Kayak scouts or—who found the Hawaiian islands?

Hawaii is a testament to the adventurous and courageous spirit of humankind.

How did the first people get here?

Humans are somewhat migratory by nature. And on the larger continents it’s not so difficult to imagine that humans walked outward and spread to far locations. That still would have taken courage, but they could have done it a little at a time.

The first scouts to Hawaii had to get in a boat with food and water and head out to the open sea. They couldn’t have known another island was out there. Granted, they probably started in Asia then hopped from one Polynesian island to the next. But how long would those trips have taken in a man-made and manpowered kayak?

Somebody wakes up one morning in a settlement on the shore of Asia and tells his mother, “I’m going to go see what’s out there.” He throws a few coconuts and a container, perhaps a skin of some sort, of fresh water into his boat and shoves off the shore into the breakers. He doesn’t know which direction to take to nearest land. He doesn’t know how long it will take him to get there. He can’t even be sure land is out there. He has to take enough food and water for the return trip.

Someone had to make the first trip off the continent and out to sea.

How many nonproductive expeditions like this were made before the next island in the series was bumped into?

Maybe they had large sailing vessels and a systematic approach. Still.

Kaua’i is believed to be the first Hawaiian island settled, which makes sense if the settlers were coming originally from the Asian continent. Kaua’i is the furthest west of the “Sandwich Islands” named so by Captain James Cook, after the Earl of Sandwich, when he discovered the islands from the western world in 1778. Possibly a bad day for the natives—I don’t know the political history, but when west meets natives it usually doesn’t bode well for the natives. Just saying.

Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands got there about 1200 years before Captain Cook, but then, they were closer. Still, they had to travel over 2000 miles to migrate the islands, following the stars I presume. Of course getting there might have been blind luck. Getting back home again would have been the challenge.

Ever been on a boat in the middle of the sea?

Why were they even looking for new lands? Financial gain? Power? Just for kicks?

And I haven’t even mentioned the legendary little people called the Menehune who got there first.

Lifetime achievements

I’m sitting here by a crystal blue lagoon-shaped pool, the sun reflecting off the water, off the broad shiny leaves of the green and red foliage, off my spf30-lotion-soaked skin.

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a lazy day poolside, when the boys tossing the ball in the pool were my boys and the girl splashing across the water with the pink snorkeling flippers and mask was my Anna.

When the kids were small we lived at the local pool every afternoon following swim lessons.

I made sure they all learned how to swim.

Add that to my lifetime list of achievements:

1. Gave birth to four children
2. Kept them all alive
3. Made sure they knew how to read
4. Made sure they knew how to swim

Not as impressive as receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, traveling to the moon, saving lives in operating rooms, saving lives from a police cruiser, saving lives from burning buildings, creating jobs, having a job . . .

Not very impressive at all really, by most standards.

It seemed important at the time.

Masters of denial

Here’s another example of achieving mind over matter by controlling your perspective.

When I was in college in the 70s, and my mind was in the very initial stages of becoming cluttered, but still remained relatively imaginative, I’d sometimes take a book and a blanket to a nearby park and settle myself under a tree.

It was on one of these occasions that I heard and then noticed a plane far up in the sky and I imagined the people on board sitting in their tiny allocated spaces reading or sleeping or sitting silently occupied with their own thoughts, (this was before personal computers, I-pads or pods, and portable DVD-playing devices).

I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. And it was unsettling for me to see them moving through the sky like that so far up in the air.

The last time I boarded a plane to travel was like all the previous ones. I occupied myself with the minutiae of the moment. Where’s my boarding pass? Is my cell phone turned off? What do I need out of my carry-on before I stash it in the overhead bin?

Like robotrons, we all boarded the plane and settled ourselves in our tiny allocated spaces.

Do you think I could have sat on a plane thousands of feet above Mother earth being propelled through the sky at amazing speeds without breaking a sweat, not to mention having a nervous breakdown, if my mind was fully in the moment and intensely conscious of where I really was and what I was doing? Doubt it. Maybe you could, but I’m just not that trusting.

I don’t think about it.

I know a woman who refuses to fly.

I understand.

It’s the rest of us who are either crazy or masters of denial.

Flight to Kaua'i

Laws of nature or — jet lag

It’s 2:30 in the morning local time. I opened the screen door to the sounds of the island night and the crash of the waves against the shore. I’m trying to resolve a five-hour difference and convince my body that I still need to be in bed. Jet lag.

We think that because we are capable of functioning on a high intellectual plane with the human brain that sets us, one might argue, above the rest of the mammal kingdom, we are masters of our lives. It is easy to fall into complacency and develop a confidence that our minds can conquer matter. Unless you’re trying to sleep at 2:00 am in a five-hour-delayed time zone.

Our body is hungry; our mind stops us with, “You’ve had enough calories today.” So we refrain from eating. At least some of us do. Not true for all of us.

