THE END (of a chapter)

Well, Dear Readers, it has been a whirlwind of a journey these last six years blogging about my heart’s desire to move to Hawaii !!  At first the Dream pointed me toward Kona on Big Island, hence the blog’s name “Journey2Kona2019“.  I planned to retire at 70 and begin the remainder of my days subsisting on whatever I’d earned through Social Security.  If it meant being frugal, and even eating ramen noodles every day, then I would gladly pay that price to spend my days in beautiful Hawaii !!

As Life would have it, the journey twisted and turned over time, leading me toward Hilo-side instead of Kona.  And my plan to retire in June 2019… Life convinced me to take a huge leap of faith and move 18 months sooner than planned, just after turning 69!  Let’s face it… when Hawaii calls you to come home, you don’t say “Wait a minute… not now!”  The cords of Hawaii’s Heart YANKED me over to Hilo on February 1st, after learning on my birthday, January 12th, that I was selected for the senior retirement community where I now live!!  Words cannot express the love and care I have felt from all of you in helping to make this possible!

Officially retiring on January 31st, I left Savannah, Georgia and began my Hawaiian life on February 1st, 2018!  I’m taking much needed time to breathe the Tradewinds, get wet in the rain walking to Hilo Town for Farmers’ Market, and walk each morning at dawn to greet the sun and tiger-doves!  In the last six months I’ve seen and felt Pele’s immense power in reshaping Big Island from May through August, and wondered if Hurricane Lane would ever STOP drowning us with 52 inches of torrential downpour!

My greatest joy is to create new artwork nearly every day, on my own timeframe and with no schedule!  Hours of joy each day in my beautiful senior housing apartment… it’s sinfully indulgent and I have no intention of stopping for the rest of my life!!  Hawaii is truly heaven for me and it seems almost miraculous that my long-sought Dream manifested so perfectly!  Everything has fallen into place, and I don’t have to eat ramen noodles either!!

Mohouli 201810

All that said, and with the countless artwork waiting to pour forth from me (as it already has… see my art website), this blog has more than served its purpose and this chapter must finally close.  All my efforts from this point forward need to be on showing Hawaii how grateful I am, by surging forth with creativity and beautiful expressions of how overflowing with joy my heart is here!!  So my artwork will, in a sense, be my future “blogging”.  Everything will be posted out to Facebook, and my art website will continue growing.  Everything in this blog will remain accessible on WordPress for as long as they are in business, as newcomers stumble across its’ 596 previous posts and past readers sift through them in search of their own answers to Life’s questions.

I’m eternally grateful for the feedback, comments and support I’ve received over the years.  I really had NO desire to be a blogger but I was told to “tell Hawaii how your heart feels, and Hawaii will pull you back home”… I’ve found that to be incredibly true, mysterious as it may sound.  So please keep an eye out for my future artwork posts on Facebook, as I gently, gratefully and humbly hold Hawaii dearly in my heart, for the rest of my life!Kahu Kimo

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Now What?

Ever since Effie had suffered the miscarriage she had felt lost; or rather, her life had felt lost to her, as if it had washed out of her along with her baby.  Even Spring’s arrival, which usually filled her with the hopefulness of new things, was failing to generate a spark within the coldness of her deadened heart.  Then she remembered the two black swans by the lake in the park who had lost their two cygnets last year, and feeling a new kinship with them and a desire to commiserate with them, she went to the lake.  But when she got there she was stupefied to see the two of them building a new nest.  She wondered: How can they start over?  How can they hope again?  Don’t they miss those two babies?  Don’t they know that they could be setting themselves up for pain again?!  For three weeks Effie came back every day, both mystified by the swan’s behavior even while hoping to find some nebulous answer for herself.  And then there they were: Two eggs!  Two eggs to replace the two babies lost.  Effie found herself slumped down in the reeds weeping as if her very soul was gushing out.  As the soft darkness muffled into the park, she realized something strange: That she felt purged of her own sorrow, even while she wondered… Now what?

While never having experienced a miscarriage, I know how Effie felt when Life’s wreckage of my younger days also left me wondering: Now what?  As the days morphed into one another I wondered what I wanted to do. A general sense of dissatisfaction caused me to become aware that I was not happy with myself or with my life… which realization caused me to wonder what I could do about that.  Crazy things came to mind: Rent a motel room and just spend all of my time creating artwork?  Spend all of my time writing?  Slowly, I began to realize various aspects of what my heart wanted for myself and for my life; this realization, like a careless spark which grows into a wildfire, ignited a desire within me to find a way into my future.  In each day I found those ways involved mental compromises: If I can’t paint all of the time, I can at least paint for an hour TODAY!  If I can’t send a novel off to a publisher, I can at least write a single blog NOW!  As if slowly emerging out of a foggy morning I began to feel excitement again about myself and my life, and I came to know that as the Dream grows, it also slowly grows The Dreamer!

