Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Do You Dance Your Life?

Some of you may know that not only am I a gardener and a college psychology instructor, but I am a retired United Methodist minister. When I served a church in Tucson AZ, many of the funerals I conducted were victims of AIDS.

Because of my close connection with this population in my church, I have a special place in my heart for those who suffer from this disease. It is in honor of those who have the disease, as well as in memory of those I have buried, that I write this blog.

There is a special dance from the early church community called the TRIPUDIUM. I learned about it nearly twenty-five years ago when I took a workshop from Doug Adams, who was a professor of religion and the arts at the Pacific School of Religion.

I had no idea that Doug had left this earth until I looked him up on Google. I’d like to give you two other websites that will give you a sense of who he was. According to these articles, the memorial celebrations outdid Doug in creativity.

The following information on liturgical dance is something I learned from Doug that will stay with me always.

TRIPUDIUM actually means "three step" or "jubilate" in Latin. Later, dance in church was suppressed as being too sinful, and thus it came to mean "the Jubilation."

It was a style of processing to church, symbolizing the progress of not only the individual, but of the whole church and community.

It is a process of three steps forward and one back - three forward and one back. Often someone could call out three signs of HOPE on the forward three steps, then call out one sign of SETBACK on the backward step.

In other words, the SETBACK becomes part of the dance. It isn't outside the rhythm.


We don't want to include the back step in the dance. But it's all part of the dance! It gives us a more optimistic spirit, helps us see setbacks in the context of life, of ongoing progress.

Another interesting fact is that this dance was not done in single file, but in processions with many abreast with arms linked, row after row. It is done in community - not alone. It is a deliberate moving forward together, as well as in the times of setback.

The people would move through the streets and into the church and around in it during the songs of the service and back out through the streets as a recessional. The dance was a communal act of worship and celebration.

The Greeks believed in afterlife, so they danced a ring dance to make safe passage for the deceased. The Greeks appreciated dance as an aesthetic experience. Everything was a dance for them - victory processions, weapon dances, displays of power, ball games, wedding processions, and funeral processions!

The early Christians drew on this custom. They circled the grave with lively funeral dances to celebrate the person’s birth into everlasting life. Rose petals were dropped on the open grave, as they sang, “Ring Around the Rosie…Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

When life and mortality seem difficult, I invite you to put on some music and dance the Tripudium, shouting out three signs of hope for every setback.

This particular version of Lee Ann Womack's song "I Hope Your Dance" seems appropriate today.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Be sure to compost
what you can't make into soup!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Madam Pele's Art Work

This blog began as a way for me to document my life on an acre of lava. In a way, I was partly joking about it. What in the world could I grow on an acre of nothing but lava rocks? My friends know that I have lived on good California, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Alaska, Arizona, Illinois soils, where I could grow almost anything , given the local climate.

Neither my knowledge nor experience were much good here, but I love living in Hawai`i too much to leave, so I had to learn how to make the best of it.

Several times in the past, in addition to the resistant lava, I have mentioned “vog.” In this post, I will describe the two types of lava we have here and also talk about the vog that destroys plants and lungs. There will be quite a few links in this article, so please go check them out. They say much more than I can.

The picture above is one of my early experiences with lava. At the time, I had a 2004 Miata, hot red as you can see. Since then, I have gotten rid of it and now use a older Mazda Tribute that can haul a little more lumber than the Miata!

One day I was backing up to unload some bags of soil from our local Ace Hardware. I misjudged where the path turned and ended up sitting on top of this lava heap. A good friend and neighbor came with his SUV and a sturdy tow rope to pull me off. That was the day I began to think about getting rid of the Miata!

That picture also shows one of the two types of lava, what the Hawai`ians call a’a. You pronounce it like ah-ah, with a quick pause at the hyphen. It is primarily rocks of various sizes. It will wear out the fingers of garden gloves very quickly. My fingers have toughened up a little bit, but it can still cut.

Last week I talked about the progress of my patio. Here’s another shot of that spot before we started work on it, and it gives another good idea of the a’a lava.

This picture of one of my coffee trees shows how I need to plant anything. I dig a hole, pour in lots of soil, either bagged from Ace or made at home with pig dirt and manure my lovely chickens provide for me. Then I pile rocks around it to help keep the soil contained. It still filters down through the rocks underneath.

Here is a view up the driveway from my house. You can see the spread of lava in what I jokingly call “my front yard.” I’ve put triangle palms along each side of the drive, and there are a few other scattered plants. I have four more ready to plant.

Since a’a is the only kind of volcanic rock I have in my yard, I am including pictures I took on a hike over the volcano at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. These shots will show you the other type of lava, pahoehoe, roughly pronounced as pah-hoy-hoy. It is the Hawai`ian term for basaltic lava and it looks like big swirls of melted black chocolate. Yum!

