Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Paradise, a Mango Tree, Love Gone Wrong.... I'll See You in My Dreams

Most housing in New York, where I'd spent most of my adult life, whether new or "prewar", has windows on only one side of your living space.  That is, unless you're lucky enough to have a floor-through and in that case you'd have windows on two sides, i.e., front and back.  When I left New York in 2005 I promised myself that my next house would have windows on all four sides.

When I got to Hawaii I found such a house.  It was built around the time of the Kama'aina houses I've already written about, with genius hidden built-in storage, and charming little interior details, but aside from the great big mango tree at the front, little curb appeal.  It did have lots of French doors at the back and a deck.  Most of the rooms had big sash windows on two sides, usually meeting up at the corner of the house, and a spacious sun room or "lanai" as they call them in Hawaii, all of which meant views, views, views.  When we first visited the house, it took us about two minutes to decide to rent it.

It was that white one in the middle with the white pyramidal roof and big mango tree behind.  I LOVED this house! What did I LOVE?  The canny storage, and all the living space on one floor.  Once our container was unpacked, everything was whisked easily into all the mammoth closets and cupboards, tucked away into tidy spaces that were at once functionally invisible and optimally accessible.  All this storage had big and many shelves, big doors that opened easily to allow a full view of the contents all at once.  Shelves deep enough for big books and boxes but shallow enough that nothing could hide in dark depths.  Each of the closets had lights inside them for easy illumination.  Yes. You CAN love a house - for its storage.

It was also a beautiful living space.  All the rooms were well proportioned and light.  The kitchen had endless expanses of limestone counters.  (And more storage!) At the front was an array of three broad windows that pulled the evening breezes through the kitchen and allowed me to gaze at the mango tree and my neighbors walking their cats while I made dinner.  Poets' stones in the yard.  (Expensive and rare.)  And did I mention the views?   To die for.

Evening - flocks of green parrots at dusk.

Morning, light on Waikiki.

Daytime.  Glory.

(20 mangoes in the frig.)

We arrived at mango season.  Well the season of Pirie mangoes.  Other mango varieties fruit in spring.  We arrived in August. The big mango tree was laden with these tender creamy vanilla-ey tangy yellow weighty orbs.

(17 mangoes in big bowls spread around the kitchen.  Just look at all the cabinets!)

Immediately I was thrown into daily mango detail, picking mangoes (with 10+ foot long mango picker), picking mangoes up off the ground.  Gathering mangoes, bagging up and disposing of past-their-best mangoes, rinsing and peeling and cubing mangoes and bagging more mangoes in order to freeze them.  We had mangoes every night after dinner.  Mangoes in salad, mango salsa, mango smoothies.  Mango with ice cream.  Mango compote on waffles. Mango and crab.  We gave mangoes to EVERYBODY in my family (that's alot of people: four aunties, 30 cousins, all their kids).  And when mango season was in full swing - about a month after we had moved in - the landlords sent over neighbors and neighbors' ohana (family) to come pick mangoes.  Because I was just not up to the job.  Mangoes were winning.  I was losing. At night we would jump out of our skin and our beds in panic before eventually reminding ourselves that mangoes were falling from 30 feet up at the top of the tree straight DOWN onto our aluminum roof. So much for the peaceful quiet of our new island life.  At these moments, we thought we were in Bagdad.

Every morning I would open the sash windows to rainbows and a cacophony of bird song.  Finches, cardinals, doves, mynah birds, the world was alive around us and awake and the birds didn't want us to miss any of it.  The Mongol Prince (my cat) would plant himself in the sill and undertake his Early Morning Bird Surveillance.

Not to be mistaken for Late Morning re-Positioning to the North.

At Mid-Day he slept, and Late Afternoon, Surveillance resumed but this time to the Southeast in order to catch parrots in wing and listen for the feral pigs coming out of the mountains.

