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Month: January 2019

ROCK THE BOX

ROCK THE BOX

They told us wrong, you know.

All those guys who kept exhorting us (for decades now) to “think outside the box,” urging us to forget about our limitations and be “free-free-free” didn’t give us the real story when they touted that ‘Unbound” mindset as the panacea for all of our gnarly problems.

In fact, I think they were blowing sunshine up the nether parts of our anatomy (with the best of intentions, of course).

I suspect they don’t even know what that “box” they keep talking about really is.

You can tell that they’re playing their air-guitars because they all seem to be enamored of that silly nine-dot puzzle where you’re supposed to join all of the dots that are arranged in a square with four straight lines.

Every one of those guys present the very same solution….as if it’s the only solution there is.

Really?

Do it their way and you get a gold star, I guess.  Whoo-hoo!

thanks-for-the-gold-stars
“Thanks for the gold stars” by Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What does all that tell you?

Mostly it tells me that Da Guys have taken what some acknowledged expert has said and they’re passing it on to me without really thinking on it.

The best riff I’ve ever seen on coming up with solutions to that classic nine-dot puzzle is this YouTube video, “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s a short thing published by TEDxTalks in 2012 and features designer and marketing strategist Magnus Berglund at TEDxGöteberg.

See what I mean?

This guy plays inside the box.  In fact, he makes it rock!

ANATOMY OF “THE BOX”

So, what IS this “Box” thing?

Every one of Da Guys will tell you it’s all those nasty, hard-rub limitations and constraints that handcuff you and bring you down and hold you back from realizing your True Potential.

Without all those stupid restrictions, prohibitions, obstacles, obstructions, and impediments to progress, you could soar, you know.

The thing is, they are right.  We could all fly if there was no gravity holding us down.

flight
“Flight” by Allegory Malaprop via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hey…us humans, we’ve got super-powers:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Innovation, Inventiveness.  All those good “I” words.

The problem is, we’ve also got a brain that’s set up to “fix” stuff.  We are all hard-wired to be alert for ways to mitigate the irritation factor of the things in the world that make us uncomfortable or rub us the wrong way.

However, if there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in our lives and if everything is all hunky-dory, then we just sit there.

Why not?

Everything is FINE.

the-world-of-my-wild-river
“The World of My Wild River…!!!” by Denis Collette via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our world is beauteous and beyond lovely, when it’s all going our way and there’s a cherry pie in the oven with our name on it, there really is no need for us to gear up, grab our trusty sword, gather our True Companions, and set off out of Hobbit-land on some weird-ass quest.

There has got to be some REASON for us to move our booties.

The End of The-World-As-We-Know-It is a Reason.

So is an irritating hang-nail.

So is some dumb tool that doesn’t work right or a rule or customary practice or system that makes no sense and is ultimately counter-productive.

These are the kinds of things that lure us into action.

And taking action automatically turns our lives into a movie or, if you want to be low-tech about it, the actions we take become the start of another story, song, or poem.

So, really, that “Box” all our wanna-be advisors keep urging us to “transcend” is actually The-World-As-We-Know-It (also known as TWAWKI).

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not.

Only you can decide.

REDEFINING THE BOX AND HOW WE CAN USE IT

My own theory is that TWAWKI is actually like the big old refrigerator box my cousins and I got to play with one summer.  That box was cool.

Before it fell apart, we built awesome worlds with it and got to go on a lot of adventures prominently featuring bad-ass truckers, pirates and one stuffed parrot, paladins and gunslingers, knights and dragons, really cool and crafty American Indian dudes and dudettes, super-heroes and other-worldly alien spiders, and things like that.

(We sat on the one cousin who just wanted to play “house” or “store” or “tea party.”  He really was no fun.)

This 2015 video, “World’s Biggest Box Fort” by Family Fun Pack sure does bring back some sweet memories….

The thing we have to remember is that TWAWKI is what it is.  We can do things with it, but first we have to make sure we are seeing it right:

The Box is the Box is the Box…but what ELSE could it be?

Not having the right tools or the proper materials for some project and faced with inadequate funding plus a fast- approaching deadline breathing down your neck as well as a clueless colleague or two and an assortment of dorkheads who are sabotaging your efforts from on high are all examples of the kinds of limitations, obstructions and constraints that define the parameters of TWAWKI.

They define the parameters of our Box.

These sorts of conditions help us see where we are standing.

If we look around within this space, we can begin to make an inventory of the resources that are available to us that we can use to resolve our problem.

bay-of-saronikos
“Illuminated Manuscript of The Bay of Saronikos…” by Piri Reis, posted by Walters Art Museum, Baltimore via Flickr [Public Domain]
With a map of the territory that has notations about the various obstacles and dangers marked on it and a list of available resources in hand, plus some sort of time-frame to work in, we can begin.

