Finding the Wild Rainbow

If not for my friend Jessica, I wouldn’t have known about the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree, let alone seen one.

“What do you want from Hawaii?” I’d asked.

“I want a rainbow tree,” she said and sent me a link to website photos. However, the photos mentioned Maui and I was on Hawaii Island. More research.

I finally found a rainbow tree in the website for Cloud Forest Sanctuary above Kahlua-Kona (click for a map – Kailua-Kona on the left where the point juts out), high in an area I’d never visited. I’d lived in Hawaii and traveled the Saddle Road crossing the mountain ridge, but that road missed where I needed to go.

Not far from the airport, Cloud Forest Sanctuary promised. I knew the airport, lying along the coast in a wide and very old lava bed. How hard could it be? But no one I knew in Hawaii knew about rainbow trees.

I asked Robert, my brother-in-law. He didn’t know. He plants trees that produce food: papaya, avocado, mango, oranges, lemons, bananas.

bananas (2)palms








And palms. He likes palms, all kinds of palm trees. Tall Royal Palms line the long driveway to the lodge.

I asked the other Robert, brother’s side-kick, who was born on the island. He’d never heard of them. But that’s not unusual. People born in North Kohala stay in North Kohala. They might go shopping down in Kona where there’s a new Costco, but they don’t stray far.

Back to research. I found the address, Kaloko Drive, and plotted it on my trusty Samsung. All I had to do was find the left hand turn onto Kaiminani Drive, just past the airport road, to where it stopped at Mamalahoa Highway, take another right, and find the left turn to Kaloko Drive and the switchback drive up the mountain in search of the elusive Rainbow. Simple. Right?

Well. I made my first left turn too soon at a stop light with the airport in the distance on my right. I knew there was a stop light to turn onto the airport road; however, I found myself facing a power plant on a road that had no outlet. I turned around and came back down to the light to discover a no left turn sign. But if I turned right, I’d be back on the highway trailing across miles and miles of lava fields. No turnaround there. At a break in traffic, I made an illegal turn, passed the airport road stoplight, to the next, clearly marked Kaiminani Drive. One thing about Hawaii, they do a good job of signposting roads. I just had to remember to look. But as you noticed, street names in Hawaii need more than a casual glance.

This is why there’s talking GPS devices. I know. But I have a Kansas sense of direction and a Kansas disdain for someone telling me directions. I never use the talking feature. The voice annoys me in the same way my mother became annoyed at the voices reading audio books. She was very particular about pronunciation.

So okay. I’d made the first successful turn and drove up past newer housing areas. Why anyone would want to live where the vog (Hawaii’s version of smog) from Kilauea’s  frequent outbursts covers the area in a smelly blanket, I had no idea. Possibly for the ocean view on the rare clear days. This mountain ridge was the same ridge I looked for as soon as I deplaned at the airport, a touchstone for home, but I’d never thought to wander up.

Kaiminani Drive climbed and trees began to replace the lava fields. I wasn’t sure how far I’d have to go, phone maps, especially while driving, are a little too small for much detail, but I kept going and my little blue triangle followed. At the top of a steep incline, a stop sign and a street sign: Mamalahoa Hwy. Time to turn right. So far, so good.

Now all I had to do was find Kaloko Drive (click for map) which I, of course, passed the first time and had to find a place to turn around, notably on a very steep downhill driveway that predicted disaster if I wasn’t careful. I was careful. And made a left turn through a break in traffic and found Kaloko Drive.

Thus began the switchback drive up the mountain. I wish I’d thought to turn off the phone maps and turn on the camera as I drove up the road, but I didn’t. A rain forest, much like the North Kohala forest above Waikaloa Valley, folded around the car and mist softened my journey. I knew Kaloko Drive simply ended with no outlet so I couldn’t get lost. There wasn’t much traffic. I slowed.

Thick foliage filled both sides of the road, a flash of color as I passed something in bloom, a driveway back into an unseen dwelling. I drove on, curving left and right and left as I climbed the switchback. I kept looking for a sign that said Cloud Forest Sanctuary, but nothing, no cars, no people, more foliage and trees. I turned on the windshield wipers to clear clinging mist.

I saw a man ahead. He swept fallen fronds back from the side of the road with a yard rake. I stopped, rolled down my window. He looked up from his work. “Hi,” I said, “Do you know where…..” A car, driving way too fast, flew around the curve above me and headed our way.

The man leaned on his rake as it passed. “Pull off the side,” he said. “They drive too fast on this road. But be careful, it’s muddy, and you’ll need to back up to get onto the road again.” I looked. It was muddy. About all I needed was to get stuck. I pointed ahead to a flat spot on the opposite side of the road.