But here’s a good question. When was the last time you saw an overweight wild (as in non-domesticated, not as in wild and crazy) animal? Wild animals apparently know when to quit. It’s not nature that causes us to overeat.

Why am I talking about eating at 2 am sitting beside a screened door with the rhythmic sounds of waves crashing on the shore–a lulling reliability, restrained power?

Is it my mind or my animal nature that keeps me awake tonight with my jet lag?

As humans we like to deny the laws of nature and our animal instincts as we strive for a higher order of life. A noble cause called civilization.

On this planet where the wave-sound keeps me company through my screen door I am just one tiny little creature living in a system of animals and plants on a planet that revolves about a sun and everything ruled by laws of nature we cannot fully comprehend.

The waves behave. They know their bounds. They push and recede keeping their unleashed power restrained. But all it takes is a shift in forces and the power of the ocean breaks it’s tether and rages as a hurricane or tsunami across it’s boundaries on the shore.

I’m tiny, minuscule, insignificant in the whole cosmic scheme of things.

Unless you’re inside my mind looking out. That’s a whole different perspective. That’s a whole different matter altogether.

Writing avoidance strategies


1. Organize blog categories

2. Rename obtuse categories

3. Look up “obtuse” in dictionary

4. Look up “unclear” in thesaurus

5. Rename obscure, or vague, or indistinct categories

6. Scan through previous posts

7. Clear off desk. Put dictionary and thesaurus away

8. Walk to window to check the weather

9. Create list of possible new categories

10. Go to kitchen to rewarm previously-hot-now-cold tea

11. Look at blog web stats to see if anyone cares

12. It doesn’t matter. Write for yourself

13. Create list of blog ideas

14. Reduce categories to three: “white, black, everything else”

15. Straighten out cords that cross over each other and loop across desk from the computer to the wall

16. Get up and find sticky-back velcro

17. Attach strap of velcro under desk and neatly organize and contain cords through it

18. Check e-mail to see if anyone has commented on a blog

19. Re-categorize old blogs into “white, black and everything else” and update

20. Re-create original categories, re-categorize blogs and update

21. Create self-blog-evaluation categories: gold nuggets, silver nuggets and gravel

22. Make list of all imperative things to do before I write

Oops. Out of time. More tomorrow.

Women of the Bible

I was in a Christian gift shop in December shopping for a Christening gift for my grandson when I noticed a display of books called Women of the Bible beside the counter. Being somewhat vulnerable to impulsive book-buys, I picked one up and added it to my purchases.

The authors are Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda and the subtitle is A Devotional Study of Women in Scripture (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007).

I had been tossing around the idea of making good this year on a lifetime goal of reading the Bible in its entirety, so I thought this might be an acceptable alternative to taking that monumental project on. I’ve tried before, and made it through the more interesting chapters but you have to admit, some of the text between the two covers of the Bible is pretty dry reading. I even have a One-Year Bible on my bookshelf that I bought a couple of decades ago trying to make good on this goal.

Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety?

“Women of the Bible looks at the lives of fifty-two prominent—and not so prominent—women of Scripture, offering a fresh perspective on the story of salvation,” (p.14). It also offers a perspective on history.

When I was in college in the late 1970s, I took a course called Old Testament Modern Study. It was a history course. We studied the Bible for its historical significance. Although I haven’t retained much of what I learned more than 30 years ago, I do remember being fascinated by the study of the Bible from a historical perspective.

Women of the Bible is a similar study, only from a woman’s perspective. Each chapter focuses on one woman whose story the authors have systematically excavated, providing an inspirational portrait and background information about the culture of each woman’s life along with devotional studies of her scripture legacy, promise, and legacy of prayer. The history part is fascinating.

Although I am very familiar with many of the stories of the Bible from years of on-again-off-again church attendance, I never paid a lot of attention to what the women in the stories were up to, with the exception of Mary the mother of Jesus and perhaps one or two others. I don’t think that is entirely my fault. I think the sermons and lessons we all learned from the Bible were primarily from the male perspective.

Take Sarah, the wife of Abraham, for example. When the famine drove Sarah and Abraham to Egypt, Abraham asked Sarah to pass as his sister because of her beauty. He was afraid the Pharaoh would have him killed to be able to add Sarah to his harem. Sarah did as he asked and served as a concubine while Abraham amassed a fortune in the way of sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and servants. Although the men were satisfied with the deal, God apparently was not. The truth came out and Sarah and Abraham were allowed to leave with their fortune.

Think about it. Whether or not this story is based in fact doesn’t negate the point that the author of the story when it was written centuries ago, thought nothing of the fact that this woman was traded, by her husband, for animals. Satisfactorily.

You might be thinking, “Grow up. A lot of people have been bought and sold throughout history.”

