Monday, May 29, 2006

Nocturnal Visitors

by Ginny Wiehardt

[Editors' note: Ginny Wiehardt is a NYC-based writer who spent last summer writing in a shack off-the-grid in Lawai Valley. This piece was originally published on her blog of the experience at]

Last night in the middle of the night I was awakened by a lot of noise. I sleepily assumed it was the rat, which often knocks things over in the night -- she's a rather clumsy rat -- but the noise was loud and seemed to be coming from all around the house. I looked over to see if Dasher was up, but she was on her pillow, as groggy-headed as I was. I decided that we definitely had more than one rat. Then I thought to myself, "What could they be doing?" And then, after listening another moment, "They must be really big." I waited for Dasher to start up in a rat-hunting frenzy, but Dasher, smart dog that she is, only looked at me as though to say, "Well, are you going to take care of this or what?"

Meanwhile, the banging around the house intensified.

It sounded as though something was rubbing itself against the walls. The shack practically groaned. I could hear things being knocked around, though I couldn't tell exactly what things or where they were; the sound seemed to be everywhere. I picked up the flashlight and sat up in bed. I aimed it at the kitchen, giving the rats a heads up so I wouldn't actually have to see them, and then got out of bed.

Out of bed I finally started to wake up, and I realized that the sound was outside, not in the kitchen or upstairs as I had thought. My situation was made worse by the fact that I had gone to bed listening to AM radio. On Friday nights the New Zealand station and Radio Australia both broadcast rugby, so I'm left either with Japanese stations, which sometimes have programs in English, or AM talk radio. The last program I listened to before falling asleep was on the mainland, where it would have been the middle of the night. It consisted of men calling in to describe their paranormal experiences. Some of the stories were pretty entertaining, but the last one was a guy talking about the "shadow man" who had visited him at the foot of the bed. This one was actually pretty creepy, so I switched it off before hearing the end, afraid that it was going to keep me up at night.

So there I was, in the middle of the night, visions of shadow men in my head. I bravely went to my window, nonetheless, as the noise was at this point really too loud to ignore. I immediately saw something big and solid move down the hill beside the house. My first thought was that it was a man, because it did sort of look like a man sliding down a hill. I ducked down so that he wouldn't see me. As I squatted under the window in the dark, I realized that if the thing I'd seen was a man, then that meant that there were many men, all around the house -- that the shack was being invaded for some reason, which was highly unlikely. It also struck me that the thing I'd seen was too big to be a man, and then that whatever I was hearing had more than two feet.

After listening for a few seconds to confirm the fact that it was a four-footed creature, I got up and shone my flashlight out the window. Unfortunately this mostly illuminated the screen over the window and ruined my night vision. I switched the flashlight off and peered into the darkness. There I now discerned four or five giant black shapes, negative fields against the white moonlight on the yard. "My God," I thought, "that guy had a shadow man, but I've got shadow cows."

Realizing that the idea of shadow cows was crazy, I turned the flashlight back on. In the beam of the flashlight, now that I knew where to aim it, emerged cow after cow, all peering back at me, russet- and white-faced, as normal as milk carton cows, except that these had extremely guilty looks on their faces. (One of them had been busy pushing everything off the porch of my bathroom/storage shed with his head; I'm not sure what the others were up to). Their expressions, the fact that they were there at all, and the crazy things I had imagined, struck me as hilarious and I started laughing. The sound startled the guilt-ridden cows, who all began to move away, practically running at first, back to wherever they'd come from.

I regretted scaring them, and stopped laughing, to watch instead. Without the flashlight they were again made strange -- great moonsilver creatures, moving together like pilgrims toward a shared destination.

The only sound was the sound of their hooves through the grass; they moved around the house, up the hill, and through the hole in the fence that must exist, but which I haven't yet been able to find.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Note from Auntie Logy

On Kauai’s Hwy
by Gae Rusk

Auntie was driving home from Princeville Foodland, heading down that long, steep hill toward Kalihiwai River, when the rental car ahead of me stopped mid-bridge to photograph the waterfall. Vehicles coming downhill both directions screeched and skidded, some skewing sideways, and it was a near miss all around. Then, the car drove off like nothing had happened.

Auntie Logy was so appalled at the Visitor’s self-absorbed, hazardous behavior, Auntie followed him all the way to Kilauea Lighthouse. There Auntie parked behind his car and got out and explained why he was lucky he wasn’t singing the flat car blues.

Because of many hellish moments like this on Kauai’s Hwy, Auntie says we need to make some attempt to educate all these arriving drivers. The State of Hawaii has been rated more than once as having the worst road conditions in the USA, and Auntie Logy knows everyone driving on Kauai will agree with that. Since so many Visitors are driving these narrow, bumpy, crowded roads with us, why not bring them up to speed while they are still en route.