And, if we do it right, because of our inherent super I-powers, we humans can, indeed, change TWAWKI.

Maybe the changes we make will mitigate the problem.  Maybe not.  But, it’s possible that the action we take or the thing we make will be at least one step in the right direction.

If our solution sort of works, we’ll have a new starting place from where we can keep working on the problem until it is gone.  (Then we can go find some other problem.)

If our solution falters or fails, we’ll know for sure that what we tried does not work and we can figure out why.  Then we can go explore in some other direction.

In either case, we can go on.

Boxing ourselves in and defining the boundaries of that box are the first steps to breaking out and making breakthroughs, it seems.

(We already know that just sitting there in the middle of the road really does not work.)

Technology blogger and startups analyst Thomas Oopong, the founding editor of Alltopstartups, a resource for news about top internet startups and technological companies, wrote a cogent article for Inc. magazine in 2017, “For a More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints”.

In it he delineates the whys and hows for using constraints and limitations to change TWAWKI.  You can access it by clicking the button below.

click-here

ONE MORE TAKE

Innovation and leadership advisor Navi Radjou is a great believer in what he calls “frugal innovation.”

In this short YouTube video, “Big Questions, Big Ideas:  Frugal Innovation with Navi Radju,” he gives a small glimpse at how working with limitations and constraints can lead to very real innovations that solve everyday problems for people who are not living in abundance.

The video was posted by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2018.

The highlight of this video is a refrigerator developed by a potter Mansukh Prajapati.  It is entirely made of clay and needs no electricity.

Radjou, expounding more on his ideas in a post on the ideas.ted.com site, quips,

“If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have.”

Besides Prajapati’s refrigerator, Radjou points to the resourceful entrepreneurs in Africa who recharge cell phone batteries with their bicycles.

Another successful project was a giant advertising billboard designed by students of the engineering and technology college, UTEC, in the city of Lima Peru, a city that is extremely humid but also very dry.  (It receives only one inch of rainfall a year.)

The billboard the college designed absorbs the humid air and converts it into purified water.  It generates more than 90 liters every day.

Radjou says, “In India, we call these kinds of solutions Jugaad, a Hindi word that means an improvised fix, a clever solution born in adversity.”

When basic resources are scarce and living is hard, there will be people who fall back on their own ingenuity and use it to solve their everyday life problems which can be truly fearsome.

Whatever else may be missing, human ingenuity is boundless.

And that is a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


GONNA BE IN THE MOVIES

I just saw one more comic-book movie

Where the apocalypse comes

Riding in on mighty metal steeds.

Buildings blow up spectacularly.

People get squished like bugs.

Everything’s knocked flat.

The super hero wins.

The villain loses.

The world is safe for Humankind.

Again.

 

But, then,

In the fare-thee-well,

Next-to-the-last scene,

There’s the super-hero (in disguise)

Walking through a bright and

Shiny, spanking-new building,

Full of bright and shiny people

With no flies on ’em.

Just another day in a workaday world.

 

The rubber band stretched…

And snapped right back into place.

 

Okay,

I know, I KNOW…

It’s a dumb movie.

 

But, I have to wonder:

How’d those guys get things rebuilt so fast?

We are talking BIG buildings here,

Streets of them,

All busted up and shredded.

I mean, where’d they get the funding?

 

And I have to wonder:

Where’d they put all the dead people

That had to be lying around

All over the landscape.

Did the street pizza evaporate?

Did anybody cry?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

It’s just a movie.

The good guys won.

The bad guys didn’t.

And it all just goes away…

Like mist when the sun comes out.

 

Right.

 

So…

I got to thinking

How the whole thing ’bout “forgive” and “let go”

Has gotten tangled up with

“Nah-nah-nah,”

“Ne’ min'” and

“Fuggetaboudit.”

 

Yeah?

Lemme run this one out.

(My warped brain just won’t wrap itself around this.)

 

Okay,

Here’s the deal:

You can stomp around

Doing scorched-earth moves,

Littering the landscape

With toppled, twisted dreams

And ooka-pile-plenty street pizza

As long as you can

Strike noble poses in the sun,

‘Cause, hey, you did what you had to do.

The rest is…well…”collateral damage.”

 

Yup!

It’s your nature.

You can’t help it.

That’s how you are.

Your back was pushed against the wall,

So you blew up the world around you.

 

Ummmm.

Okay.

Right!

 

So then there’s the second half of this screwy equation:

All the REST of the people in the world,

They are NOT super-heroes.