Incrementally, the Dream grew into a direction, and traveling that road changed me and brought me to a place at which I never could have thought to arrive: The peacefulness of Acceptance!  For all of us, there are many ways in which to experience loss in life, and after the weeping and wailing and smashing of dishes and lamps, we all arrive at that one question: Now what?  Taking a baby step each day and telling ourselves, “It’s enough for today”… we will slowly grow into the answer to that question.

I guarantee it.

Kahu Kimo

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Don’t Dismiss The Pennies

We have no say over where we are born.  In my case it was King’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.  There are also other “givens” at the time of our birth such as eye color and numbers of fingers and toes.  Luckily for me, I do not live in a time or a culture in which my place in society was also assigned to me at birth.  Even so, childhood can be a period during which one has little say over many things: When to go to bed, what to wear, what friends one may have.  But at some point… usually when the child leaves home and heads off on their own… one takes control of the trajectory of one’s life.  But even that control is not absolute in that society and life sometimes present us with issues with which we must deal, whether or not we want to do so.  Sometimes those issues can even cause us to wind up in a wheelchair, in debt or in jail; nonetheless, the mistakes and accidents of our life do not have to completely determine the rest of our journey: Even if we can’t dance, we can at least limp.  Even if we can’t limp, we can crawl.  There are often other possibilities that do not immediately occur to us.  Quite often our problem is our refusal to find another way to continue the trip: Yes, 2+2 = 4… but so does 3+1.  In order for us to find happiness in our life’s journey a shift in our thinking needs to occur.

One of the hardest things in life can be to come to the realization that the way in which we currently do something… especially how we think and react… does not have to be our only option.  We may have been involuntarily launched onto our life’s journey, but as we age we can determine the route that our journey will take, even when life forces us to take detours.  Sometimes those detours can confuse us, leaving us lost on a road that we do not recognize.  In order to figure out where we are going, especially if the evidence of our life has shown us that our current approach is not working, it may be necessary for us to find a different way.  And therein lies the dilemma for many: What way?  And how to find it?

When I ask a person in such a confused state, “What is it that you want?” they are sometimes unable to articulate the longing that they feel inside; in such instances I have them do the following exercise: Take a large pad of paper, divide it in half vertically and at the top of the two columns write “+” in one and “-“ in the other.  Then I tell them to think of these two columns in terms of their life: What do they want in their journey, where do they want their life to go, as well what do they want no part of.  I suggest that they tuck these two questions into the back of their mind and think about them when they are driving to work, taking a shower, and cooking a meal, and when a thought occurs to them relating to one of these columns to jot it down in that column. I also tell them that when the plus-column thought comes don’t get all practical and immediately say, “No, that won’t work” or “No, I could never do that” or “I don’t have the money.”  Don’t automatically talk ourselves out of a dream!  Just because we don’t have a million dollars in the bank doesn’t mean that we can’t gradually gather pennies; and pennies add up, becoming something greater than any one of them.

This first part of this exercise is about brainstorming, about letting the heart inform the mind about our deepest desires.  As time goes by there will be something in the plus column to which our heart responds with excitement.  When that occurs, instead of telling ourselves why we “can’t”, begin to play with positive questions: “How could I bring this about?  What tiny steps can I take which will take me in that direction?”  Tiny steps, although they may be tiny, still take us somewhere.  So don’t dismiss the pennies.

My own involvement in this exercise is leading me to Hilo, Hawaii in June of 2019.  When I tell this to local people their eyes widen and I can hear what they are not saying: “I never knew you were so wealthy!”  The fact is that I can be poor in Georgia or poor in Hawaii, and since June of 2004 every spare penny is serving to enable my Hawaiian poverty to come about!  Within the first half hour of my first trip to Hawaii in 2004 my heart exploded with the recognition of “home”, an experience so powerful that I have spent the subsequent 12 years thus far moving my life, in ways large and small, towards the Big Island.  While we may have no say over where we are born, where we come to rest can be another matter!  I can’t help that I wasn’t born Hawaiian, but having recognized what my heart and soul love and need, my pennies can lead me home!

Kahu Kimo

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Becoming

It’s very easy to be attractive when you’re young because youthfulness is, of itself, attractive.  As I wander the mall at 68 I see young people sizing up one another and deciding who is attractive and who is not… but, now, I know something that they don’t, and it’s that they all are attractive because they are young!  At the same time I have learned that each age has its own beauty.  In someone older there is the attractiveness of a personality that has discovered itself through the trials of time.  There is the attractiveness of wisdom grown through experience.  As we age we lose many things… the car keys, our cellphone, a lover… and yet one of the hardest to lose is who we have always been.

