Talk Story

What better way to spend a long weekend than splashing with little boys on a gentle beach, hiking in a tropical forest and talking story with an old friend?  

Talk story, or mo'olelo in Hawaiian, is the important oral tradition of personally sharing stories to preserve them for future generations.  The Hawaiian language was long an oral language until the missionaries devised a written alphabet in order to translate the bible, thus chanting legends, telling stories of historical events and passing down family memories has been and continues to be essential to the culture.  But talk story is also the casual term for chtting or shooting the breeze exactly what friends do when catching up on holiday.

We are spending a few weeks in the tiny little town of Haiku on the north shore of Maui and my old friend Taryn came to visit with her husband Krishna and their two boys Sage (5) and Summit (3).  They live in the beach town of Kailua on Oahu and happily island-hopped over to play with us.  It has been two years since Taryn and I saw each other when I was pregnant with Xavier, so I was very excited to introduce them to each other.  While she and I picked right up where we'd left off, as good friends do, I got to thinking about the story of our friendship and our shared history. Sometimes you get to toast a friend at her birthday or wedding or funeral, but how often really do we get to pay tribute?  Not often enough...

Taryn and I met during the first days of our freshman year at Boston College. We moved into dorm rooms across the hall from each other on the third floor of Gonzaga Hall.  I had flown out from South Dakota and Taryn's mother Gail had traveled with her from Hawaii.  Taryn made a strong first impression on me and having made a mental note to myself to hang out with her, I called out "Hi Taryn" when I later saw the two of them walking across campus.  Her mother predicted, "You two are going to be friends."  And fast friends we became.  

Taryn had then, and has since retained and refined, a beautiful free spirit paired with a lively intelligence plus the ability to focus.  She seemed so confident and at ease in her skin, a rare trait for a college freshman.  And she was open-minded, spontaneous and fun - that kind of zest for life is infectious.  She and I would plan adventures around Boston and wonder why so many of our classmates rarely left our suburban campus.  We explored Walden Pond in glorious autumn colors, we cheered at the Bean Cup Hockey match, participated in the revelry of St. Patrick's day in an Irish-loving town, discussed crushes on boys, studied side by side, and spent hours in deep discussion about our futures.  Gail sent care packages full of Kona coffee and treats from the islands and we would sit up late whispering in her dorm room drinking coffee stifling laughter, trading secrets and hatching big plans.

Partially due to the expensive tuition, I transferred out of Boston College halfway through my sophomore year to go to the University of Montana.  I hated to leave Taryn, but we knew we'd stay close.  She came out to visit me in Missoula that spring break and I went back to visit her in Boston senior year.  After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and spent three years in Niger.  Meanwhile, I traveled around Europe and then moved to San Francisco. All the while we wrote long handwritten letters back and forth.  She moved back to Hawaii and entered graduate school and came to visit me in California.  And I jumped at the chance to visit her in Hawaii a few times.

Back in Kailua, she met Krishna after he'd returned home from living abroad in Tahiti and Portugal.  Krishna knew he wanted to marry Taryn the first time he saw her and he pursued her hard. In six months they were living together and soon they were planning a wedding.  I came over for the celebration on Lanikai Beach and it was a beautiful union to witness.  After I met Christian they both came to play with us in Vancouver and now our husbands are friends too. Fast forward and Taryn and Krishna have two sweet little boys, Sage (5) and Summit (3).  I got to meet her boys two years ago when Christian and I came out to Hawaii when I was 7 months pregnant with Xavier and they were happy to give us the lowdown on parenting, or what Krishna calls "the beautiful carnage."  Christian and I were taking notes on their family freestyle and I particularly wanted to model Taryn's "long leash" attitude for raising her sons.  We stayed in Gail's house down the street so we'd stroll over for BBQ's or meet them at the beach after work.  We loved feeling like locals and adapted quickly to island life.  In-between being a rad mom, surfing and paddling outrigger canoes between islands, Taryn heads up outreach for homeless veterans in Oahu.

These days, Taryn is just as cool and just as fun as she was the day I met her.  This trip, on short hikes with our little boys she would veer off into the trees to glean a tee shirt full of ripe passion  fruits.  Per local custom, her boys call me Auntie and Christian Uncle.  Sage and Summit taught Xavier how to give knuckles and make sand castles. We all grilled fish tacos, swam at reef-sheltered Baby Beach and teased our spouses. We caught up on each other's families, mutual friends and big life plans.  Just living aloha and talking story...

Cheers to friendship!


Here Comes The Sun

What a lovely surprise!  A great big-grinned thank you to Katie Drury-Tanner over at My Cups of Tee for nominating Shine Memoirs for the Sunshine Blogger Award! 

The Rules
1. Write 11 random things about myself.
1. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
3. Nominate my favorite bloggers for this award.
4. Write 11 questions for them to answer.

11 Random Facts About Me:
1. I am a library addict and I frequently hit the limit of 50 books checked out.
2. I am a Libra born in the Year of the Tiger and I am a middle child.
3. I spent six months working for a London wine shop on Portobello Road where I received an excellent education in champagne.
4. I collect ABC books.
5. My favorite artists at the moment are John Singer Sargent, Thomas Gainsborough, and Giovanni Boldini.
6. I studied ballet when I was young and still sometimes dream of being a professional ballerina.
7. I spent three summer seasons working as the "adventure concierge" aboard a Russian ice-breaker taking small groups to Antarctica.
8. I love period dramas and two of my favorite films of all time are The English Patient and Out of Africa.
9. I am hopeless at math.
10.  I love to throw dinner parties.
11. My favorite color is peacock blue.

