Geronimo’s hot summer. (Desert tortoise update!)

A quick Geronimo update is in order! We’re in the swing of summer now, and Geronimo has gotten with the program.

Geronimo’s daily summer pattern is to chill in the dark depth of the cave he’s dug out for himself, and…

well, that’s his pattern.

But he does come out to bask in the sun for a little while at least every other day (usually in the late morning), just for a quarter of an hour or so. Then he goes right back into his burrow and disappears in his cave.

Every once in a while, we’ll see him cruise around the yard eating grasses and low-hanging hibiscus flowers.

He’ll sometimes emerge from his cave to sit in the patio part of his burrow, facing out. He likes it when he does this and we sit with him on the outside. He enjoys our company, even if he’s out of reach. How do I know this? He told me. A mother knows.

 

Geronimo in the summer

 

Once a week, usually on the weekend, Geronimo comes out and we’ll soak him for as long as he’ll lets us, which is pretty much just as long as he needs to drink water.

He has a drinking routine; it involves sticking his whole head below the surface. He blinks his eyes underwater a few times and squirts water through his nostrils when he comes up for air. It’s like he’s rinsing out his eyes and nose, which is probably exactly what he’s doing.

Have I ever mentioned that his favorite part of soaking day is the Romaine lettuce he gets for his after-bath treat? And then we’ll pull some hibiscus flowers from the top branches of the hibiscus bushes and hand-feed them to him. His favorite!

Geronimo and his flowers.

Geronimo Shovelhands. (Desert tortoise update!)

All has been business as usual around here, and then one day I saw dirt flying out of Geronimo’s burrow. Next thing I knew, Geronimo was gone.

(Spoiler alert: he didn’t stay gone.)

For being such slow creatures, tortoises have a way of making things happen fast. Ours does, at least. I don’t know why this surprises me anymore. I just… when Geronimo started digging out the back corner of his burrow, I didn’t know he was going to dig until he was out of sight! He dug deep enough to get under the cinder block walls, and then he dug straight ahead, still at a diagonal, carving out a tunnel. I suppose that’s the definition of an actual tortoise burrow. Duh.

In my moment of alarm, though, I went to Facebook to freak out, because that’s what Facebook is for. Also, I have tortoise parent friends who would possibly offer comments or insights (and they did – thanks guys)! My freak-out went something like: 1). Where is Geronimo going? How far will he go? Where will he end up? Will we ever see him again? and in the comments and a few DMs: 2). Isn’t it dangerous that he’s dug beneath the cinder block structure of his burrow? Now there’s a mountain of packed dirt on top of cinder blocks supported by nothing! How is this possible? What if the blocks cave in? Will they crush Geronimo? Will they trap and smother him? GAHHHHHHHH

When we built the burrow, we thought that Geronimo would just chill at the back of it, and he did, for a while. When the days started heating up, he built his real burrow. Turns out that all we built was a semi-enclosed porch… which is fine. We’re pleased that Geronimo loves his burrow enough to feel that it’s a good entrance to the lair he’s digging out for himself.

Meanwhile, Callaghan started the process of securing the burrow’s cinder block walls to its plywood ceiling with construction-grade metal brackets, performing the necessary contortions in defying the laws of spatial limitation. I, myself, can barely fit my upper body into the burrow. Callaghan has to reach in and maneuver a drill in the far-back upper corner!

I don’t know how Callaghan does it, exactly, but he does. I know that his process involves lying on a couple of large tiles. Consequently, each time he finishes fastening a bracket and clears out for the day – only one bracket can be done at a time – Geronimo goes back to his burrow and gets mad because the dirt inside had been flattened out; he has to dig at the burrow floor in order to fluff it up again.

This guy!

 

Geronimo digging. You can just see his little back elephant leg behind the spray of dirt.

 

Long update short: Geronimo spends his nights (and most of his days) deep in his new digs (literally). Also, he’s adorable. Nothing new there!

 

Nenette’s tale of woe, bird edition. (Kitty update!)

Our yard abounds with two types of birds: doves and grackles. I always liked the doves. I liked their calls. The grackles, not so much.