Believe me, Auntie has thought a lot about how to do this when toodling up the Hwy at 38 mph, tenth car in a line of twenty, all of us behind one Visitor who thinks Kauai is a giant golf course with a super-size water hazard.

The best idea Auntie came up with is for incoming airlines to tuck laminated explanations of island driving conditions into seatback pockets. Flight attendants could indicate these sheets during their safety hulas. No doubt it would be good remedial info for Kauai residents on those flights, including Auntie.

As to cruise ships arriving at Nawiliwili Harbor, it would be simple to add island driving seminars to activities at sea. Lessons could be presented between islands, and even designed for each island’s road conditions. Cautionary photos could be displayed. Once they know what driving here is really like, Visitors might stick to the K-Mart shuttle, and everyone would be better off.

Designing and implementing such a program would likely take one tedious path through Kauai’s system of getting things done, so Auntie Logy will kick start it by asking Visitors driving here to recognize a few vital clues.

One, Kauai is not a theme park. Residents driving all those pickups and SUVs are trying to get to work, or to Wilcox walk-in clinic, or to the Raider-Warrior game at Vidinha, or to Otsuka’s for the one day mattress sale. Whatever reason, the point is, local drivers are not on vacation.

Two, the Hwy is already crowded with Citizens of Kauai even before Visitors drive into the mix. In fact, the Hwy is packed with Auntie’s daughters’ cars, and the cars of all their many friends, as they drive from Nawiliwili to Starbucks, from campus to Macy’s cosmetic counters, from the Kipu turnoff to the Kauai Collision Center after running into one big pig on the Hwy.

Three, Auntie does not like to honk her horn. Auntie believes there still exists here a faint but lingering patience with visiting drivers and with each other. Auntie knows several Kauai drivers are patient with Auntie when she has stupid, careless moments on the road, but what this means is few Visitors will ever know how much and how often they offend us on our Hwy.
My position on this Hwy problem? Aunty has had enough. Some effort must be made to improve the Hwy experience, so Visitors, you need to heed a few crucial rules while you are driving on Kauai:

  • Do not stop mid-bridge to video the river.
  • Do not read maps and drive at the same time.
  • Do not creep along Kauai’s Hwy where others cannot pass you, then speed up where we can, especially on the hill at the old dairy, which isn’t there any more, so you just have to know.
  • Do not rush toward Hanalei Bridge to join the end of a line of cars already crossing. It is likely the other side has been waiting and is ready to go, and you could be permanently crippled by stink-eye.
  • If a line of pickup trucks forms behind you, pull over at the next wide spot and let us by. If you find yourself two feet from the rusted clunker ahead, there is really no where to go, so back off.
  • If you find yourself in a turn-only lane, go ahead and make the turn and figure it out later, and do not try a desperate merge back into traffic that brings us all to a stall. Auntie is thinking in particular about the Foodland to Safeway merge, now a construction zone, where Hwy anarchy rules and drivers make enemies for life.
  • And, pay attention now, do not flatten Auntie Logy in any crosswalk. This is the only time Auntie is telling you this.
To tell you the truth, something has to change soon, because the altered nature of driving Kauai’s Hwy is driving Auntie crazy. Auntie has stress when she drives her Hwy. Auntie has even waved with one finger at Visitors because of their bad Hwy manners, so something must be done before Auntie’s head explodes.

Is Auntie the only one thinking this? Is there any Kauai Educateer interested in developing this campaign with the Kauai Visitor Bureau? If so, may the island’s God of Transportation bless you forever.

There now, Auntie Logy spoke her mind. Auntie feels much better. A hui hou.

Please note: Used as a noun, antilogy is an inconsistency or contradiction in terms of ideas, causing controversy and discussion.

Gae Rusk, copyright 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hanalei River Valley

(c) 2005 Kim Steutermann Rogers

Going Home

by Mahealani Perez-Wendt

I. Stable

Dark horses
Black saddles
Cattle crying
Fire and iron
Slaughter and slice
the smokehouse waiting.

II. Prayer

Bless me Father
Holy Mary
Baby Jesus
Rose from ashes.

III. Valley

Too long not knowing the horses and
mountain paths of our valley
I rode with friends meandering the
ginger streams.
Now I remember the tangled hau, the old cabin,
the hunter’s waystation quite abandoned;
Again the thorn and scratch of lantana,
Up there oregano leaves mother told us long
Miles of guava, the gamboling cows
scatter tall grasses at our approach.
I remember that house, the garden still intact.
I remember horses, stables, and bridle days.
Skinny kids sun on rocks at the waterfall –
Who can forget racing through pasture to
be first at the swimming?

IV. Rain

Now the rains sweep through this valley
We find sheltering under trees
We crouch whispering ghost stories,
Sinking toes in sodden leaves.
When the rainbow arcs its blessing
We give thanks and ask for these:
Ever shall we swim stream waters
Watch the sunset hills ablaze
Ever savor sweet roseapple
Ever dream on valley days.