Questions From Katie:
1.  What initially inspired you to begin your blog?  I wanted to record my family's stories for myself, my young son and my extended family.  And I have long wanted to have a more regular writing practice and this form has been excellent motivation for me.

2.  How has your blog evolved over time? When I started writing this blog, I was sitting down to craft essays.  Now I use it more as a working journal of memories and inspirations I want to share.  In other words I have learned to take the blog, and myself, less seriously rather than more seriously.

3.  Please name a writer or two whom you admire. I have so, so many writers I love and admire, how to limit it to only two?! I inhale everything Diane Ackerman writes as I admire her blend of art, science, memoir and poetry. And I adore M.F.K. Fisher and Nancy Mitford and Frank O'Hara and...oh I could just go on and on.

4.  Besides blogging, what other types of writing do you like to do? I find making lists extremely satisfying.  I keep a memory journal for my son of his milestones with written snapshots of our life.  I write post cards.  Occasionally I try out a poem. 

5.  How did your school experience impact your interest in writing or shape the way you define yourself as a writer?  I loved my English and Literature classes and I was the editor of my high school newspaper.  At university, I majored in History which gave me a lot of practice researching and gave me an appreciation for back story, but I wish now I'd studied Poetry as well.  I always considered myself a reader more than a writer, as I used to think writers were a rare and special breed.  Now I know that writers are simply people who write.  An anecdote about school:  my older brother cautioned me, "Don't let school get in the way of your education."  I took that to heart and embraced lifetime learning all over the place. The Academy can be useful, but it isn't the end-all-be-all.

6.  Has any response you’ve received to your blog made a significant impression on you?  In the past month one person teared up when she told me how much she appreciated my posts and another told me she cries over each one.  Upon hearing this, I was surprised and touched.  I don't think of my writing as being tear-inducing, so hearing that the blog hits an emotional nerve for people reinforces my belief that in today's crazy fast-paced world we are all starving for more connections, stories and time to reflect on our life.  Doesn't it seem like the more ways we have to connect via phone, email, text, skype, facebook, instagram, twitter that it seems harder and harder to actually have an uninterrupted hour-long chat with people we love and cherish?

7.  What kind of future do you envision for your blog? I want to begin to showcase other people's stories here.  I want the blog to be about more than just me and my family.  I think these kind of stories are universal, it is the details that are particular and special for each person, each family.  Also, I am building a website around the blog.  Stay tuned! 

8.  What have you learned about yourself from blogging?  There are moments where it feels daunting to put my words and stories out in the world, but it is immensely satisfying for me to germinate an idea, mull over it while I do the dishes or take a walk, write it down and then share it.  The process is a much-needed creative outlet for me personally and the huge bonus is that it connects me to a community of storytellers. 

9.  How does your current life experience mirror the expectations you had when you were younger? In grade school, a friend and I used to write letters across town as our glamorous adult alter-egos.  We each gave ourselves multi-careers (such as fashion designer/model/lawyer), handsome successful husbands, children with five middle names, houses on a few continents, beloved imaginary pets and a stable of horses. My life hasn't actually become quite so fancy-schmancy, but when I look back I realize I have had multiple careers, I do have a handsome brilliant husband and a beautiful son (with only one middle name) and we do get to travel a fair bit.  Incidentally my friend turned into a gorgeous woman, works for Pixar and has a wonderful family.  We now laugh about how our imaginative young selves manifested pretty wonderful lives.

10.  How does your current life experience look different from the expectations you had when you were younger?  I've always wanted to have a whole pack of kids running around underfoot. 

11.  When are you most likely going to manage a return trip to Seattle to visit the most fantastic Americanized Brit you know?  We'll be home in mid-February!

Bloggers I Hereby Nominate:
Irene Latham - Irene Latham
Patti Digh - 37 Days
Geraldine DeRuiter - The Everywhereist
Rebecca Cowen - Rebecca Plants
Jessica Shaool - Fat Vegan Baby

11 Questions for My Nominees:
1. What inspired you to begin blogging?
2. What are your writing habits?
3. How do you reignite your creativity if you are in a slump?
4. Who are some of your favorite writers?
5. Describe your perfect day.
6. Tell us about an "aha" moment you've had recently.
7. What is one of your most cherished memories?
8. What person in history would you most like to invite to dinner?
9. If you could transport yourself to one place in the world right now, where would it be?
10. Tell us one thing you would like your obituary to say about you.
11. If you could click your heels and make the world a better place, what one thing would you do?

Keep spreading the sunshine!


A Field Of Snow Without A Single Footprint

Happy New Year!  

For many years now, I've sent out a New Year's card (as I'm generally late getting started on the Christmas cards) and I always include a poem.  I love to sort through my poetry books to find just the right one.  This year, I give you Dana Gioia's poem fittingly called "New Year's."

New Year's

Let other mornings honor the miraculous.

Eternity has festivals enough.

This is the feast of our mortality,

The most mundane and human holiday.

On other days we misinterpret time,

Pretending that we live the present moment.

But can this blur, this smudgy in-between,

This tiny fissure where the future drips

Into the past, this flyspeck we call now

Be our true habitat? The present is

The leaky palm of water that we skim

From the swift, silent river slipping by.

The new year always brings us what we want

Simply by bringing us along—to see

A calendar with every day uncrossed,

A field of snow without a single footprint.

                               ~ Dana Gioia