Here you go---courtesy of our maker, Lava Tree State Park, and my Nikon.
This last one is my favorite! Isn't she beautiful?
Flowers are one of those things I don't see around here very often. In the summer, sure---because I grow them. But I can count on one hand the number of times I've received flowers from Todd. And that's not a complaint, either, because he knows my love language, which is spelled C-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e.
Flowers are beautiful though, especially when you're in the dead of winter.
I was thinking about this earlier this morning as I cleared my husband's car.
Do I like clearing snow off cars? Not especially. But it's an easy way to tell my husband I love him, without speaking a word. Clearing the snow off his car does for him what a gift of chocolate does for me. It also explains why I am going to zip around and really clean the house this morning. Certainly not because I want to. But it makes Todd feel loved.
Let's face it---once you've been in a relationship or a marriage for a long-enough time, things can become routine. Routine can be good, but it isn't very exciting, and it doesn't feel very special. A marriage with too much routine can start to look like winter, with no spring in sight.
If you've never read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, it's one I would highly recommend. I won't go into it in detail, but it's a book about learning to show love to people in the way they will understand it best. (He's written another book along the same theme, but applied to the children in your life.)
The thing is, love is a choice.
As people, it's not our nature to always think of others first and do the loving thing.
But if we truly love our families, it's in our best interest to learn how they feel loved---and then make the choice to do that very thing. Even if it's something we might not want to do.
Especially if it's something we might not want to do.
Do I like playing Batman Cave with Micah? Not one bit, but he feels loved when I choose to.
Would I normally bake cupcakes for dessert in the middle of the week? No, but Juli feels loved when I serve her one with a candle to remember her baptism.
Do I want to go clean the entryway right now? No, No, No! But I'm going to go do it, because my husband will smile when he comes home.
I dare you.
Try to love those you love best in the way they will see and hear it most.
Your life will not be the same.
Flowers will begin to bloom.
Is it possible that having too much of something turns something lovely into an enemy?
In the case of Kahili Ginger, Hawaiians would answer a resounding "Yes!"
Native to the Himalayas, no one is quite sure how Kahili Ginger arrived on the Big Island. However, the beautiful plant has turned deadly, spreading like wildfire and choking out the native plant species in Volcanoes National Park.
Pity, too, because it is absolutely delightful to behold. Each six-foot-tall ginger stalk boasts a head of flowers a foot tall, exuding an intoxicating fragrance to any passersby.
To save the plant species native to Hawaii, park officials have had to create a system whereby they rip the ginger out (including the roots) to keep them from spreading.
We have similar problems in the mainland U.S.; in our area, purple loosestrife is a well-known invasive.
I have a similar problem in my house---only the invasive isn't a plant or an insect.
Our home---like many others---is invaded with stuff.
I don't need to describe that problem much, do I? Almost everyone I know, even those of us who don't have large incomes, have way too much stuff crammed into our homes.
So today's project is my beautiful upstairs closet. (And when I say beautiful, I mean lots of shelves.)
Only it hasn't looked so good for...hmm...about five months. Even without new purchases, items seem to have accumulated at our house.
Time to weed through---with a little internal dialogue as I go.
Does that lamp have a use on the piano? Yes? Then let's put it there.
Does this extra clock have a place in our home? No. Then it needs to go to Salvation Army.
Why do we have five mattress pads? We only have three beds. Two need to leave.
My Raggedy Ann pillowcase from Aunt Shar, which I still love. Put in the "fix" pile.
Ahh! The curtains from Terra Dei. Will those fit in the office? Nice!
Slowly, slowly, things are weeded out.
Things I love are kept.
That's my rule, btw. Anything in my house either needs to fulfill a function and be used, or it needs to bring me joy. Otherwise, it is just taking up space.
As in the case of the Hawaiian ginger, you can have too much of a good thing.
Too much stuff.
* * * * * * *
House Note: My husband truly listened when I explained my desire for a functional hall closet. Since our ceiling in the upper hallway is around nine feet tall, we have a little extra vertical space. That amazing man created a closet that has seven shelves on each side. I need to use a stepladder to get to the top, but it doesn't bother me. I just put seasonal things and extra pillows up toward the top.
The paneling in this closet is the same as in Juli's and ours---redwood boards taken out of the original cabins that were built at Lutherlyn around 1950. Sanded and given a coat of polyurethane, they have a new life as the interior of my closet.
Yesterday, Juli and I attended a tea.
(I almost couldn't write that, btw, because it's so not me.)