I noticed the grackles hanging out by the dumpster behind our backyard. I didn’t know what they were, at first. A friend filled me in. I don’t like them, I said. They’re creepy and they sit on our back fence by the dumpster, and sometimes they fly around it and dive in. She said that she liked grackles. We agreed that she could have my grackles if I could have her doves.

Cut to six or so months later, to a few weeks ago. Callaghan and I started spreading wild bird seed across the gravel outside our bedroom window, because Nenette loved to sit on the dresser and watch the doves. There were doves perched on the wire above, doves on the side fence, doves in the neighbor’s mesquite tree, doves everywhere. Nenette had a great view. If we put seeds on the ground, we thought, Nenette would have more birds to watch!

We bought a huge bag of assorted seeds and scattered them around that part of the yard, replenishing the spread every other day. The yard proliferated with birds in the mornings and late afternoons. It was just doves, at first, and then some smaller, brown birds that we decided must be finches.

Then the grackles joined the party. I watched them in dismay, but the more I observed, the more they fascinated me.

Look what they do! I said to Callaghan one day after calling him to the window. They use their beaks to dig and throw rocks aside so they can get to the sunflower seeds.

We noticed that the doves and finches weren’t eating those larger seeds. But the grackles were.

I studied them, transfixed by their methodology. A grackle would dig into the large gravel, picking up the rocks and flinging them left and right. Then he’d grab the unearthed sunflower seed, fly to a patch of dirt on our small lawn, and patiently gnaw at the seed, repeatedly dropping it and picking it back up until the shell gave way. He’d eat the seed, fly back to the gravel, and start the process over again.

We marveled at them. Grackles are interesting! They’re smart! They hunt, make decisions, use their beaks like tools. They eat the sunflower seeds, which no one else in our bird community did. We never saw them bullying other birds. In fact, it was the doves who were territorial and rude. A dove would march toward a grackle, who would then peacefully walk away to a different spot while the dove poked around in the grackle’s hole, even though there was nothing there that he wanted. We also saw the doves bullying each other.

I was wrong, I said to Callaghan. He said yes, it’s the doves who are the bullies.

Grackles aren’t creepy because they hang out by the dumpster, I thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My word! I’d been profiling the grackles.

Now a fan of grackles, I looked them up online so I could learn more about them.

I found out that grackles are considered to be PEST BIRDS.

We stopped feeding the birds, afraid that the grackles would start doing all of the Terrible Things. Callaghan was also concerned that with the abundance of doves, some would be sure to nest on our house and wreak whatever havoc that would cause.

And now, poor Nenette has no bird party to watch. This is has been Nenette’s tale of woe. She is bereft.

 

No more birds for Nenette.

 

I miss the birds, too. I loved watching them! Are they really that bad to have around? Would the doves wreck our house with their nesting? Does anyone know?

La Fin.

Newsflash: the Grand Canyon is not commercial real estate.

Yesterday, I got to the gym early for my morning BodyPump class, so I hung out in front of the low bank of lockers just outside the group fitness room. That’s where people wait when there’s a class in session before their class.

I set my stuff down on top of the lockers and noticed a copy of the day’s Arizona Republic, our newspaper, hanging off the edge. My eye was attracted to the small heading “Grand Canyon at risk” before moving on to the blaring headline beneath it.

 

 

Why is the Grand Canyon at risk? I wondered. What votes? I read enough of the article to get an idea of it before class.

Last night, I read more.

The Grand Canyon’s unfathomable majesty isn’t enough, it seems. The fact that its splendor already draws millions of visitors from around the globe each year isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s too much. It’s too much of an exploitation opportunity for out-of-state commercial real estate developers to pass up.

Plans have been made for large-scale development on a plateau on the Grand Canyon’s eastern rim… specifically, where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River. The site is known as “The Confluence.” It’s a sacred Navajo site.

Quoting from the Arizona Republic article:

“The heart of the project, known as the Grand Canyon Escalade, is a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride that would drop 3,200 feet into the Canyon, taking visitors from rim to river in about 10 minutes. The project would also include commercial and retail space, multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.”

Excuse me?

