"to compose, put in order, arrange; to weave as a lei"- Hawaiian Dictionary, Pukui and Elbert
“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
It must have hailed early this morning.When we woke, the heavy drops were melting off the umbrellas. Pete found the broom to sweep the steps; one of his Cancer taking-care traits that smooths things here in the woods. Still sleepy and under the covers I peeked through the window, saw no white. Once up, the small patches of not-yet-melted hail were like chunky shaved ice.The illusion of an extended fall is over.
Last night we hosted our first guest for dinner in the Quonset, the real Safety Pin Cafe was open for visits. Our guest is one of the community garden interns who has planted seeds, turned compost, dug beds and shared her considerable knowledge with our South Whidbey world. She is the last of the interns to leave after seven months. She and Pete have worked and traded stories and philosophies in the garden and in the Good Cheer Food Bank. At least once a week during planting and harvesting season these two have shared meals. Last night a new experience wove itself into our lives with dinner-for-three in our tiny house world.
After a few preliminary adjustments to accommodate the smell of scented laundry products, our guest sat in one of the three chairs that fit in the Quonset. JOTS was not pleased, but she got used to our visitor. We sat together at the dark blue table covered with the lovely embroidered table cloth I bought at a garage sale two summers past. I watched her eyes take in the oddities of our way of decorating: blankets and skies of colored cloth arch across her head; aluminum insulation warms the walls; safety pins and clothes pins attach things everywhere. We share our 'how-we-got-here' stories when she asks; the stories are familiar to me, but the details weave different this time.
Soon she will board a plane for Boston to spend the holidays with family, and choose another garden-and-teaching position somewhere. The early winter meal and conversation is a recent memory, a part of our recent yesterday. I wonder how or if the experience will be remembered as this young woman makes her way adding to the composition of her life. My experience with a new guest in our Quonset, and the space which inspires the writings and visits in The Safety Pin Cafe give me pause and ponder time. Decades have passed and yet the cozy space we call the Quonset is so much like the inside of tents we slept in as children. Hung off of clotheslines and secured with clothespins those childhood shelters have imprinted me. Could I have known the safety of those times would transport so well? Not really, my stories were still so young then. But, pela perhaps, the die was cast even then.
One of the things we spoke of last night over Granny Smith Apple Pie was how truths change. When I first met this young woman I wore a mask often, not always, but she began to know I did need it. I believed I needed the mask and have used masks to feel protected. The need for a mask has changed. I have them, but use them less often. My stories are familiar, but change. "We all know how dangerous a mask can be ..." I wonder how that will affect the final dose of the story. Really, I wonder.
And finally, as the already muted light of December turns to night, I have spent the afternoon gathering and preparing lei. Haku lei. Our friends are getting married tomorrow. I hoped to be able to order a lei po'o from Hawaii (garland for the head) for the special day. It didn't work out. Instead, I have enlisted help from a friend (and botanist) to gather greenery and winter blossoms here. That was a treat, and such a great way to get to know more about the harpist and sister storyteller. We collected snips of this and that from the Apple Tree Garden on the grounds of The Whidbey Institute earlier in the week. Today, I took myself into the woods around us to gather salal, wild huckleberry and ferns.
I am a rookie haku lei maker, but have those lei-making genes in me. I asked for help from my Ma and Tutu. My lei is nothing like the one pictured above, but Pete says "That's gorgeous." Woven with lengths of raffia, the red-tips of wild huckleberry, branches of salal and wild blue berry nestle the purple heather. The weaving is a meditative activity, and I breath easily, and enjoy the company of my lei-maker ancestors who knew what they were doing back in their day. Tomorrow morning I'll finish up the second lei.
One can never be sure of what memories will stay intact, and which will evolve and how. Story is like that, too. Inspired by a memory and woven with imagination, and a change here and there. Haku the lei. Haku the story.