I don't have a good history with teas, having attended precious few. Like two. One was my sister-in-law's bridal shower in Staunton, VA---which makes it an official tea, in a southern tearoom. The other was a small tearoom here in PA; not so official, but the yummiest scones ever.
Part of my problem with teas used to be the fact that I didn't like tea.
(I've overcome that hurdle in the last few years, when I needed an option for a hot drink with fewer calories than hot cocoa.)
The other problem I had/have is that I don't like little tea sandwiches (or anything else) with mayonnaise. There's a secret out in the open for you. I can't be an official grownup, can I, if I don't like things with mayo? That's okay by me. I've learned to be polite and eat them, but they're not on my like list.
In fact, the only reason I could ever come up with to attend a tea is the yummy cake and desserts that are served.
(Now that I'm gluten free, that reason has much less hold over me.)
However---even with revealing all that to you---we had a lovely time at our tea yesterday!
Lutherlyn held its first Winter Tea yesterday in the dining hall, the sole purpose being to raise money for camperships for the summer camping season.
Each of the tables was decorated in a different theme by its hostess. Our friend Jess had the idea to do an "Alice in Wonderland" tea party, complete with a tree stump centerpiece.
Juli and Jess The Queen of Hearts:
(And yes, Juli and I did wear our Steeler colors to the tea. We had been asked to wear them for church, and we decided they were the colors of the day. Plus, it was eighty million degrees below zero, so there was no chance of me wearing thin, pretty dress clothes.)
Juli and I got to sit at our friend Deb's table. This being her first tea, Juli was very taken with the prettiness of it all. (Not to mention the cute tea holders, the biscotti, the teeny-tiny jars of honey...!)
Have you ever seen such beautiful roses?!! What a breath of spring despite the long winter. Thanks Deb!
Feeling grown-up and very pleased:
Drinking from a beautiful teacup! (Miss Deb, you are oh-so-trusting!)
And then it happened---
Crackers and cheese---gone.
Yummy blueberry scone---gone.
Stickers that Miss Deb gave her---gone.
Tic-tac-toe with momma---already played.
Dessert time? Not yet.
Dessert time now? Not yet...
Really, really looking forward to dessert...time to eat the program!
Right about this time, we were saved. Deb had arranged for three lovely ladies to come play and sing for the tea. Juli acquiesced to sit on my lap, and we simply sat together, absorbing twenty minutes of melody. It was cozy, "just-us" kind of time. So thankful for that.
Treated to a sunset over the lake:
Older moms often look at us wistfully, with words of how fast time passes and children grow.
Believe me...I know.
She's already grown so much into the person God is creating her to be.
It's a beautiful, tear-jerky kind of thing, and I love being part of it.
A short note of welcome to visitors from IComLeavWe---I'm glad to have you stop by!
(For readers who haven't heard of ICLW, it stands for International Comment Leaving Week. Once a month, bloggers from all walks of life take time to practice the art of visiting and commenting on others' blogs.)
Life Under a Blue Roof is a blend of posts centering around sustainability/organic living/gardening/family life. However, since we have eight million feet of snow outside, I've decided to take a break from winter and write (mostly) about Hawaii this month.
Today is the exception.
* * * * * * *
Todd and I really enjoy cross-country skiing, as do quite a few of our friends.
Two years ago we were gifted with a pair of cross-country skis just the right size for a child. In the hustle and bustle of moving from home to home during our house-building process, Juli got wind that there was a pair of skis waiting for her.
She managed to find the boots when she was six years old, and they were way too big for her. She clomped around the house, declaring, "See! They fit!" when clearly, they did not, and she would have really hurt herself trying to use them.
There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Considering we had many days like that at the time, we moved on with life and hid the boots.)
Thinking they really would fit at age seven, we encouraged her to try them on.
Big mistake. They were (seemingly) no closer to fitting than before!
The other day, now eight, Juli remembered the skis and boots, and wished to try them on.
What do you know?
It was like a moment out of Cinderella.
"They fit! Mom, they fit!"
"When can you take me skiing?"
I always knew our ginormous, snowy driveway had to be good for something. Turns out, it's the perfect place to teach a child to cross-country ski on a snow day off school! (Could her world get any better?)
Here she is, smiling to herself at her good fortune:
She turned out to be a natural.
She was so excited, proud and happy, all rolled into one.
Juli went into this experience with childlike faith, convinced that she would be good at skiing and love it. Think of the children you know. They have an unbridled optimism when they try something new. They just know that they will shine at what they are attempting. (Whether they actually do or not, that's often the attitude they take.)
Until the world tells them they aren't good enough?
Until we as parents remind them that "they aren't going to be good at everything?"
