Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rainforest Reveries

As I look back wistfully to that special week, it seems a very long time ago. But it  has been only a month and a half since we were there.

It was a long-time dream, a trip two years in the planning: we would go to Hilo, Hawaii to visit my dear friend Jeanne Nishida Yagi and her husband Jimmy Yagi. And, while there, we decided, just this once, to rent a home nearby. It was a beautiful cabin on a ridge, in the middle of an island rainforest, with huge waterfalls at the back of the property.

I had seen the house years ago in Architectural Digest. It was built as a vacation retreat by a gay architect from San Francisco who died before having a chance to enjoy it. A local businessman bought it and keeps it as a vacation rental and special event venue called The Falls at Reed's Island. It is booked months, years in advance. (While we were there, the owner told us that he had just had to tell someone trying to reserve Christmas week 2015 that is was already booked.) We saved considerable money by making our reservations two years ago. And all the time since, we had been anticipating, dreaming of our stay there.

We could never have imagined, even looking at the beautiful pictures on the website, just how wonderful it would be: the steady and comforting sounds of water -- the falls, the river, the rain -- throughout the house and the living sounds of the rainforest -- birds by day, singing frogs by night. There were the mists and rainbows and lush tropical vegetation, flowers growing wild.

Bob meditating in the back yard of The Falls

View from the kitchen window

With the soothing sights and sounds, my thoughts settled into reverie...    

I thought about the joy of new experiences -- being in a place so new, so different, so unfamiliar, yet comforting and the wonder of beauty all around us, so vivid, from every window. Every glimpse outside was a delight and a revelation.

I thought about how we so often take for granted and stop seeing the beauty most familiar to us so quickly.... and wondered what delights I might be overlooking at home. I made a vow to reconnect with the unique beauty awaiting us at home  -- the startling clarity of a desert sky at night, the smell of the desert after a monsoon rain, the colors of blooming palo verde in the spring and the sweet, unexpected smell of citrus blossoms in the air.

I thought with love and a bit of worry about our ailing cat Gus -- how he would love the smells and sounds of the rainforest, how he blessed our lives every day, how I wanted to soothe and comfort him all the remaining days of his life, never realizing that we would have only a week together between our return and his death. But there in the rainforest, I felt a loving connection to Gus as I was surrounded by forces of nature and quietly accepted the fact that sooner rather than later, we would lose this beloved animal but treasure having known him forever.

I thought that, for all the beauty of this wondrous place, the greatest joy of this trip was spending time with my friend Jeanne and her family.

I thought about the meaning of long friendships in our lives. Jeanne and I have been friends since our early days of college. At that time, we were united in being geographically unusual: she, a native of Hilo, Hawaii and I hailing from Los Angeles, were among the few warm weather natives traveling to Northwestern's campus north of Chicago. A year ahead of Jeanne, I was matched with her as a Big Sister to ease her transition on campus. We clicked and have been dear friends since.

We braved the Great Storm of '67 together -- venturing out for ice cream with the conditions still near white-out, spending a Christmas together later that year in my graduate student apartment complete with Christmas tree and cookies Jeanne baked and a holiday dinner we cooked together. There were letters and phone calls and visits in our early career years, particularly after Jeanne returned to Hawaii after working for the Peace Corps in Saipan and Washington, D.C.  We battled weight gains and celebrated periods of svelteness and mourned the loss of several dear friends together. She was at my side in 1977 when I married Bob and I was delighted when she married Jimmy in 1980.

It was -- and is -- a marriage made in heaven. She is an avid basketball fan, he a well-regarded basketball coach with an international reputation. His first wife Carol, a dear friend of Jeanne's, died of cancer in the late Seventies and Jeanne and Jimmy fell in love while sharing their grief and loving memories of Carol. They spent their honeymoon at a basketball camp in Colorado. This is a partnership that was meant to be. "We make a great team," Jimmy said smiling fondly at his wife during our visit.

                                                  Jeanne and Jimmy Yagi

They have both had health challenges in the past year, but have come through with the support of a loving extended family and each other.

                                Sunday brunch with Jeanne (center) and family

It was wonderful to see the love and humor and generosity of spirit abound -- even more beautiful, more soothing, than the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

                                    We decided to make visits a new tradition.

"Please make this a tradition at least once a year," Jeanne said quietly before we left and again in an email. "It doesn't have to cost you any more than airfare. Stay with us next time. Use our second car."

The important thing, we agreed, was having time, more time together, time to talk, time to enjoy the friendship that first blossomed in our teens and that has thrived into our golden years.

Waterfalls are gorgeous, but nothing is more glorious than joy and love in the eyes of a dear friend.


  1. What a beautiful post just full of wonderful observations about what is important in our lives. The house is quite unbelievable and you must wonder if you were really there or if it was the best dream ever! But for me the best thing you wrote was:

    "The important thing, we agreed, was having time, more time together, time to talk, time to enjoy the friendship that first blossomed in our teens and that has thrived into our golden years."

    It seems to me we would all of us be much happier if we took that into our hearts and remembered it every day of our lives...

  2. Wow that trip was blessed on many fronts. Spending special time with long time friends plus living in a dream location. It sounds marvelous. And as sad as it is to lose a long time pet, that he waited for you to return and to at least have that week together was so very special.
    Truly a trip to enjoy in memory. .

  3. What a beautiful post, Kathy! Yes, indeed, old friends, new sights, all elements to lift our spirits. Glad you were able to enjoy the trip.

  4. I think you have a wonderful new tradition in the making. You are right -- all the scenery in the world doesn't make a bit of difference if the chemistry isn't right -- yours was, is, and I suspect will be for many moons to come. This is indeed a happy ending story.

  5. Kathy, this is a wonderful post. I also cherish old friendships. My college roommate moved back to Oregon when she and her husband retired. We get together a few times a year...and it is as if no time has passed since our last meeting. It's nice to have a relationship that is so easy.

  6. OH Wow---I'd love that rental place in Hawaii... GOSH--think I could live there forever! WOW---so glad you all got to be there ESPECIALLY to spend time with your special friend(s).... That is the most important of all.. So glad you were there and had such a marvelous time. Great set of photos, Kathy.

  7. You are so right.
    The waterfall and all the glories surrounding it won’t have hampered your enjoyment but being with your dear friends will have made it doubly wonderful.

  8. A wonderful post, Kathy. I love the way you relish and revere the natural beauty that surrounded you, but even more I love your reflections on true and lasting friendship. I do hope this new tradition nourishes you all for many years to come.

  9. What a marvellous time you had. I agree: having old friends to go through life with is infinitely precious. I cherish mine - even though distance means we meet so rarely.

  10. That sounds like a wonderful, restorative place to visit, but, even more so, your friends sound like they restore your heart and soul. Good friends are a treasure. What a good tradition to start at any age.

  11. Dear Kathy, what a lovely posting, one of my favorites of all those you've written. I, too, got to visit with an old friend recently. She drove down from Minnesota and stayed here for three days. We talked late into the night and found that our foundation was so firm that we could continue building a friendship of love and respect and admiration and cherishing. We shared fears and joys and the time renewed my spirits. Just as your visit renewed you and your friend and the bond between you.

    You know I used to do TM--for three or four years in the early '80s. Then I stopped--can't remember why. I've been reading a book by Russell Simmons on meditation and have decided to start anew. I'm wondering what advice/suggestions, Bob would give to me. He's meditating there in Hawaii and also in your "Purr" video.

    Isn't life truly wonderful? To love and be loved. How blessed we are. Peace.