“Can I stop up there?” He nodded. I crossed the road, parked on a more solid piece of ground, and got out of the car to walk back to where he worked.

“Do you know the Cloud Forest Sanctuary? Their website says they give tours and have Rainbow Eucalyptus trees.”

He pushed his cap aside and scratched his head the way any Kansas farmer like my dad might have done. “Cloud Forest Sanctuary….no….but Buzzels now, they show people around.” He pointed down the road in the direction the speeding car had disappeared. “But if you want to see a Rainbow Eucalyptus, there’s one right there.” He pointed up the road about fifty yards beyond where I’d parked. “See it?” I saw, misty in the overcast sky.

tree and road
tree and road

“Thank you!” I went to the car, got my camera, and walked up the road.

The lower part of the tree didn’t have much color, but higher, the pastel colors, although muted, flowed down the trunk.







“You missed the best one,” he said when I returned to thank him.

“I did? There’s another?”

He nodded, a brief nod, again reminding me of Dad, and pointed. “It’s just beyond. Maybe ten yards.” How could I have missed it?

I followed his point again up the hill, past the first tree and found the second. From a distance it didn’t look that different, except smaller and younger.rt



Close up, it’s colors were astounding. Bright reds and blues, green, and yellow striped the trunk. The colors show up as the bark peels off and mute over time. This one wasn’t muted.











The tree is a native of the Mindanao Island in the Philippines but seems to do well in most tropical areas. In Hawaii, it’s often used in building boats. If I get really ambitious, I might order seeds and turn the living room into a garden. Well, probably not. The tree grows to more than seventy feet, and I don’t really need a boat.

The trip back to North Kohala was far less of an adventure, but I’d found the tree, picked up a piece of bark, and had my photos for Jessica. And now, for all of you, too, although searching the Internet for “rainbow eucalyptus” will bring you more information than you really want or need. Lots more glorious photos, too.

But not the story of an adventure.







Reaching for Hawaii, Gathering Mexico

Sisters at Sunset

I’ve had some trouble re-anchoring after my visit to Hawaii. It’s the same trouble I have when I visit Mexico, both Mexico and Hawaii being lands where I’ve lived and where my spirit found peace and comfort. Even more, where the balance of feminine and masculine energies come together in a wholeness I don’t experience in many places.

When I lived in Hawaii in 1992, I’d already lived in Mexico for three years, and I felt confounded and amazed from time to time about how much I remembered Mexico in a sameness that nurtured me. The ocean and beaches of course, but also the craggy land and the cattle and goats roaming free across scrubby land. The wide-open and often barren stretches of land. And when I speak of Hawaii, I’m talking about Hawaii Island rather than the entirety of the island chain.

It’s taken some time of wondering and thinking to come to a theory of why it’s difficult for me to be back. The only one that makes any sense is to say that the strength of both feminine and masculine energies feeds me in a way I’m not fed in the center of the country.

People who visit Mexico and Hawaii, even New Mexico for that matter, have a tendency to say “how beautiful” without really considering what they are saying. Yes. Each of those three places is beautiful. But they are also each fierce and tough. And while I have lived in each place, and don’t want to live there full-time again, I do yearn for that balance of beauty and fierce that softens my shoulders and puts a glide in my step.

They are easy places for me, who is tough and gentle, to feel at home.


In Mexico, and in Hawaii, the sacred is an everyday part of life rather than an after thought or a Sunday church service. Perhaps because in both places, a ruling class came in and took over and the indigenous peoples held on to the sacred quality of their life as a refuge. But for whatever reason, the sacred is a part of the air and wind, a part of the scent of sea or desert or jungle. And the ancient sacred lives comfortably alongside modern religions. There’s no separateness. There is only a recognition of the whole.

In Palenque, in the depths of jungle green and misty clouds, the sacred rumbles just below conscious hearing.

And the divine feminine is a visible part of the whole.

At the famous Painted Church on Hawaii, the church building is justly famous for its colors and murals, and in the cemetery below, among neatly lined up white crosses, a lady stands on a natural rocky formation with a kneeling figure below her.

This is probably a statue of Mary although no name is given it on a plaque beside the rock. She could as easily be called the Lady of the Waves as she stands between the petitioner and the waves of the wide sea behind her. People have prayed to the divine feminine and asked for protection for countless centuries, long before Christianity.

Is the Protestant energy that founded this country responsible for the current “War on Women?” An anti-cleric, anti-Catholic history in this country may also account for the lack of wholly and holy feminine energy in all our lives, even today.

I wonder if that’s why a President’s wife is so important. She represents a feminine power source close to the top.

And that brings me to laughter. In Mexico and in Hawaii, laughter is close to the surface and bubbling over into conversations all the time. Laughter is a part of life. Laughter is a part of everyday living and conversations, sometimes just a conversation with self.