Lot’s wife’s story is another good example. When Lot welcomes the angels (men) who come to destroy Sodom into his home and the men of the town come at night demanding Lot surrender the men to the crowd, Lot says, “I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men because they have come under the protection of my roof” (p. 41).


What kind of priority system is that?

Eye-opening, historically speaking.

What was Lot’s wife thinking about this solution to the problem? And why did she turn back and end up as a stone pillar as they fled the destruction of Sodom? Was it because she was attached to her life of comfort there or was she concerned about family and loved ones she was leaving behind? Or maybe she just didn’t trust what men told her to do.

Food for thought.

The Little Sister

I cannot choose but think upon the time
When our two lives grew like two buds that kiss
At lightest thrill from the bee’s swinging chime,
Because the one so near the other is.
—George Eliot from “Brother and Sister”

George Eliots’ poem, “Brother and Sister” touches a place deep in my heart.  Like Eliot, I am a younger sister.  My sister Carol and I were nearly inseparable in our childhood.  In fact, my memory sometimes confuses what happened to her with what happened to me.  I remember that one time my mom left a little red pill on the shelf above the sink, and thinking it was a piece of candy I climbed up on the counter and ate it.  My sister Carol has the same memory, only she remembers she was the one who climbed up and ate it. One of us got in big trouble over that one. Eventually my mom settled the debate when she verified that it was in fact Carol who did it. And this makes sense to me because I was often the watcher while she was the doer.

I have very few childhood memories of which Carol is not an integral part.

People many times thought we were twins as we were only a year apart in age.  My mother often dressed us alike and I was near in size to Carol.  But I never felt I was her equal; she was the older and the wiser one

I held him wise, and when [she] talked to me
Of snakes and birds, and which God loved the best,
I thought [her] knowledge marked the boundary
Where men grew blind though angels knew the rest.
If [she] said “Hush!” I tried to hold my breath;
Whenever [she] said “Come!” I stepped in faith. . .

We lived in a childhood paradise in our humble single-story three bedroom home on the very outskirts of Piqua, Ohio.  We had two cherry trees in the back yard, a swing set, a sandbox made from an old large rubber tractor tire, and a wonderful lilac bush.  We spent long and lazy days in the trees, or in the sand, or on our bikes.  Sometimes we would skate on the sidewalk with metal skates that fit over our shoes and came with a key.  I can still remember the fierce vibrating sensation as we rolled down the rough concrete sidewalk on the little metal wheels of our skates.

One day Carol wanted to make paint.  She had the brilliant idea that if we crushed small colorful pebbles into a fine powder and added water we could use it to paint pictures.  We collected our pebbles and each found a larger stone to use as a grinding or crushing tool and set about our business on the concrete patio beside our kitchen door.  When we finally produced enough crushed rock to mix with water and paint with we ended up with only wet paper covered with tiny rock specks.  We were lucky we didn’t put our eyes out with flying rock chips.

In retrospect I guess Carol wasn’t as wise as I thought she was at the time. But my memories of those days by her side are precious to me.  I can recall them and feel again as I did then; I can almost smell the fresh cool air and hear the birds that used to sing as we’d play outside in the early morning hours.

Long years have left their writing on my brow,
But yet the freshness and the dew-fed beam
Of those young mornings are about me now,
When we two wandered toward the far-off stream . . .

[Her] sorrow was my sorrow, and [her] joy
Sent little leaps and laughs through all my frame. . .

School parted us; we never found again
That childish world where our two spirits mingled. . .

But were another childhood-world my share,
I would be born a little sister there.

Swinging with my two "big sisters" — Carol on the left and Kathy in the middle. 1960.

Photo by Jerry A. Smith

Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote


An excerpt from a paper written September 2004 for the course Survey of Women Writers at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Work Cited: Eliot, George.  “Brother and Sister.”  The Norton Anthology: Literature by Women. Eds. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar.  New York: Norton, 1996. 831-835. Pronouns in brackets replace the masculine ones Eliot wrote about her brother.

I saw three geese come gliding in

I saw three geese today. They were moving forward and descending rapidly across the road I was traveling. Their wings were quivering in an effort to slow down to land, I assumed. And they maintained a perfect mini-v formation throughout their subtle turns and dives. Amazing. I’m sure they weren’t using radios or sonar  or whatever modern technology the Thunderbirds or other fascinating military performance flying squads use to stay in sync. How do they do it? (I’ll likely be corrected on the sonar comment—I’m guessing they probably do use some kind of sonar.)

Geese fly in a V because it is easier for every one except the lead goose, who has to break the wind. The geese take turns in the more strenuous lead position. It is a well-coordinated group effort. If you want more details, you can read a few here. http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/geese.html

I have also read on more than one occasion (although I can’t place my fingers on a valid source to back it up in the amount of time I feel warrants the effort) that if a goose is injured or falls sick, two other geese drop out of the formation and stay with it until it is either dead or recovered and able to rejoin the group. A “no man left behind” code. A lovely thought.

