Mud-wrestling alien plants keeps a crazy world at bay


POSTED: Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Greenland's ice cap was melting faster than expected, people were dying in text-message-caused train wrecks in California, Iran was moving closer to producing a nuke and Pakistan's fragile government further from stability.

A hurricane ripped through Galveston, a long-standing offshore drilling ban fell victim to election-year gutlessness and the Bushies at the Interior Department were outed for copping freebies and bestowing favors to their pals in the extraction industries while doing cocaine and naughty things to each other.

Two outlier candidates hijacked Mayor Mufi Hannemann's ease-on-down-the-road to a second term. John McCain and Barack Obama kinda-sorta debated. The Republicans chose a moose-butchering Tina Fey impersonator to stand by their maverick man from Arizona. Gov. Linda Lingle, who found an affinity for her Alaska counterpart - maybe because they represent the only noncontiguous states - enlisted for a tour of duty with GOP ground forces after instructing her government agencies to ax their budgets. (”;OK, bye.”;)

  Meanwhile, the nation's financial sky was falling - don't say the scoffed-at Chicken Littles didn't tell you it would - and an incompetent, unprincipled administration in Washington was telling taxpayers, “;Hey, c'mon. Trust us.”;

But all I could think about was how to decelerate a head-first slide down a steep hill of mud and duff. I was on vacation.

The predicament was the result of trying to dig out a segment of kahili ginger root that occupied the site of a hapuu transplant. It wouldn't give when I pulled the hoe up-slope, so I pushed the tool in the other direction. Oops.

If not for another protruding root that snagged my shirt, I'd have made a complete belly-run to the flatlands. As it happened, I managed to swing around and boot-bump to safety with only some scratches and maybe a couple of pounds of wet dirt and rotting leaves scooped into shorts and underwear.

So the vacation went, a month of days with few “;have-tos.”; Except for trips to the “;waste transfer station,”; the post office (yay, Netflix delivery) and household chores like sweeping, it was a time for whatever.

  Cooking meals with more than two ingredients, melding random yields of farmers markets, like a leg of lamb from Glenwood, with a gift of gourmet foods, became a rewarding daily challenge. The morning routine included sipping coffee slowly - for pleasure rather than mere caffeine dosage - while marveling at the swift sprouting of mesclun and green onions planted in Styrofoam containers collected from the KTA produce guys.

Idleness alternated with stretches of heavy-duty landscaping, mostly removing invasive alien plants from the knoll on the back lot. I had time to take in the stubborn nature of strawberry guava. Its flexible appendages twist intricately through tree branches, making them hard to remove without damaging the native ohia and olapa. Its leaves give off chemicals that retard growth of other plants and trunks are dense and moist.

The guava's will to live and thrive isn't the most exciting of discoveries to bring back from a vacation. All the same, being able to do whatever loosens the tautness of a mad, mad world if only for a little while.