(To my regret, I know I've said this very thing---possibly trying to protect my kids from disappointment?)
All I know is, I want my daughter to feel confident.
I want her to feel strong, that she is able to accomplish many things---the way she looks here:
Come to think of it, our world could use a good dose of unbridled optimism.
One of the most recommended hikes at Volcanoes National Park crosses the crater of Kilauea Iki, left from the eruption of 1959. For 36 days the volcano erupted violently after a century of inactivity. Once a molten lake of lava, it has cooled and hardened, providing an excellent playground for geologists and hikers alike.
If you look closely at the photo, above the rainbow and to the right you can see a white line crossing the bottom of the crater; this is the hiking trail.
To get to the crater, hikers wind their way down a rain forest trail with a 400 foot change in elevation.
Everything is bigger in a rain forest. We were treated to ferns with fiddleheads that were four feet tall!
Once on the crater floor, I was surprised to learn that it wasn't totally flat, as it appears when viewed from above.
Geologists consider this lakebed to still be cooling, evidenced by steam vents everywhere.
And though barren, the landscape is striking and beautiful in its own right.
* * * * * * *
Just for fun, here is footage of what visitors to Kilauea experienced in 1959.
And be sure to take this brochure by the National Park Service, so you can hike Kilauea Iki on your next trip to the Big Island.
Hiking across the lower lava field shows where the volcano has had its own mind in years past. This used to be the park road along the coast, but it needed to be rerouted for obvious reasons---making for great hiking!
(Note the Happy Husband, resplendent in his new ball cap from the park.)
That's how life often happens, isn't it? We go ahead and plan out our roads---our lives---with the best of intentions. The problem is, we can't always see the bigger picture.
What do we do, when for whatever reason, our situations change?
Do we persist in a course of action just because it's what we want---literally standing in the path of the lava?
Or do we yield our wishes and desires, willing to be used in whatever situation we find ourselves?
I don't believe that God is a puppetmaster, pulling whichever strings He wishes on a whim.
But I do believe that we can be useful as His hands and feet in a broken, hurting world.
Going with the flow often makes the path more interesting than our original idea of where we wanted to go.
When you hike along a trail in the woods, it is marked with blazes painted on the trees. Varying colors account for different trails. When the trail goes straight ahead, one blaze is painted; at turns, two blazes.
If you choose to hike outside the woods, it can be difficult to see where the trail is. If it is an area with many small rocks, trailbuilders and hikers will leave cairns (piles of stones) to mark the way.
On a lava field, there is little but desolation. And though it looks smooth from a distance, the cooled lava is often cracked and heaved, making footing hard to find. It becomes brittle and jagged; you don't want to fall.
Kind of makes you wonder why some people would want to hike it in the dark, huh?
One of the rewards of hiking in the dark is that you are pretty much alone. Very few other tourists get up at four a.m. to hike the trail to the active volcano. Another bonus is that the temperature is enjoyable, as opposed to hiking on a black lava field in the Hawaiian sun during the heat of day.
And it's not as tough as you might think, because the Very Thoughtful park service has planted three beacons along the trail to where you can view the active lava flow. Their reflective paint and light on the top are visible for quite a distance, so you just have to head in the general direction of the next beacon. With the beacons and a good Maglite or two, it's an enjoyable hike.
I should probably mention the other purpose of the beacons. They are the park service's way of saying: "This is the very end of the line. You should not pass the third beacon without expecting consequences, such as dangerous fumes or falling into the volcano. So in case you die, we warned you."
Okay, it wasn't worded exactly like that, but that's the point. They don't want people getting too close to the active flow of lava.
The problem is, you can never tell what an active flow will look like. Our mental picture tends to be highly explosive, of a Mount St. Helens nature. When we visited Kilauea, the flow was very peaceful.
In the photo above, you can see steam rising from the path the volcano was using in 2005. Magma was traveling under the crust of the earth to eventually reach the sea.
That's another good reason to hike this at night. I couldn't get a good picture of it, so you'll have to take my word that the steamy crack glowed red here and there. So cool!
This is the view from the third beacon. (Remember, where you're warned to stop?)
The first one is blurry because of the light---but can you see the glow where the lava enters the sea? That also accounts for the steam cloud billowing to the right. (You can also see a few people. We weren't the only explorers that morning!)
Second shot, as the sun was rising, with cool clouds.
Third time, with the most light.
Each picture was totally different---and I actually took about 50 different shots from this point---but these were the three I kept.
