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!

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In Chinese, the word for crisis is…

…well, crisis.  There is an interesting article here that points out the common misconception we’ve had in our time that the Chinese characters for crisis is “danger and opportunity”.  It’s just crisis.  How could it not be. Crisis is crisis.  I imagine that this would be the same in French, Arabic, English, Ethiopian and Chinese.

So, that said, my body is having a bit of a crisis right now.  My lower back has steadily become more painful, my left calf is continually cramping, my right shoulder has had some sharp pains.  These all started coming to a painful head about a week ago and it’s been hard to move, hard to get to work, hard to deal with the day to day.  I have been hoping that the work I’ve been doing stretching and foam rolling would help but it hasn’t.  Today, I’ve gone to my first ever chiropractic visit.  But I’m good.  I’ve had pain and have had to make some decisions about Aikido and my work out regimin, but I’m good.  And I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made.  Those decisions, by the way, are:

  • Getting off the mat.  I’ll do this and then evaluate my ability to get back on in the new year.
  • Stop going to the gym.  I love my gym but I need to work at a much slower pace to rehab.  The circuit that we use is not conducive to the slower pace I need.
  • Stretch… a lot.
  • Start a yoga practice.  Yoga will help me build core, gain flexibility and, being an embodied practice, will still give me that mind, body, spirit integration that my Aikido gives me.
  • Go to my Sensei’s Energy Awareness class.  Our aikido teacher started this class and holds it every friday.  He started it specifically for one of his students who, in his 90s (yes, in his 90s!) could not practice Aikido anymore but still wanted to get the benefit of Sensei’s teachings.  This class is held on Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 10:15.  I’m glad that we have this available to us and I will look forward to gaining a different insight.
  • Rediscover my T’ai Chi practice.  I will look forward to moving chi through out my body and getting the healing benefit of T’ai Chi.
  • Think about a different way of exercising.  I have to let go of the squats, rows, impact exercises and think more in terms of core exercises, lighter weights, rehabilitative exercises for my shoulder with resistance bands, and range of motion movements.

So… I’m ok.  I think that naming crisis as crisis is a good thing.  It’s not scary.  it’s something that happens.  This is a fairly minor crisis compared to the myriad of things that can and do happen to us in our lives.  The “opportunity” is separate.  Opportunity is different than crisis.  It lies in our actions.  Pema Chodron talks about the little things that we can use to practice how we can act when faced with burdens, so the fact that this is a minor crisis allows me to see how I can formulate a solution and prepare myself for the bigger things that I’m sure are right around the corner.

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/

Hawaii Day 6 – Kiholo Bay

Today, I ventured out alone to Kiholo bay.  This is about 40 minutes south west of Hawi.   Jim and Leah let me borrow their Suburu Legacy and I packed up my back pack with a towel, orange, apple, water, snorkel gear, camera, Jim’s underwater camera, and sunscreen and took off.

The dirt road is not marked.  I was told that I should start looking at it right around mile marker 81, so I kept my eyes open for it, and glanced at the blue direction dot on google maps on my iPhone and found it.  The drive into where you can park is about a mile down a dirt road.  Thankfully the Legacy is an all wheel drive car  so making the drive down the dirt road was not a big deal. (Steven, it’s looking more like we will be getting a legacy now that I drove one and liked it!)

Jim suggested that I look for a sign just off the trail that says, “Keanalele is not a tub, a toilet, a sink – nor an ashtray… Enjoy it… Respect it.”  Keanalele is puka (hole) that has fresh water in it. There is a ladder leading down to the fresh water and there is an underground area that goes on for about another 15 or 20 feet.   I’ve never been in a cave before.  Never come close to spelunking, so this, even this small fresh water hole that has miscellaneous crabs running around in it was amazing.  I used Jim’s underwater camera to take pictures inside the hole and you can see them in the link to my flickr set at the end of this post.

The forest next to the beach is overrun with the Keawi (pronounced Kee ah ve) tree.  These trees are non native and were originally planted by the missionaries that visited the island.  The reason?  The native Hawaiians walked barefoot, and they thought that no man should walk without shoes, so they planted these.  The Keawi tree has thorns.  Man is fucked up like that.

The lava at the beach, since it spilled out of the ground and cooled makes some very intricate patterns as it found it’s way to the see.  This will be eroded into sand in many years, but for now, I enjoyed being able to bear witness to this beautiful dark phenomenon of once molten rock, cooled in layers that captures the ripples of the once liquid substance.

It was a slow go getting to the little island, but I finally made it there.  There were many little spots to place my backpack and set up to snorkel.  I tried for a few minutes to take Jim’s camera out but wasn’t too successful.  I needed to be closer to the fish and got a little freaked out being out there by myself AND holding a camera and snorkel gear.  After a few failed shots I opted to put it down and swim to the island.  The small island is a habitat for the Hawaiian sea turtle.  There was only one out though basking.  I sat about 30 feet away and watched him for a while and then swam back.

Coming back, i was tired.  This was a long slog on gravel, pebbles, and the last part to get into the cove was up and down on the lava rock… but it feels so awesome and fulfilling to get to places like this.

I found a piece of coral witha small hole in it.  There was a large fallen tree near by that created a great stage for this and I took a few photos.  I think these were my favorite ones.  I immediately thought of my Aikido teacher, Bob Noha Sensei.  He has taught us a practice of circle and center, where we open our arms and move our bodies, carving out a circle, then, as if we are holding our jo staff, we spiral the staff up and down establishing our center.  For our school this is an essential practice and I’ve learned to see this in as many things as I can.  I saw this here and thought of Sensei as I photographed it.

Coming back I would see the occasional couple or group walking down the beach, I was also accompanied periodically by the many goats that graze around this area.  I came back into town and had lunch at Sushi Rock.  Jim said that I should treat myself to Sushi Rock so I did.  It was very good but I was a little disappointed with the selection.  I was hoping that there would be more variety for the chef’s nigiri plate.  The special roll I ordered was awesome though: ahi poké and mango wrapped inside out with ono, a cilantro puree and crushed macademia nuts.

I came home and crashed for a bit.  This evening, Leah made a wonderful pumpkin lasagna.  I finished the evening reading Dr Suess’s ABC, 5 Little Monkeys Make a Birthday Cake for Mom, and Pinkalicious to Jim’s little ones.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve had kids crawl on me while I read. It was a real special moment for me to read to them.  I’ve enjoyed my friends generosity and friendship immensely here.

Tomorrow I have one more adventure.  I will need to be up early to pack, but Jim has a couple locations at the 4000′ level to give me a different perspective of the island.  I will look forward to that.  i won’t be looking forward to getting on a plane, but I will adjust fairly quickly.  It’s felt like a very long time I’ve been here and at the same time, the length of a blink.  I will treasure this though and never forget this trip.

But I’m still here and we have one more thing planned.  I will look forward to that!  Here’s the link to the last set of pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630629753498/