They are helpless, civilized ninnies

Whose destiny, apparently,

Is to be street-pizza and cannon fodder

When the good guys and the bad guys have their tiffs.

And when it’s all done,

When all the dust settles,

Then everything just…kinda…goes back to regular.

 

HUH?

HOW?

WHY?

 

‘Cause the fodder-guys,

They’re civilized.

They are chock-a-block full of

Mommy-understanding, of empathy and sympathy.

They are the embodiments of loving-kindness,

Of unconditional love

Or at least they’re supposed to be….

(Or maybe they’re brain-damaged and concussed….

No short-term memory.)

 

Hey,

They’ll forgive ya ’cause they understand:

It’s your Nature.

So, they’ll all forget about it,

They’ll just pull together

And get this place back in shape

So all the good guys and all the bad guys

Can blow it up again.

 

Hmmm….

I don’t know, guys.

Don’t make a lick of sense to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I know…only a movie….

 

So, tell me then…

How come our real-life leaders

Act like they are super heroes

Engaged in a battle against the wicked forces of evil-most-vile?

Does that mean WE are the cannon-fodder?

Are WE the evaporating street pizza?

And now I’m wondering

Just HOW are we supposed to rebuild our world

Once the dust settles?

How are we supposed to forgive, to forget?

 

Hmmm….

Sure doesn’t look good to me….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Boxes” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
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MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!

YOU START WITH YOURSELF

Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

brussel-sprouts-before-roasting
“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]

MUSINGS ON MAKING THE ORDINARY SACRED

As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

more-abundance
“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)


One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.


Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


SEEKERS

Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.

 

Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.

 

I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.

 

And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.

 

I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.

 

They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.

 

I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.

 

One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

For the past few months, the Light of My Life and I have been showing up at the early Saturday-morning Upcountry Farmer’s Market fairly frequently.

It has been some years since either of us visited the market.

For us, the market is a delightful surprise and has become a treasured part of our weekend routine.

Every time we go there are old friends who we haven’t seen for a long time.  We touch base with other friends.  We make new ones as well.

The market has also been a personally poignant reminder that a “movement” is really just people building community and connection and developing ways to share the resources that surround us.

WE SERVE COMMUNITY TO BUILD COMMUNITY

That’s the motto of this home-grown market that is one of the longest running gathering places for farmers, hunter-gatherers, food artisans and creative business folks on Maui — an island where dedicated foodies spend a lot of their time seeking out more variety, better quality, and lovely new taste sensations.

The concept that the people living in the islands need to grow more of our own food, out of which the market and others like it has grown, is a recurring theme for those of us who live here.

“Food security” – the assurance that a person will be able to get food to sustain the people he or she cares about from the place where they live — is a very real concern when the various estimates by all kinds of experts say that 85 to 90 percent of all of the food we consume here is shipped or flown in from other places.

offshore-rainbow-with-barge-and-sailboat
“offshore rainbow with barge and sailboat” by Derek via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The whole system that is now in place is a wonder to behold.

Consider this:  The islands of Hawaii are physically located way-the-hell-and-gone in a very big ocean.

The closest landmass to the Hawaii is a point on the southernmost tip of an unnamed peninsula in Alaska overlooking Ikatan Bay…a whopping 2,259.28 miles from Tunnels Beach on Kauai.

(The second-closest is near Flumeville, California, also more than two thousand miles away from Hakalau on the Big Island.)

And, yet, if you wander through any food store on any island – even the smallest ones – you will find a truly incredible array of food from every part of the planet.

mana
“Mana” by George Arriola via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The whole thing is also a precariously balanced system.

It is not hard to imagine worst-case scenarios where a series of disastrous natural events might stop the flow of ships and aircraft hauling in all that food.

People do like to point out that folks got along quite well in the old days without all that fancy stuff.

The native peoples grew and harvested enough food to get by and live their lives well before the coming of all those tall ships and the new thoughts that flowed in.

Of course, the native systems of land management and ownership were very different than our current ones.

The foods that were available might have been plentiful, but they were limited to a few staple crops and rounded out by some animals that were imported to the islands by early Polynesian settlers as well as the abundance of fish and bird-life back then.

Our ancestors developed an impressive array of survival skills that most modern-day folks replaced with other skills that are better adapted to all of the modern-day systems of “conveniences” we now enjoy.

IT TAKES A TRIBE TO GROW A CHILD AND KEEP ON FEEDING IT

It occurred to me that the survivalist tactics of the self-reliance extremists with apocalyptic visions who live on continents may not be particularly pertinent to people who are stuck on an island.

