Day 3 Maui in Two Elements

IMG_3066Wind and Water.

That’s what the masseuse Laura said as she did some Lomi Lomi thing on my back yesterday.  Double-triple Aquarians (whoever they are) have a really hard time on these islands, she said.  They just kind of float out into space.  But you need land.  You need to be grounded.  And there’s not much of that here.

Laura’s Lomi Lomi, I guess, may be immaculate proof of that.

So two days ago I threw up that post about, what?  Bill Graham. Running.  A dead body on a path.  Switching out of a hotel.  I need to be writing about troop movements in WWII, and instead I was punching the keys on all that other stuff.

It really was a string of non-sequiturs, a string of non-sequiturs that had an audience of precisely. . .zero.

So post it I did.

Then some people read it.  And one person in particular, Poppy Davis.  (Some day ask me for the Poppy story).  And Poppy shared the post with some of her friends.  And then things kind of blew up.  Because one of those friends happened to be Laura who in a former life had worked for Bill Graham Presents.  And so the post went to her FB and then to all the former Bill Graham staff and acolytes and that all apparently turned into a conversation.  And it turns out that Laura is here on Maui.  Not only is she here on Maui, but she’s, like, two blocks away from our new hotel in Wailea.

And not only is she two blocks away, but she just worked a benefit that involved Jackson Browne and Wavy Gravy among other musicians and they had all come to Hawaii and were booked at….you guessed it….the hotel from which we had checked out.

And like us, the talent couldn’t take it. They found the environment strangely strange.  One singer left to stay somewhere else.   Wavy Gravy was weirded out (and that guy comes pre-weirded.  I imagine it might take a lot to further weird him out…)  Who knows on what dark and lonely road Jackson Browne set himself trudging.

So that’s how we ended up with Laura the fantastic traveling masseuse from Na Alii Massage in our hotel getting fantastic complimentary massages.  Laura wanted to make sure that I got all the dead body ju-ju out of my system.  Which she certainly did.

And on the way, I learned where to get good fish tacos.  And about Laura’s husband who is way into history. In particular WWII history.  And in particular what went down in Eastern Europe and precisely who’s village was slaughtered by whom.  And about an elder relative who in her 80’s had nowhere to go until she heard from someone that in New Mexico you could live in University dorms as long as you attended classes.  So this ancient woman enrolled in some classes, moved into the dorms, hoarded shit to the ceiling, and all the other freshman students kind of looked after her.  It went on for years. And about how one  can be trapped (by addiction, by life, by whatever) and the discipline of self that can help one break free.

I also learned about the second-to-last-Jewish-refugee kid to be adopted from the Army barracks in upstate New York.  And a little more about why a man who should have been so reviled was in fact so loved.  “Bill Graham single-handedly created the system,” Laura said.  “He was the one who built the socket that allowed millions of people to plug into the Universe.”  The Dead on their own? They couldn’t have done it.  They were the channel, but they needed this huge system – a system of Graham’s devising – to make it happen.

In 1988 soon after Anna and I started dating we went to a New Year’s show at the Oakland Coliseum.  Anna had confessed that she didn’t really like the Dead.  She said that she would have preferred watching the The Tom-Tom Club comprised of the leftover members of the Talking Heads.  That night they were playing their own New Year’s show at the Warfield over in San Francisco.  But there we were, in the Oakland Coliseum, waiting for something to happen.  There was some warm up band that I can’t remember.  They left.  Then the lights went down.  More folks walked on stage and picked up there instruments.  It was none other than the Tom-Tom Club.  And they began to play.

That was Bill Graham.

So floaty floaty we’ve been the last few days.  If you asked me what exactly we did after the massages, I’d be hard pressed to tell you.  Give it up to the wind and water.

Except for one more thing.  Remember the pig boat to Moloka’i?  Well when we didn’t get on it, we had to call Anna’s friend on the other island and tell her we weren’t coming.