On a Facebook post I read: “’How does one become a butterfly?’ she asked pensively.  ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.’”  To “become” requires a willingness to let go, a willingness to pursue the unknown of “Who do I want to be?”  The answers to this will not simply drop down out of the sky; they are already hidden within the depths of our heart, and we must be willing to dive for them.  In the movie “Imperium” a character observes, “Just because you’re not looking at something does not mean that it’s not there.”  It is only by diving deep within our heart that we come to see the “us” who we have not yet seen.

Once the caterpillar is ensconced within its newly-spun cocoon we can be tempted to think that it passively waits there to become a butterfly.  But I suspect that this is not the case, I suspect that it spends the time dreaming of the butterfly that it wants to be.  For many of us there isn’t always a straight path to who we want to be and often we don’t always know what is going to fail, until it fails.  But once it fails the important question is: Now what?  Wrapped within our failure we have the chance to ponder, to formulate, to dream, so that a different “us” comes out of that cocoon.

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”  When we were young we couldn’t imagine how we would get to be old; and then, one day… there we are!  Now, at 68, I find gray-haired people very attractive, even more so than young people because we gray-hairs have done the impossible: We have spread our wings, we have flown away from who we were, and we have become.

Kahu Kimo

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Loss

For 23 years I was a Monk of New Skete, the monastery being on the outskirts of Cambridge, New York, right across the border from Bennington, Vermont.  We frequently had visitors from Russia who were passing through the area.  One woman, who came from a long-established aristocratic lineage, told us: “First they took away our servants.  Then they took away our cattle, our jewels and finally our estate.  After all of that loss we were left wondering: Who are we now?”

I identified with her narrative because of the long-ago loss of Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Brooklyn, the house where Mom grew up.  As a child when I visited them I slept in Mom’s girlhood bedroom on the second floor, at the back of the house.  From her window I could look down upon the gigantic old apple tree that took up much of the yard.  In the front was a very tall Blue Spruce whose branches hung down, forming a tent from within which I could spy on people passing by.  Being young I did not realize that Grandma had sold the house after Grandpa’s death until we went to visit my two Aunts who lived next door and saw the carnage wrought by the new owners upon “our” home: the apple tree was gone, the Blue Spruce was gone, new windows… like pimples, in my view… had erupted where they had never been before.  My sense of loss was profound, even bordering on violation!

So I cannot help but identify with the Hawaiian experience of the loss of their treasured Monarchy.  I suspect that some Hawaiians view this event not so much as loss, but as a theft, the result of American businessmen in Hawaii who viewed themselves as the adults and the Hawaiians as the children who needed to be made to live, think and believe “correctly.”  And, to add insult to injury, after the loss of the Monarchy these same businessmen manipulated the transition of Hawaii from the status of a Sovereign Nation to that of a “Territory” of another Nation, and eventually to that of a State within the American Union.  Having lost their Sovereign, many Hawaiians then lost a sense of themselves.

Like the loss of the Monarchy for the Hawaiians I had no say in the sale of our Brooklyn home.  I grieved, but I also had to adjust to that loss since Life did not care that I didn’t like what had happened.  Currently, I live right outside of Savannah, GA, a northerner transplanted onto a Southern body.  Down here there are a fair number of people who still refer to the Civil War as “That Unpleasantness,” or (if they refuse to adjust to the outcome of that war) more pointedly as “The War of Northern Aggression.”  For people here in the South there is definitely an aggrieved sense of loss, much like that experienced by some Hawaiians today who want the Monarchy restored and for things to go back to being as they were before the overthrow.  The problem is, of course, that Life is lived forwards, and not backwards and there is no returning to exactly how things were before they changed.  I had to learn to live with the loss of our Brooklyn home.  As we age Life takes things away from us… an apple tree, hair, our waistline, those whom we love… and, rather than becoming immobilized by mourning what has been lost, we learn to adjust… because adjust we must!

Hawaiians may have lost their Monarchy, but they still possess those values which make them most essentially who they are: The Hawaiian people.  Those values are Aloha, Ohana, Kuleana, Pono, love of Aina, and many others.  When loss of hair or of homeland brings up the question of “Who am I now?” the answer becomes: “I am those values that I live right now.”  Even though The Throne is empty, so long as Hawaiians live Hawaiian values, and pass those values on to younger Hawaiians… no one can take them away from themselves!

Kahu Kimo

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WHY ME?!!!