Yes, you can learn many of the skills you need to optimize the resources available to you, but one person or even one family or smallish group has a limited amount of knowledge and energy to make a life of abundance all by themselves.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of having to deal with the hungry neighbors.  Yipes!

One of the most important considerations the ones who are all “me-for-myself-and-mine” is the fact that without planes or ships when you pack up and leave, you won’t get very far on a relatively small island.

(Maybe that’s why Oceanic ancestors did a lot of sailing around.)

hokulea
“Hokule’a” by Burt Lum via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Whatever.

Setting up a survivalist camp that’s off the grid in the bushes is not a real option for many of the people on an island.

(For one thing, it does cost a lot of money and requires all kinds of technological knowledge and skills to set up something that is actually sustainable in the long run.)

Bumbling along and working as a community of people of good will to help each other survive on a day-to-day basis seems a more viable option to more moderate sorts.

With this in mind, many people on all of the islands have banded together to work on trying to produce more of our own food and on developing networks that will be able to sustain us if things go very bad.

This video, “Farmer’s Perspective” was published in 2016 by GoFarm Hawaii, a University of Hawaii program.  It contains a number of different viewpoints from several farmers who’ve been involved with the program and is an interesting look at the agricultural efforts and mindsets of small, diversified farmers in the islands.

It’s been happening for a long time now.

LOCAVORES “BUY LOCAL”

The “Buy Local,It Matters” campaign, a joint project of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, encourages residents of Hawaii to purchase local produce.

(Click on the campaign name for more information about it.  It is the latest in a long line of government efforts to address the problem.)

The button below takes you to an open data portal put up by the State of Hawaii Ag guys that presents some solid measurements and facts about food production in Hawaii and more information about the effort to keep on expanding our capacity to grow our own food.

click-here

The goal of all of this measuring effort that started in 1997 is to double local food production.

It continues.

As consumers, our choice to “buy local” even when the imported stuff in the very next bin or shelf at a supermarket is quite a bit less expensive (in terms of money) is definitely a way to help our neighbors and our own selves work towards a more sustainable life, it seems to me.

BACK TO THE MARKET

Mat and I remember when the Upcountry Farmers Market was held at Makawao’s St. Joseph’s Church.  (Has it really been more than 40 years ago?)

Some young “back-to-the-land” advocates and tree-huggers (many of them friends of ours) started the thing.

It grew as backyard gardeners, small local farmers, hunter-gatherers and fishing folks as well as crafters and artisans joined in, sharing the food they grew and the products they created from island offerings with their neighbors in trade for other things they needed or for some extra side-money.

fruits
“Fruits” by Blake Handley via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
onions
Onions” by Sue Salisbury via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
unwrapping-a-box
“Unwrapping a box…” by Jen Russo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The Upcountry Farmers Market migrated to the Eddie Tam Community Center in Makawao after it got too big for the church space.

The market vendors and their aficionados continued to meet there for 31 years, braving weather and fickle or clueless customers and the confusing convolutions of red-tape and other bureaucratic busy-ness to keep on doing what they did.

By the time the rules and regs for the use of the popular and much-used public facility became too cumbersome and restrictive for the market vendors, a new place opened up down the road in Pukalani.

The market moved once again in 2010 to an out-of-the-way part of the parking lot at the still-under-construction Kula Malu town center.

It has grown from a core group of a dozen or so die-hard folks who fervently believe in producing and providing food and other locally made products that are, as they say, “thousands of miles fresher” to an ever-evolving and growing group of more than fifty-plus regular vendors.

They set up their tables and tents at the market every weekend to sell their fresh produce, plants and flowers, their “grinds,” and other wares to hundreds of devoted fans and other folks.

Smiles and hugs are standard greetings there.  Talking story is a favored pastime as well.

“Talking Story” shared by Megan Powers

THE MARKET AS A SLICE OF HISTORY

Checking out what the market offers has been an eye-opener for me.

It got me thinking that, for real, a heck of a lot of the foods we consider “native” or “Hawaiian” or “local” fare were imported to the islands at some point in history.

Almost all of our foodstuffs are pretty much “foreign” species.  Many of them might even be considered “invasive.”

Think about it.

When Polynesians first touched ground on the islands, the only indigenous edible plants were some ferns, ‘ohelo berries, and a panoply of seaweed.

hoio
“Ho’i’o” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC-NC-ND 2.0]
Maybe some palm seeds and nuts floated in on the tides and took root, but the chances were pretty slim.

The animal life on the island back then included assorted birds (now mostly extinct) and bugs, the fish and sea life in the ocean surrounding the islands, and some small critters in the streams.

Remember that these islands are located thousands of miles away from anyplace else.