At night he would tuck in alongside the jalousie windows on the lanai and peer into the dark doings below on the driveway and lawn.

His first encounter with the mynahs on the deck was like an old cartoon - remember Heckel and Jeckel?  They squawked and rattled their wings and cast sardonic heh-heh tough guys looks over him.   His eyes bugged out of his head in shock and befuddlement.  And he had a sneaky look like he thought he ought be afraid.  Very......afraid.  But he would fake equanimity and professional interest instead.

Down below in the garden these delicate lichens sprouted on the poets' stones.  We gazed on bougainvillea in three colors, plumerias in three colors, stephanotis threaded its waxy fragrant blossom and elegant oval leaves through the fence slats.  Little geckos came to visit and left ashy colored tributes here and there on the deck and the stairs.  In the front a golden magnolia and red tiny-petaled hypericum flowered and at night the air was perfumed with privet and gardenia.

How long did this mesmerizing idyll last?

It should have gone on forever and still today I grieve for it.  Instead the trucks came again after four months and reinstalled us in very much less charming surroundings a scant two streets over.  Where we remained for two years.

I won't give you the unhappy details.  Except to say that they were very banal.  And at the same time mind-boggling. Have you ever had something that you wanted so badly, that you never knew you'd wanted so terribly until it was set down right in front of your nose?  And satisfied all of your most tenacious dreams?  And promised you endless happiness and contentment and well-being?  And seemed so right and MEANT to BE.  And NECESSARY.  ????????  And then it was whisked away from you by a vengeful God and shattered like an ancient ceramic artifact too beautiful and precious to belong to ANYBODY?!!!!!!  Well that was my story of this house.  And it involved a dear little corgi dog named Lucy and the best rum cake that I have ever eaten in my life.  And a violin.  A ukulele.  And a song.

Not this George Harrison song.  But another.

All things must pass.  None of life's dreams can last..............


  1. now i´m in love with a house... now i´m curious how it ended? sounds like a country song:)

  2. I'm in love with your blog !! i've just made a post about it here :

  3. Jane if you're curious how it ended, then I've done my job. Sadly, it truly was banal. So enough said! The other song was the verklemt making "see you in my dreams" which was sung at the end of the concert for george a couple years ago. Hubby was trying to learn it on his ukulele when we lived in that house. Don't think it's a country song but I could be wrong.

    Delphine - THANK YOU! Oh MY! Thanks for doing such a big post about P.P. Glad you like what I'm doing. Blogging seems too perfect for those of us who just HAVE to share all these beautiful tidbits of living. And I too am a little bit (ok ALOT) garden mad. Yes I think Paradis and Paradis could make good blog buddies. I'll be stopping in to see you often!

  4. p.s. Delphine - it's TRUE! We DO like the same kinds of things. Wonderful discoveries you have over there and on your tumblr site too. I encourage everyone to go to both and have a nice long look!

  5. I think mangoes are delicioua. They grow everywhere in Honduras where my mother's family is from.

  6. Hi Des! Don't get me wrong! We never got sick of mangoes and Pirie mangoes are definitely the best of the Hawaiian mangoes. NO STRINGS!

  7. That does indeed sound (and look) like THE perfect house! But how can the story of the end possibly be banal if it involves a corgi named Lucy, rum cake, and music... played on a violin and a ukulele!?
    (I know, enough said :)

  8. Hi Ladies! Thanks for "playing" along! I know Suzanne, I did not make up the corgi et al, but sure needed those positives to take the sting out of the story!

    And Corine: You and mangoes. I can see that.

  9. what a lovely dream! just like life really, everything a dream... love the mangoes of course! have a lovely week end full of dreams, lived and dreamt. kenza
    pd: i'll go visit the blog you mentioned.

  10. okay, i am many fold puzzled.
    you're gonna have to get back to me on this one, would you, please?
    you hated the dog? i would!
    but i shall say no more.
    but also... mango heaven, as in oh-no! ... ;)))