Everywhere I go I am home, this is what I am learning. As I packed my things to leave another home, I asked myself why? Why am I leaving this place that I love? Along with my partner, I created this sweet home in this little town tucked beneath the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I feel so lucky to be able to call these mountains home, but the cost of living is so high and my heart craves something more. I am pulled between the excitement of the unknown, and the comfort of a real home with someone I love. My relationship with my best friend/boyfriend/roommate was wrapping up after 3 incredible years of adventure together. He had already moved out, and there I was, alone in our empty apartment in tears on the hardwood floor. I’d spent another six months living here, getting cozy by the heater behind snow-lined windowsills, soaking naked in the hot springs as the sunrises in the east and the snowflakes sparkle to the west, teaching kids how to ski in a blizzard and riding my bicycle on all the mountain roads on sunny days. My eastern Sierra mountain life was a beautiful chapter and it was time to go to a place I hadn’t even thought of yet. I usually have a plan, but not this time. With my car packed with all my things and my pet snake, I drove to the Alabama Hills and took Tang out of his tight space in the car full of all my belongings. My sweet snake friend, I set him on the orange-red rocks and followed him around as he explored with the comfort of my protection. Mt. Whitney glistening with snow in the distance over the boulder strewn desert. Here I go again, I thought. But where to?
I spent a few weeks lolly-gagging in the town I grew up in. Pacing like a caged Jaguar at the zoo. I imprisoned myself with my indecision – I can go anywhere, do anything. I dream up fantastic ideas about a long distance bicycle ride around the west. Crossing all the wildest places in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. I consider hiking the Continental Divide Trail, or a shorter hike on the Colorado Trail. All of these ideas dreamy, yet somehow not hitting the right note in my heart. My soul is craving growth in a new way, something I’ve yet to fully immerse myself in. Hawaii. Community. Something inside whispered to me, so I applied to join a farm on the Big Island. The newest of the islands, still bubbling with red hot lava.
A couple weeks later I am on an airplane with the intention to work on a farm for eight weeks then backpack around the island or fly back to the mainland to hike the Colorado Trail or the Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail. I am picked up by a woman who I met almost ten years earlier when I was first discovering the wild woman that is my true nature. When I first saw her, she was dancing with her curly white hair flowing like a waterfall. I thought to myself, I want to be free and beautiful like that. She moved to the island a few months prior to my arrival and offered me a place to stay for my first week.
We frolicked on black sand beaches, met resting sea turtles, gazed at the moon, and swam in wild ocean waves. I was grateful to also share this time with her beautiful daughter Summer, who I had watched grow by photos her mother posted of her on social media over the years. This young woman has many magical layers, powerful beyond her own understanding, growing into an amazing woman. Thank you again to these two sweet souls who took me in to begin my journey on the island of Hawaii.
It was another beautiful sunny day of the brightest blues and greens you could imagine. Aravel and Summer dropped me off at the farm I intended to spend two months living and working. I was enchanted by the concept and easily excited by the roaming ducks and the palms swaying in the wind of this peaceful place. Meg, the farm manager met me in the lanai and walked me down into “the gulch” where I and other work-traders would spend those 8 weeks living. We walked down a narrow, muddy trail through a bamboo forest that opened up into a dark, musty macadamia nut orchard. I tried to hide my disappointment in the accommodations I would trade my labor for. She showed me the wooden platforms and the composting toilets before finally taking me into the kitchen where I picked a little cubby for my private food stash. This building was a refreshing reprieve from the biting insects with its screened in walls and comfortable places for sitting and socializing. It had all the necessary amenities: an oven, stove, huge counter for preparing meals, a large refrigerator, outdoor showers, and a washing machine. Meg left me alone to get acquainted with my new home. I walked around to all the platforms and chose the most private one I could find and put together a little sanctuary for myself inside my tent.
I spent the next five weeks working with several young women and men. I loved being with them in the mango kitchen reading books or dancing in our underwear when the boys were gone. I especially enjoyed a connection with a girl named Sky. She and I would go on walks together down to see the ocean and swim in the Mermaid Ponds a few minutes walk from the gulch. Each week we would all go out into town for the farmers market, which opened my world up beyond the farm. There was an entire community out there! This is where I would buy myself treats like cookies and smoothies. During the rest of the week I ate only fruits and vegetables, so it was always exciting to go to the market.
After several weeks, the owners had managed to get us all working 5-10 extra hours per week. While that may not sound like a lot, that was an average of 30-35 hours of farm work (almost full time) with no pay and sleeping in our own tents in a mosquito infested gulch, it wasn’t exactly what I had planned when I came to Hawaii. I quietly began spending my off time wandering the residential roads on foot looking for other farms to work at. I loved working at this farm, but I needed more freedom and I knew there was something better out there for me. The experience I gained at the farm is something I know will serve me for the rest of my life. We planted veggies of all kinds and harvested and processed all of them to sell at the farmers market. Friday was my favorite day of the week, harvest day! Everyone was up in the veggie garden working together to harvest and process for Saturdays farmers market. The energy on Friday was always super busy and fun.
I moved to a farm closer to town, which enabled me to be part of the larger community since I could walk to town without needing to get a ride. I made friends with a sweet guy named Ben, he was simple and happy, enjoying the fruits of life – literally. He traveled around the world to eat jackfruit, mangoes, bananas, durien, and other fruits I have probably never heard of. He needed someone to feed his cats and water his taro plants at the mango farm he lived on while he traveled to the Philippines for their farmers markets. I felt so lucky to move into his cute little hale (hall-ay). I spent six weeks living on the mango farm befriending Ben’s little cat family and harvesting and processing mangoes. The farm was at the bottom of a dirt road surrounded by ironwood trees that were constantly dancing in the trade-winds. The sound of the ocean and the wind was ever present. When night fell, it would become so dark that you could see the whole universe in the sky. Out here in the middle of the ocean, the darkness is deep.
As my second farm stay came to its end and I moved on once again, with all my stuff in tow I headed up to the top of the road to an eight acre property I would take care of by myself. This time I would spend four solid months in one spot, taking all that I have learned on the other farms and integrating it into this experience of freedom on the land in an entirely new way. It was a beautiful time connecting to the land and myself in almost complete solitude with the plants. I will reflect on these four months in the next blog post to come… I know it’s been so long since I have posted, but I am working on catching up now!