhood, how people looked you in the eyes, talked to you from their authentic selves and lived every moment in the moment.

It’s been a few days now since I’ve re-entered the atmosphere of my day to day life.  I was going to say “normal life” but I think that there is nothing normal about it.  I lead an extraordinary life.  I have wonderful and amazing people whom I love and love me back with ferver.  I have a zest for life and a hunger for the creative and beautiful things of this world.

As much as I would like to pull stakes and move, I can’t right now.  Maybe this will happen sometime in the future, but whether I am there or not, I can honor that feeling I had there by simply taking it back home by being open hearted, live an authentic and true existence of creativity and love.  This is how I normally live.  Now it seems that I have all the more reason to.

Finally, I will speak directly now to my host over there and my good friend Jim: My brother, I don’t think you realize how big of a gift you gave me by allowing me into your house, showing me the beauty and the magic of your city and very small patch of an amazing land.  I came there to heal from a devastating time in my life, and not only did I heal, my heart and soul grew tremendously.  You are an incredibly strong, talented, thoughtful man and I hear and see the care you have for the people in your life.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a friend like you.  I am honored to know you, interact with you, and call you my friend.  Mahalo, my brother.

The chocolatier I met at the farmer’s market taught me the word “pono”. It means “do the right thing”.

Live in the spirit that is good, love people, be helpful, smile, be friendly, live well and in the present. I’m glad that there is a word to encompass this. This is how I try to live: pono.

Hawaii – Day 7 – my last day…Waimea, little adventures and Aloha

Jim had one more adventure in store for us.  Well, 4 to be exact, although I didn’t expect the last two.  We drove up Hawi Rd and took the right turn towards Waimea.  Actually, there are two Waimeas in Hawaii, one in Maui and one on the isand of Hawaii.  The postman’s name was Kamuela and when mail got delivered incorrectly to the Waimea in Maui, the post office would say, “Oh send this to Kamuela.  So the town is aka Kamuela.

On the way up we hit a 3500’ elevation.  One side of the road would be clear, and the other would be covered in cloud.  Some of the pictures I took show a vast contrast between very wet side of one road and a very clear, bucolic scene right on the other side.

We found a huge waterfall just off the road.  The drop was at least 100’ and it was windy…. Very hard to get down into the area where we could shoot from.  But we made it.  However, I was too scared to look over the edge of the waterfall.  Jim attempted to but only caught the lip of the fall.  We were attempting a shot of the fall from the top all the way down, but that was not going to happen.  We did get some very nice shots from the side and across the road we were able to view the run off of the mountain that led to the falls.

Driving into Wiamia, the climate changes dramatically.  It seems to be constantly wet.  I feel for you Seattle and Oregonian folks.  This must be how it is out there.  It was a great drive on into town.  We then turned around.   On the way back, at the peak was our second unexpected adventure for the morning.  At 3500’ There is a small reserve for native Hawaiian trees.  As we walked in, we heard the sound of rushing water.  We discovered another small fall coming down from the run off from all of the rains.  We tried to figure out how to get down to it and we finally found that if we wind ourselves all the way through to the top of the park, there are stairs cut into the ground that leads us down to the spot where we can view the falls.  I took a few pictures but I was unfortunately out of time.  We could not climb up to the top of the falls.  This will be an activity for the next time I’m here.

We came back the way we came.  Jim and I had a nice heart felt man-to-man talk.  I expressed my gratitude for the wonderful gift of friendship, as did he.  I’ve appreciated my friend’s warmth and friendship and although I was happy for him that he was moving to this special place, I knew that our day to day interaction would end.  So for the short time that I was in Hawaii, I got to experience him, his wonderful family, and his new friends in Hawi, Hawaii.

I had cleaned up and packed early this morning and was all ready to load my stuff into the van.  I did a quick check, took a moment to savor the room that was my home for the last 7 days, and closed the door.  I loaded up my suitcase and backpack, now packed with some trinkets, gifts, shells, coral and the wonderful pumpkin lasagna that Leah made the night before and we left the house.

Today was a shopping day for Jim.   We picked up Audrey at Beach 69 to go grab lunch and start their shopping. Kona has some big box stores like Target and Costco.  There is also a nice health food store and the plan was:

Eat

Go to health food store

Drop me off.

So, the third adventure: Lunch!  We stopped at a place called Genki Sushi.  This is sushi on conveyer belts.  The food was really good.  Fresh made with two chef stations loading on the rolls, nigiri sushi and French fries (yes, there were French fries…. I can show you pictures).  Now this is my kind of adventure.  You have the all of the elements of something epic:

Strategy – (how do I distract Mark so that I can grab the oncoming dynamite roll)

Suspense – (Ohhhh the chef just put something I really want but it has to go all the way around.  Will I get it?)

Drama – (Oh no, not another spamusubi)

Fulfillment – (holy Jeebus I’m full)

From here we went to the health food store.  I stocked up on some chocolate and macadamia nuts and Jim started a part of his shopping.  When we finished we drove towards the airport.

On the way to pick up Audrey,  Jim started to tell me about how the reefs are teaming with life.  He told me one day before he had to fly out to the mainland, Leah drove him to a point and he dropped in, only to find a 6’ black tip reef shark.  Although these sharks are seldom dangerous to man, a 6’ anything in the water next to me is disconcerting.  Apparently it was for Jim too.  He finally got it to shoo and he was able to climb back onto shore.

Coming back from the health food store, we decided to go for my one last adventure.  We went to the point where he jumped off.  This point was a little different.  There is no beach and the ocean bottom is about 40’ down.  Hence there are no waves crashing at the shore.  There is just a swell.  The visibility is just crazy.  You can see down all the way to the bottom.  We stayed there a few minutes.  I asked Audrey to take a couple more pictures of Jim and me and she did.

We got to the airport, said our good byes and I headed towards the TSA station.  The lasagna that Leah cooked last night perplexed the TSA folks.  They finally opened it and saw that it was in fact lasagna and let it go.  I sat for a while in the open outside airport until my flight arrived.

As I write this, I am in row 16D, right next to an emergency exit.  I like the leg room but am not crazy about my seat not going back.  I have edited all my pictures and converted them to jpg files that will be ready to upload as soon as I get connected to the internet.

I’ve kept busy and now I’m going to shut down the mac.  I have an Alaska Airlines Visa application that’s going to give me some points for signing up and I am going to start to work on getting back here.  But after all of this is done, the mac is put away, the application is signed.  I’m going to sit for a while.  I may laugh, I may smile, and I may cry.  There was depth, meaning, beauty, and joy all around me.  I felt at home… like I’ve never felt at home in another location.  I am going to contemplate this last week that meant so very much to me.  I am going to honor the time I’ve spent with old friends and new with my feelings of joy of meeting, and the sorrow of saying good bye, and the opportunity to come back to this magical place in a very short while.

The last of my shots can be found here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630648846674/