Old Man Laughing

This man from Mexico laughed all the time as he talked to me and as I struggled to make coherent sentences in Spanish. He laughed in delight at my clumsy attempts and he laughed to encourage me. In Hawaii, people laughed all the time: while dancing hula, shopping for gas, dropping a bag – oh, oops. And we talked story. By buying a container of pickled ginger, a simple purchase, I also bought laughter and stories of family and grandchildren.

And maybe, at base, it’s the mystery I miss. A mystery of why and how, the mystery of being a human on this life journey with other humans, a mystery of jungles and sea, of craggy mountains, and hidden walks.
And maybe what I’ve learned in all this musing and looking at photos and wondering and writing, is that I ask why all too often. Too often I try to figure things out, a very American characteristic, it seems. Maybe I just need to live in the mystery and let all of the rest of it be as it will.

Just look over my shoulder…and laugh.

Weekly Writing Challenge Revolt!

The first line in the instructions! The first! And it stopped me cold. It seemed a simple Weekly Writing Challenge: learning to use the “Post by Email” tool to create a post. Okay. I like new challenges.

So I clicked on the link and I read, “”Before you can publish by email, you must generate a special email address. This address is unique to you and must be kept secret (anyone that knows the email address can publish a post to your blog).”

I already have five email addresses: one for home, one professional, two schools, and a yahoo address that I’ve had forever. Five. And one more to keep track of? No. Not today. I don’t need email posting that bad. I suppose I could have used the old Yahoo address, but it mostly collects spam now – not the perfect answer.

Perhaps if this challenge had come, say, three weeks ago, I might have been up to the, well, challenge. However, I’ve just come home from a ten-day vacation and it’s taken me two days to catch up with email and clean out my inbox….over five hundred email. That’s not counting the two school accounts which I haven’t approached or Yahoo. That’s just my two private email. And as I began deleting, here’s what I was thinking: my sister’s retreat center in North Kohala.

Hawaii Island Retreat

  My room behind the french doors opening onto a balcony on the left – the blue room, much the same color as the walls in my office here at home.

Here’s the other thing I was thinking: an evening trip to the beach where sea turtles clamber up to sleep the night, one sticking its head into the bushes as a curtain, I supposed, just beyond where the women are standing. It’s a keeper shot.

So as I sorted and deleted and deleted and highlighted and marked the I’ll get back to that soon, mostly I remembered Hawaii. Mostly I just deleted. I get way too many newsletters and extras of every sort and style, including the daily electronic New York Times and USA Today.

And I receive several blogs in my inbox.

The first I stopped to read was the one titled, “Killers Don’t Wear Flip-flops.” Now. That was a definite stop here and think about that!!! sort of moment. And the blog lived up to its promise. I’ve linked it just so you can read it.

Teresa has the gift of offering humor, something sorely lacking in the New York Times news, quite frankly.

The other blog I read, “22 things I learned on birthday vacation” made me wonder what I’d learned on my vacation without a birthday….that list, well, I don’t have one. Not yet. But it seemed a good idea.

But I have written the DPChallenge, anyway, about in-boxes and email, just in an off-the-track sort of way which has more to do with NOT doing it than doing it, but it’s written. And I’ve posted a couple of the Hawaii photos. A good excuse for showing them, all in all…..


Weekly Photo Challenge: Down #2

So the second down I’ve chosen is down the road. I seem to take a lot of down the road shots: I have a whole series from our trip to California last summer, for example; I have more down the road shots from up on the farm. Country dirt roads are the perfect place for down the road shots.

The two I’ve decided to post are from travels, too. The first one below is from Hawaii. Several years ago, we held a family reunion in Hawaii where my sister Jeanne lives and while we were there, participated in a land blessing. Jeanne and Robert had finally finished clearing acres of tangled brush and were getting ready to build a retreat center. This shot is walking down the trail to the gulch where the mother stone sits. If you’ve been to my sister’s web site,, you know the place looks remarkably different now (and if you haven’t looked at her website, do! It’s a fabulous boutique hotel.).

walking to the gulch
This second shot–well, you could say it’s a lot like Hawaii Island Retreat if you’ve looked at the web site. Only not. But sorta. The same sort of fabulous main building. This shot is looking from the steps of Versailles down the path between hedges (down the path is sort of like walking down the road–at least in theory).  Our glorious trip to France. Too many stories and too many photos, but this particular day, we walked down these steps toward the pigeon below, on down to the level of the fountain and around it, down to the little restaurant you can’t see at the end of the grassy patch and before the water, and turned right to walk down to Marie Antoinette’s summer-house.
down the steps at Versailles