That’s a long way to go when you’re clinging to a piece of driftwood.  Few plants and probably no land animals from the continents made it here on their own.

Polynesian voyagers brought kalo (taro), niu (coconut), ʻulu (breadfruit), ʻuala (sweet potato), maiʻa (banana) and ko (sugarcane) on their canoes, as well as chickens, pigs and dogs for meat.

harvesting-taro
“Harvesting taro” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
coconut
“fresh, fresh, fresh” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
breadfruit
“Breadfruit” by Neil DeMaster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Starting in the 18th century, European explorers dropped off cattle and goats.

Later American missionaries and other plant dudes and entrepreneurs imported macadamia nuts, coffee, and a wide variety of tropical fruits including the pineapple that has come to symbolize the idea of “Hawaii.”

pineapples-and-bananas
“Pineapples and Bananas” by Shihmei Barger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
real-coffee
“Real Coffee” by olle svensson via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
macadamia-nuts
“Macadamia Nuts” by Richard Ashurst via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
mango
“i love you like a mango” by Janine via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Sheep showed up.  So did assorted game birds and beasts suitable for fans of the hunt.

When the sugar and pineapple industries arose in the late 19th century, they precipitated waves of immigrants from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, and the Philippines, as well as various other parts of the Americas, Europe and Asia and the rest of Oceania to work in the fields and to participate in the diverse and constantly evolving island lifestyle.

Every one of them brought foods from home.

rambutan
“rambutaaaaan!” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
moringa
“Moringa (The Miracle Tree in Brisbane)” by Tatters via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
star-fruit
“Star Fruit” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
squash
“Squash” by Mark Goebel via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They shared their food with their neighbors who learned to like all kinds of ways of cooking and learned to grow a lot of different kinds of plants and animals.

Some things thrived.  Others – like apples and other foods that grow well in temperate places — did not.

A lot of that food shows up in many of the farmers’ markets around the state.

The sense of abundance gets mind-boggling as you walk around.

broccoli
“Romanesco broccoli” by troy mckaskle via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
pink-oyster-mushroom
“pink oyster mushroom” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
avocado
“Look at the size of the avocados they have here” by Mitzi Young via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
greens
“greens” by Kanu Hawaii via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

FURTHER DISCOVERIES

What I’m noticing about being a frequent shopper at the farmers market is that it adds a whole other dimension to the way we cook and the way we think about food.

  • I’m noticing that the foodstuffs and value-added products we’ve discovered during our forays into the market can determine what we are going to be cooking and eating for our next few meals.
  • Rather than just automatically grabbing this or that vegetable, fruit or meat and preparing the same old stuff we always make, we are reaching for new-to-us things to try.
  • We are beginning to combine our finds in different ways than usual.  We are learning to substitute new-to-us cousins of foods we already know in old familiar recipes to make a whole other taste sensation.
  • Since we’re never sure what is available at the market on any given day, it’s likely that we will become even more ready to remain receptive to the possibilities the market’s offerings present and allow ourselves to be guided by what we choose to get.
  • The produce and products we like at the market are all grown or made by the people who are selling them, so we have a chance to ask the sellers about where and how the plants are grown and how a thing is made.
  • It’s a chance to find out where the food we are eating comes from and what it takes to produce and process the ingredients we’re planning to use.
  • I notice that I am likely to get tips about how to turn the fruits and vegetables that are new to me into meals I can enjoy.  (Very often, passersby weigh in with advice as well.)

The whole thing has been a fun-filled, enlivening learning experience.

I expect that as we become more aware of the foods that are commonly available at a certain time of the year, we’ll be able to start planning meals.

Recipes I’ve never tried may become new favorites.

Different styles of cooking that I’ve been meaning to explore may become more do-able and I may even learn some new skills.

Because the mix of vendors changes from week to week, there will always be that element of surprise.

A good thing….

Here’s a poem:


KILLING WINDS GO LEFT

The killing winds turned left.

 

After a handful of days

Of semi-hysterical predictions

Of impending calamity,

Of urgings to beware, prepare, take care,

 

After hours and days of making up

Contingency plans that are fading

As the sun comes out from

Behind the clouds,

 

After watching the wake of

The massive storm devour

The hapless ones who ran out of luck

Stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time,

 

After watching the valiant ones and the dutiful

Trying so hard to help mitigate

The woes of the disasters

Trailing after the now-gone Chaos-Beast,

 

The only feeling left in this aftermath

Is a gratitude that seems impossibly inadequate.

 

We go on, all of us, as we sink back into

The gentleness of everyday

Where breezes and mists are not

Harbingers of awful destruction and death

 

And petty annoyances are the norm.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Community of Petals” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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