Here you can see the path we took with the volcano in the distance. People were always on the path to get in to watch the live volcano flow. There are warning signs all over about what kind of shoes to wear (and not wear), the sort of protective clothing, and the like.

A flashlight is always recommended in case you are hiking at night, or if you get lost and end up there at night unintentionally. There are barricades along the sides of the path, but they end after a certain distance and you need to rely on your eyes to know where to go. If you plan to go, please read this link.

Here’s another view along our hike. You can see how easily you could lose your way, once the barricades end.

At last, we see a live lava flow! This is where you need to use caution. We seem to lose people every year who get too close to take pictures, and the “bench” breaks off beneath them. Not exactly the way I’d like to go to HELL, even though I may be going there someday! The molten lava reaches a temperature somewhere around 700 to 1,200 degrees C (1,300 to 2,200 degrees F). That’s HOT!

Here is another shot. I stayed back far enough not to fall in, of course, but the heat was still almost unbearable. I was about five feet away from this. Most of the flow was beneath the surface.

This shot was taken recently as I was driving on Highway 11 toward the park not far from my house. You can see how much the vog affects the visibility.

So what is VOG? Here are several websites with good descriptions and excellent pictures.

I apologize for giving so many websites, but these can give you much more accurate information than I can. Also, if you plan to visit this area of Hawai`i, you will need to know.

As you approach the park, even before you are actually inside the park itself, you will see “steam vents” popping up all over the place. Here is a shot I took just inside the park. You can see them off in the distance.

I will end this post with a couple more websites that will be of value to anyone wanting to know more. This first site shows a good picture of a’a and pahoehoe side by side.

Of course, what would we do without Wikipedia? Here is a fairly complete description with great pictures of lava, both solid and molten.

Madam Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of the Volcano, and while I have a hard time working in her garden, She has also given me an exercise in patience, love, and reward.

Until next Sunday, Lava Lily says “Happy hiking and gardening!”

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Patio Progress

I was afraid this might not get posted, because someone ran into a pole nearby and put my internet completely out of service for a bit. That's one of the hazards of this rural life. But I’m back online and ready to give you the latest update on my lava yard.

How in the world did I manage to get this far into my year of blogging without telling you about my patio? Actually, it’s in the process of becoming a patio. It has a long way to go, but it’s one area where I can walk several steps without tripping over lava rocks, so it almost qualifies as a patio.

Here you can see the area I wanted to re-create into a place where I could sit and have a cup of tea while I enjoyed the breeze. It is just a few steps away from my back stoop. I had strung a rope between two trees to serve as a clothesline. But I stumbled over lava rocks and through weeds to get to the line, so it really didn’t get used much.

Here is another shot of the area I had in mind for a patio. You can see how rocky it was. I have since continued that brick path around to the back steps.

Back in March of this year, around the time of Spring Break for the college, my two daughters (Debbie, on my right in the picture above and Inga, on my left) along with Debbie’s husband, Harry, came to visit. Harry made my chicken coop while the girls busied themselves with my future patio area.

They thought if they moved a few surface rocks, they would find soil. Instead, they found more rocks! I could have told them, but it probably helped for them to make that discovery themselves. Inga had brought a bag full of garden gloves from the Dollar Store in Boise. They went through many gloves before they were finished.

They call this lovely mobile “Working At Mom’s.” Each glove is worn through the tips of the fingers. Inga put a small lava rock into each glove to help it hang. It gently blows above my small raised beds and acts as a scarecrow.

Inga has a true sense of garden style, so she was the guide on this project. They both began to pile up rocks to make mini-walls, gathered up leaf litter and mixed it with my pig dirt, then they hauled buckets of it all to create little pockets for gardening. Here are a few shots of their progress. I had already planted a few pink plumeria around the edge of where I wanted the patio to be, so they worked around those.

Here you can see the half-barrel and white Kadota fig they bought for me.

This Agapanthus has since found a new home in another of the little pockets of soil near the hydrangea they lugged home from Lowe’s.

There are many fallen branches of the old ohia trees on my acre. The girls found one branch they really wanted to use as a bench, but it was too heavy, even when they tried to lift it together. So they called on Harry to help. He is a strong guy, so he just lifted one end, then taking it end on end down the slope, he got it settled into place. It’s a wonderful spot to sit.

Just behind the bench is another of my huge old ohia trees. Here, is a picture of a Jackson Chameleon crawling along the trunk. Many people catch them to have as pets, but I prefer to let this guy make his home around my patio.

I have already gotten a couple of tasty figs from this tree. Here is a closer look.

At last, a picture of the entire area in its more recent stages of creation. When this shot was taken, nothing has been planted other than a couple things in pots. I had added a folding table from WalMart and a rickety wicker chair that still works just fine and adds charm.