No worries, she said.  She would just get on a plane and come here.  Soon, very soon, the wind and water will carry me (and by extension you) into her story.

Stay tuned.  It’s a good one.

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Disaster’s Playing Field

Two nights ago, I lay awake at 2 am listening to the howling wind. It was hot and dry, and blowing at night no less. Usually the winds die down by dusk. Even more importantly, this stuff is supposed to be done with by the middle of May. This year, we’re coming up on July and the wind is still blowing relentlessly.

If this is just an abnormal year, that’s totally fine. Abnormal means we have a normal to return to. Some year’s it’s hot. Some it’s cool. In the end it all works out. But if this (or something like it) is the new normal, I believe we may be in trouble. Here, unless you’re really good you can’t successfully dry farm under these conditions.

Dry farmers in this part of the Plateau depend on the pulse of moisture that arrives in January and February. If you’re lucky it soaks in and permeates deep layers of clay. If you’re even more lucky, you get a light pulse of rain in April or May that will jump start the seeds when you put them in. Even when the winds hit in May, the corns are well enough adapted to withstand it.

But when the winds blow through June, you can’t even get out there to plant. And if you do, the old moisture is evaporating so quickly out of the soil that the tap roots may not be able to chase it down fast enough. And if the winds blow through July, well, hardly any plant can survive that.

Or rather, they can if it comes upon them slowly. Technically speaking, dry land farming is, in part, about applying gradual selective pressure to seed stock so that over time it can evolve to withstand extreme environmental conditions. But that’s not what’s going on. Last year, the winds quit at the beginning of June. Now it’s four weeks later. Plants may not be able to adapt quickly enough.

If this is the first sign of our agriculture being suddenly bludgeoned to death, we can’t stand on the sidelines. Now’s the time to jump onto the playing field. Why? Because extreme conditions breed extreme diversity. You see it in edge ecologies – biomes that exist on the edge of a stable ecosystem evolve much more quickly with far stranger and exotic and powerful results.

This morning I was out hoeing and I caught sight of my Hopi neighbor watering his corn. It’s pretty much a daily routine for him, almost to the point where you might as well consider it aquaculture. I have to hand it to him, though. One, he’s farming. A lot of people are not. Two, he cares enough to keep his stuff alive at all cost. Three, he’s been maniacal about keeping his yard clear of ragweed and Russian thistle (which few people do around here). I’m highly allergic to both and his house is upwind of mine, so he’s graciously saving me from a huge autumn headache.

We’re growing for completely different things, though. He’s growing for corn. I, on the hand, am growing for resilience and strength. I don’t need a hundred ears. I just need few. In general, I’m not watering. On the worst wind days I’ve applied a cup or two of water just to keep a few of the plants alive. I don’t even necessarily want to keep them all alive, just the strongest. Let the environment dish out everything that it can. The few plants that survive, why, they’ll be the ones. I want something capable of a deep taproot and extreme resilience in the face of catastrophic wind. Overall, this kind of farming/gardening is a terrifying tightrope to balance.

Hopi corns are very smart. Smarter even than a lot of people I know. It figures out conditions quickly and responds physically just as fast. But even so, I fear the conditions may be changing even faster. I need to goose my plants just enough for them to stay alive, but not too much to drive them out of the race.

In the face of a looming disaster, our human lives may depend on it.

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Black Wind.

Blowing again.  Wind chimes newly hung have been ripped to the ground.  The one remaining from Arcosanti peals all night like a ball-peen on the skull.  The wind brings moisture but sooted with a thick cloud of orange dust.  The dust settles on everything inside, outside; it lodges in your teeth, your hair.

I’ve loved this wind because it chastens.  If it were just the wind, that alone would be enough.  But what when the whole world brings you to bow?

Last night I asked my friend Al how life was.

Full, he said.  100%.

Really? I asked.

Yeah, he said.  I mean it’s always 50-50.  Is it half empty or half full?  But when you add it all up it equals 100%.  So there you go.  Full.

Way full.