Have you ever been left behind in a group? A rock in your shoe has to be dealt with? You stubbed your toe and now have a limp? You watch everyone rush on ahead and hope you won’t fall too far behind? You had to stay home alone with the flu when everyone else went out to dinner? Did that ever happen to you? Well, it wouldn’t have if you were a goose. I’m just saying.

If you are paying close attention you might notice that these are actually ducks and not geese. I did not have my camera handy. Big surpise there. I thought this would be the next best thing. And anyway, I like this picture.

Rule #1 on writing — do it

So far I’m doing a better job of creating categories than writing posts. But today’s post makes five for five on this post-a-day 2011 challenge I signed up for when I started my blog.  No, I couldn’t just sign up for the blog; dabble around for a few days; put up a post; wait about a week; try again.

When you go swimming do you like to gradually get used to the water? First you feel the temperature with your toe. Then you descend the first step, then another until you slowly make it to the bottom where you stand a while shivering and using your hands to splash water over your arms. Then  finally, you either decide to go all the way under, or you turn and retreat.

Or do you like to jump right in?

I’m jumping in.

It’s interesting to note, although somewhat redundant and therefore boring to read, that many if not most or even all writers struggle with the sitting-down-to-put-words-on-the-page part of writing. The single most often repeated advice on writing that I’ve read is, “Sit your butt down in front of your typewriter and stay there. Every day.” (I know typewriters are a thing of the past, but don’t you agree that the idea of one adds a bit of nostalgia and romance to the vision. I mean, let’s face it, I could sit in front of my computer and do any number of things including play Bejeweled or Spider Solitaire and it wouldn’t do a thing to advance my writing ability or projects.)

The other piece of advice that I find somewhat mystical and therefore compelling is “Just show up at the keyboard and then get out of the way.” I mean, really? How can I write without thinking about what I am going to write?

But here’s the thing that convinces me the most about the credibility of this advice: some of the best sentences, paragraphs, stories I’ve written have shown up in my head when I wake up in the morning, or occasionally in the middle of the night. They aren’t anything I’ve necessarily intended to write, or contemplated how to word. Just bam. There they are in my head in the morning. I’m always amazed when this happens. It’s like when I’m sleeping my brain says, “Finally, she’s out of the way and I can get to work here.”

That’s it. Surely you can’t expect brilliance everyday. Think of it as gold mining. You have to throw away an awful lot of gravel.


Midlife crisis ­— or bloom where you’re transplanted

If I live to the age of 90, optimistic but not unheard of, I have already passed my midlife, or halfway point of 45, by at least eight and soon to be nine years. Whatever turbulence the infamous transition through midlife was going to cause should be behind me and I should be cruising in a slow-paced, self-accepting, creative, contented and fulfilled life.

But if I don’t start calculating my midlife point until I reached adulthood, which to make the numbers simple we’ll say is at the age of 20, and if I live to be 90, I am right smack in the middle of my midlife.

I know the math can be challenging, but feel free to use a pencil and paper, or you can just trust me.

Since I’m not feeling settled-down, contented and fulfilled, I did a google search.

Don’t you just love the internet? In days gone by to obtain this information I would have had to wrap my muffler around my neck, pull on my snow boots and trudge, shivering out to the car to drive to a library, periodically swiping the fogged up windshield with a Taco Bell napkin I located on the floor of the passenger seat until the snail-paced heater and defroster kicked into gear.  At the library I would have to stand in a puddle of dirty water as the gray snow sludge melted from my boots, and search through the card catalog file, which might take quite a while depending how clever I was at searching for the right words and whether I could read the worn-off labels on the little wooden drawers or not. (I have to admit; there was something charming about those wooden chests full of little labeled wooden drawers.) Does anybody know what I am rambling on about?

Back to the point. Sitting in the warmth and comfort of my study, watching the light snowfall drift down outside the window, my internet search for midlife crisis led me to some interesting information about not only midlife (http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/midlife-crisis-opportunity) but also human development which I am sharing, in part, with you below.

“Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Much like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages.” http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/psychosocial.htm

The following are excerpts from Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages Summary Chart found here: http://psychology.about.com/library/bl_psychosocial_summary.htm

“Infancy (birth to 18 months): . . .Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.

Early Childhood (2 to 3 years): . . . Children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.

Preschool (3 to 5 years): . . . Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt.

School Age (6 to 11 years): . . .Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.

Adolescence (12 to 18 years): . . .Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.

Yound Adulthood (19 to 40 years): . . .Young adults need to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation.

Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years): . . .Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.

Maturity (65 to death) . . .Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.”

Whatever stage of life you find yourself in, I wish you success.

Bushes growing through the red rock of Sedona Arizona - 2002