Kaimana loves to sit on the table, and he also loves to lounge on the log bench. You can see behind him where I’ve put a nice gardenia plant in a large pot.

I’ve had requests to show several different views or angles. So the next few pictures show the patio as of this week.

I just planted some cosmos and columbine this morning, so that will show up in a later post, I’m sure. Here is a beautiful little purple ivy geranium growing from a cutting.

And as the sun sets, “Working At Mom’s” casts a nice silhouette.

Until next week, Lava Lily says "reduce, reuse, and recycle."

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Velvet Touch

The revival of the Ocean View Garden Club has given me something fun to look forward to on the fourth Saturday of every month. Every second meeting is held at someone’s home. In August, we visited the home and delightful garden space of Carole and Heather Baker.

Our October tour took us to a bit of paradise I get to visit every month for a massage. Velvet Replogle, a Licensed Massage Therapist, advertises herself as “Velvet Touch Massage.” After you see her garden, you’ll know that her “touch” affects more than just a human body.

The opening photo for this blog gives you an idea of the serenity you feel as you enter their beautiful space. Velvet and her husband, John, have done miracles with the rocky landscape.

They have been living on the property for five years. Even though they did plant some of the trees before that, you can see that it has become a spot of beauty in just a few years. It gives me incredible hope that my acre of lava rock will eventually be a place of beauty.

In this post, I will make only a few comments, because you will get more of a sense of what Velvet and John have done to their acre if I simply show you the pictures. I do want to remind you that they have been in several past posts. One was about the vermiculture and their compost setup was included in my post on that topic.

After seeing what they did by not having a bulldozer come in and level off the property, I’m sorry that my own acre had been ‘dozed so that a house could be built on it. The house had already been built when I bought my property, however.

In the next few photos, you can see how John has created paths and steps that wander around the gullies and trees. I get the feeling that I’ve been wandering for miles as I walk up and down, around corners, over hill and vale. It reminds me of how the gardens in Japan would give me the sense of them being acres and acres, when it was only a few yards.

Here are a few shots of their home. The steps and path seem to be a natural part of the terrain.

A close up of their window.

As their paths wander around, there are glimpses of color and little delights tucked here and there.

And an occasional angel, of course!

John works for the Nature Conservancy and can tell you all about the native Hawai`ian plants. Here is one near their house. (My face is red! I was just informed that it is a mysore black raspberry, and not a native. I was too busy taking pictures to really listen to him. But he did show us a native somewhere near this - honest!)

Of course, the rose is not a native, but this one had to give us a sneak peak of her profile.

Velvet has a strong need to provide color and beauty in her surroundings, while I seem to be focused more on planting seeds and cuttings that can produce food. She has inspired me to put a bit more effort into nurturing myself with flowers. Here are a few more shots of her flowers.

Here is a plant that you probably won’t find in too many mainland gardens. This is a small one, but the blooms can get quite large. They also come in several different colors, but the red is probably the most common. There is a funny story about my brother and the anthurium plant. I’ll let him tell you the story if you want to ask him.

These begonias don’t even look real, but they are!

The daylily is one of my favorites. I may try to find as many different colors as I can for my own garden.

Nasturtiums are beautiful, and add flavor and color to a salad. In parts of California it is considered a weed almost. But I love them, and plan to put out a bunch of seeds.

Here are a few more scattered bits of color.

Serenity abides everywhere in this garden, even with the work gloves resting on a nearby rock.

Another beauty that is almost a weed in parts of California is one of my favorites. I brought home cuttings of these geraniums.

There are several varieties of geranium here. I brought home cuttings from them all.

Here is where I go each month for her “Velvet Touch.” What a peaceful place to receive the “Restoration, Relaxation, Therapeutic massage” that she promises (and delivers).

This orange tree was planted before they moved in five years ago and bearing nicely. It shows me that even citrus will grow at our elevation. Their elevation is a couple thousand feet higher than mine (2300 feet).

Velvet planted a bush cherry that is already producing nice leaves, while mine is still just a stick. I hope to see leaves sprouting out of mine before long. Here is her apple tree - not one I've tried yet, but probably will.

Then on down to the Replogle's vegetable garden. I’m so envious! Take your pick for dinner.

Every garden needs peppers!

And more veggies!

Like most of us here in Ocean View, Velvet and John make their own soil through composting. Here she has laid out her bed for a future corn patch, as soon as it starts to get warmer again.

Of course, she has seedlings going for even more veggies.

Even though this chair looks inviting, I wonder when she has time to relax. She said that when she doesn’t have someone on her massage table, she’s out working in the garden.

Perhaps this shows where she gains much of her inner strength and ability to create such a beautiful spot on this earth.

Mahalo, Velvet and John, for allowing us to experience your piece of Paradise.

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