We all know not to get into Xavier’s way when his desires have been thwarted.  I once watched him trying to open a kitchen drawer that had become stuck, most likely from a utensil in the drawer that had moved into an odd position.  Xavier tugged and cursed until, finally screaming “WHY ME?!!!” he yanked the front of the drawer so hard that it came off and flew across the kitchen!  There was the time when, after tee many martoonies at the bar, his key would not open his front door.  No matter what position he put the key in it would not work.  Finally bellowing “WHY ME?!!!” he jammed the key into the lock; it still did not work AND he then couldn’t get the key back out!  He finally had to call a locksmith at 2am to come and rescue him.  Did you know that locksmiths will charge you $200 to make an early-morning call to inform you that you had been using the wrong key?  And then there was that serious incident in which his cat was thrown through the front window; when it landed in the road, dead, a neighbor called animal control and Xavier was arrested!  None of us even needed to be there to know that as they hauled him away he was wailing in the back seat of the cruiser: “WHY ME?!!!”

We all have frustrations and, to varying degrees, we all have temper-tantrums, although for most of us we recognize when the anger is becoming a bit too hot!  But even if we don’t wail “WHY ME?!!!” aloud, we still sometimes take the stance of a victim and wonder why the cosmos has singled us out!  At such a moment we invest all sorts of energy into resisting what has already happened!  At such moments I often recall a saying by Hazrat Inayat Khan: “God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”  What this says to me is that instead of resisting what has occurred it would be better for me to accept that this unpleasantness has happened and to then try to find some meaning in the event.  Perhaps, through this event, The Divine is trying to pry my miserly heart and mind open?  Perhaps my ignorance about myself created the circumstances that facilitated my misfortune?   Perhaps there is something in this occurrence for me to learn?

The fact is that Reality does not care what we feel about it or its demands upon us; when we are a hostage to our narcissism this truth may not be readily apparent to us.  If we deliberately develop the habit of dealing with what reality demands of us, when it demands it, our compliance with it can sometimes untie the knot of our feelings and give us insights into the situation, and even into the mysterious workings of our conflicted heart.

Seeing Xavier’s loss of self-control so many times I used to console myself  by thinking, “At least I’m better than that.”  However, just because I don’t break something or scream does not mean that I am cooperating with what reality requires of me.  I have come to believe that the events of my life are not just random mis-firings of the universe, but rather are words that The Divine is speaking to me about the state of my heart.  It’s easy to be a saint when there’s nothing on the line; it is when something costs us the asceticism of self-control that we get to see who we are and what we are willing to do.  Or not do.

Kahu Kimo

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Sartorial Ruminations

When I tell people that I really love the show “Project Runway” they often look at me as if I have just revealed that I eat stray cats!  “But you’re a monk!” is what the wide-eyed individual usually blurts out!  I try to explain that what fascinates me about the series is the element of creativity involved.  Each week the designers are given a fashion challenge which they have to find a way of executing.  Each season there is usually at least one “Unconventional Challenge” which usually involves making a garment from very unusual items; things other than fabric.  I remember one season the Unconventional Challenge brought the designers to a gardening store, in which they had to choose material.  The winning garment was actually made out of bamboo placemats!

Until recently, my reaction to fashion is that I have thought that it is an exercise in narcissism.  That sentence should be read with the caveat that I am a monk and therefore not especially sartorially inclined!  I am not suggesting that everyone should go around naked!  But I am suggesting that the fashion that we wear proclaims to others how we see ourselves.  Personally, I am repulsed by the torn, dirty, ripped and shredded look that is espoused under the label of “being authentic and not putting on airs.”  Such ragtag clothing often suggests to me that by wearing such garments the person shows to others that they have no respect for themselves.  However, having come to know someone who loves this approach to fashion I have come to see that there is another way to understand this “look,” and that it is a way of telling society that the individual is struggling to understand who they are in reference to what society says that they must be.  In other words, this is a struggle for self-definition.

When I serve at the altar I often wear vestments that would delight any Runway contestant: silks, brocades made with metallic threads, rich colors, a swooping cut to the garment.  My normal daily attire, however, is black pants, t-shirt and old sweater replete with holes!  I have often reflected upon the two different “Me’s” presented to the world through these two polar-opposite types of clothing that I wear.  My take on the vestments that I wear is that they represent the office that I hold when at the altar, and the respect with which I approach that altar.  I have often observed that many today have no sense of when it is appropriate to “dress up” for a special occasion; as a result, we see people posing with the President of the United States in flip-flops!  To my mind there is something askew when our emphasis on informality (being popularly understood as “authenticity”) is such that informality becomes inflexibility!

From the moment of our birth until that last breath, the struggle to understand ourselves goes on: “Who am I?  What do I believe?  Who and how do I want to be?  Where am I going?  Where do I want to go?”  Clothing is a manifestation of that struggle, and just as the struggle morphs throughout life, so too do our sartorial inclinations.  While hair-shirts might have once been de rigueur in Christian spirituality, and even though I am a monk… bamboo placemats for this monk?  I don’t think so!

Kahu Kimo

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