* * * * *
Another evening, we hiked to the same location at dusk. That was less enjoyable, because many people thought it would be fun to hike in to see the lava flow. And some of them weren't prepared to make the hike back out in the dark. Sillies!
Anyway, that's not the point. What I saw that night astounded me. As I took pictures & looked through binoculars, there were tiny ants moving on the flow to the sea! Okay---not really ants---people! Even though my pictures seem close, we were far from the flow. These hikers had hired private guides to take them where no one else walks.
I was so envious.
And yet, even if I had had the money to hire one of those guides, I wouldn't have gone.
This cutie was waiting for me back home.
(And can you see her shirt, btw? My mom made it expressly for our trip to HI. It says "Camp Grandma and Granddad"---and I think she wore it a lot that week. They were so excited to have her!)
But really, what is it about kids that turns us into responsible humans?
Because before kids, I so would have hiked out to that lava flow. That would be an experience of a lifetime---and it would carry a large risk. Lava fields aren't stable or predictable. And if you don't have a guide who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt where you should walk, it can end badly. But before kids, I still would have gone.
Once my daughter was born, something changed. I think it's that way for many parents---something God plants deep inside us to help us become the moms and dads we need to be. An awareness we didn't have before. It helps us protect our kids, and helps us want to stick around and see them grow up.
It makes you realize how much you would miss out on if you disappeared into a crack in the earth.
I know, I'm a science geek at heart.
It was so fantastic, getting to see firsthand what I learned in my geology class in college.
As soon as you enter the park, there are all these natural steam vents everywhere.
Anywhere I visit where the brochure says "Road closed by lava flow," or "Hazardous volcanic fumes,"---that is my idea of a good time! (Totally serious, btw...)
So, if I turned 90 degrees to the right from the turtle photo I showed you yesterday, here is the view of the beach at Punulu'u:
Can't you just picture hanging a hammock from those trees and staying forever? I can.
Especially in the winter.
I realized the other day that some of you may actually get tired of shots from Hawaii for the whole month of January.
Guess I'll see you in February then!
(Just kidding. Hopefully you'll just put up with me.) :)
But others of you may be thinking, "I would love to get away to such a beautiful place! But it's just not possible. Too much money."
Just wanted to put my two cents in on that conversation.
It is too possible. If we can do it, anyone can.
You just have to decide: 1.) how badly you want to go, 2.) what level of luxury you want to visit within, and 3.) how long you are willing to save your pennies.
You may need to be resourceful and plan months ahead, but it can be done.
We found the biggest obstacle to be the thousands of dollars for airfare.
So for years and years, we carried a Visa card that tied in with air miles, and every blessed thing we bought, we funneled through that card. (And always paid the balance every month. That's key.)
Our airfare to Hawaii was free.
Once that was out of the way, the rest was easier, financially-speaking.
Clearly, we could have stayed at the Hilton, but we didn't. That's not our style.
We moved around the island. The rooms we visited in Kona on arrival and departure days were only $85 a night. We found similar deals all around the island. (With the exception of the treehouse, which you haven't seen, but that's a whole 'nother day's story.)
There are affordable places to stay, but you have to search them out.
But if you truly want to go, it can be done.
I will even sign up as your trip planner, if you will kindly agree to take me along.
Hooray, hooray, we've a two-hour delay!
It was so nice to let the kids Juli sleep in this morning. (Micah never sleeps in.)
I often get just as excited about the delays as they do.
I love to sleep in.
Perhaps that is the reason why a place like Hawaii speaks to my heart.
While I don't consider myself a laid-back person, I certainly do enjoy a slower pace.
That's why I like to be at home with my family, and why I would love to make my home in Hawaii.
Everything is slightly slower there.
It gives you time to catch your breath.
The picture below was taken at Punalu'u Beach Park, a well-known area for visiting Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
We spent several days snorkeling at a variety of Hawaiian beaches, and each time we were fortunate enough to swim close to sea turtles.
Punulu'u was on my "must-see" list.
At this beach, the turtles come right up to the rocks on the shoreline to feed on the algae that grows there.
So easygoing and slow that algae can grow on the backs of their shells.
It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite animated scenes of all time is from Finding Nemo, when Marlin and Dory find themselves with the Green Sea Turtles on the East Australian Current.
I absolutely treasure right around 2:35, when Squirt falls off the current. Marlin starts to freak out, and Crush calmly encourages Marlin to "see what Squirt can do flying solo."
The animation artists absolutely captured the easygoing spirit of the Green Sea Turtle.
In the water, they float and glide with the currents and waves.
They are not constantly striving.
No hurry or worry.
A total contrast to the pace that most of us keep here in the mainland U.S.