Tiger, Tiger

A new year has come, a new beginning, or just another Saturday, depending on your perspective. The clocks will keep on ticking, moving forward, oblivious to the way we label the days. Mother Earth doubtless has little regard for the insignificant significance we place on time.

In our little corner of the universe, we had made a plan to stock up on groceries in Hilo the same day as our last medical appointment of the year, then hunker down and stay home, safe in our nest, protected by the orchids and lemons in the garden, until the new year had passed, until the hoopla was over.

It was a good plan. At midnight on the 31st, the fireworks erupted. Rochi slept soundly through it all, the quilt tucked up under his chin. I listened to bangs and pops and rat-a-tats for what felt like a long time, then fell asleep to the the scent of gunpowder drifting in through the windows.

On the 3rd, we ventured into Pahoa–some would call it a town but it’s barely a village–to test the waters and do some chores. There had been no apocalypse that we could discern. In fact, things looked as they usually do. Barefoot, gray-headed hippies lounged on the uneven boarded sidewalks flanking the main street. At the bank, there was no line. I greeted my favorite teller, exchanging pleasantries across the plastic barrier. I discovered both lemon balm and chamomile on the shelves at Island Naturals, a major coup. And Long’s had finally gotten Heineken light back in stock.

Back at home, we were pleased, maybe a bit smug, feeling like we’d won something unexpected. In reality, we’d merely dipped our toes into the watery edge of the coming year and found the temperature pleasant.

We continue our residence in limbo, along with the rest of the planet’s inhabitants, waiting, wondering, worrying where and when and how we may end up. Within the context of the pandemic, the outside world continues to be full of doom and despair. People still have to face unbearable physical and emotional challenges. My stomach churns when I think of the state of our political system. Mother Earth herself is under threat, seemingly from a different direction every day.

And yet the sun rises over the trees at the rear of our garden. The birds wake up and share news of their dreams and the flowers nod greetings as they dance on the breeze. I want to say all is well with the world even though I know that it’s not, but the idea of a perfect world is appealing all the same.

A very wise friend once said to me that it’s best not to have any expectations because then you can’t be disappointed. That’s how I plan to move ahead through whatever lies in front of my feet. I will keep myself open to the good, the beautiful, the kind and the gentle and welcome it into my heart and home. At the same time, I will acknowledge the bad, the ugly, the nasty and the harsh, but invite it to take a flying leap into a boiling volcano.

Greetings, Year of the Tiger. Let’s see if we can’t keep peace with each other.

Fireworks

A while before Christmas, along with the plastic Santas and blinking lights and frighteningly-flavored candy canes, fireworks started to appear in the supermarkets and drug stores. There were all sorts, from simple sparklers to huge variety packs of things that go pop and bang and boom and pfizzz.

A friend had explained that regular fireworks, the kind that go boom in the sky and shower the earth with lights and patterns we can only imagine unless we get hit in the head with a baseball, those fireworks are illegal for private use in Hawaii. But they are brought in anyway, by the barge load. We thought he was joking.

In the evenings, we started hearing the occasional bang or pop, sometimes distant, sometimes rather close. Was it engine backfires? Maybe. Handguns? Unlikely. Hawaii has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, something we are extremely grateful for. So we wondered, but as with so many things in this strange, new world, we had no idea what was going on.

Last night, New Year’s Eve, the bangs and pops started before it even got dark. We’re surrounded by trees so we couldn’t see much. We enjoyed listening as the intensity grew, but us being us, we lit up our $10 bag of bangs and pops and climbed into bed by 10:30.

I couldn’t sleep, so I was laying in the dark thinking my thoughts when the clock struck midnight. The bangs and pops suddenly escalated enough to draw me out of bed. I crept to the bedroom window and found that if I rested my forehead against the screen, I could just see the upper arc of fireworks rising above the trees from a couple of streets over.

I was entranced. I stared at the glowing points of colored light as they quickly faded and disappeared. At the same time, I could hear more bangs and pops, hundreds of them, coming from other directions. The curious kitten inside me grew desperate for more.

I tiptoed around the house checking all the windows but could only see a distant glow. Still, the bangs and pops continued.

There was no moon and our street has no street lights, so I eased the front door open and inched my way outside. The street was inky dark. I looked up and saw the twinkling glow of a billion stars. From the end of the driveway, I could see the pulsing glow of fireworks in all directions, now to my right or left, now behind me, now dead ahead.

The air was mild, the breeze gentle; I stood in our driveway, in my underwear, wrapped in a robe of sulfurous smoke, slowly turning to take in the stars, both in the distance and so very close, totally alone and yet at one with the universe, feeling a sense of childlike joy as pure and inviting as a freshly fallen snowbank.

My wish for you, gentle reader, is that you find a moment to discover that joy some time in the coming year. It’s out there. You just have to look for it.

From Puna to the world, Happy New Year.