I read elsewhere that the multimedia complex is reportedly designed to cover over 400 acres. The commercial and retail space would include an IMAX theater, hotels, and shops. In addition to the gondola tram ride to the canyon floor, there will be an RV park.

This is the Grand Canyon, as in, sacred Native American ground. As in, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As in, please remove your greedy developer fingers from the Grand Canyon… and also, while you’re at it, tell the government to get their hands off of our wild horses, more of Arizona’s native treasures. All of it should be left alone.

This is what developers are planning for the holy site:

 

 

Words fail me here.

Evidently, the Navajo Nation’s president supports this proposal. I get that it would help the Navajo Nation economically, but can’t another way be found?

“Opponents say it could desecrate the region and transform the Grand Canyon from a national park into an amusement park.”

Or background scenery as people shop, dine, and watch movies.

Who would think of coming to the Grand Canyon to catch a show at IMAX?

People go to the Grand Canyon to behold its grandeur. They can opt to hike, raft, and run. They can take helicopter tours to view the canyon from above. The Grand Canyon is nature. It is not commercial real estate.

Can we please just leave the Grand Canyon to be a natural wonder in the desert? Can we please refrain from trampling the sacred ground of indigenous people?

The Road to Hana and back, with a fruit feast in between. (The last pics from Maui!)

Over the last four posts centered around my brother’s wedding, I’ve shared my Mom’s hometown, a beach workout, a black sand beach, a volcano crater, and a passage of text on an airline agricultural declaration form advising against smuggling snakes on the plane. Whether you’ve enjoyed or merely tolerated this onslaught of photo-documentation, I’m back with the last few pics. Okay, the last 25 or so. At the risk of sounding like a vacation destination brochure for Maui, I want to share a little more of the island’s diverse geographic character. What else would I do with my evidence that there’s more to Maui than beaches and volcanos?

Our drive up to Hana and back took us through lush rainforest and a barren, desert-like environment, respectively, landscapes so opposite that it’s a wonder they’re along the same road in fairly close proximity. In Arizona, we have canyons and forests, snow country and lakes, and, of course, our vast expanse of the Sonoran desert, festooned with its indigenous and characteristic Saguaro cactus… but you don’t get all of that variation within a two-hour drive along the same road!

Hana Highway (aka the Road to Hana) takes you from Kahului to the east side of the island, ending at the town of Hana. The trek is a must-do when you’re on Maui. (Again, sorry about the brochure-speak; there’s no other way to put it.)

The narrow, winding road up to Hana is infamous for being a risky drive, but it’s also a treasure hunt, so you want to have a map of the treasures along the way. One of these is Ono Organic Farms. My brother had arranged for us to do a fruit-tasting and a tour through the gardens there. It was like stepping into Avatar. Have I mentioned that my brother is all kinds of awesome?

We couldn’t visit the Seven Sacred Pools this time, but that’s what future visits are for! I loved the Seven Sacred Pools the one time I went, and I look forward to going back and showing Callaghan its sparkling pools and waterfalls.

Going home, rather than backtracking the way we came, we continued along our path. Hana Highway loops around Paia toward Pukalani, and the terrain changes dramatically. This is where you’ll see landscape that looks more like the mainland than an island.

Other than mongoose and nene, we didn’t see too much in the way of critters… you’ll find a darling little brown spider in one of the pics below, though. I’d included a nene pic from the cemetery a few posts back, but the mongoose is just too fast to photograph. He’s a famous emblem of Hawaii for a reason, that mongoose. He’s too busy opening cans of whoop-ass on snakes to be sitting for portraits.

Here’s a mongoose who posed for someone else:

 

Portrait of a mongoose as stolen from bikemaui dot com

Portrait of a mongoose as stolen from bikemaui dot com

 

And here are a few pics from the road to Hana (Hana Highway):

 

We got an early start up the road, ascending under the brightening day.

We got an early start up the road, ascending under the brightening day.

 

It’s best to start up the road early in the morning, when there’s less traffic, but it’s highly advisable to avoid going when it’s dark.

 

Legend has it that the waters of Kane can heal disease and preserve youth

Legend has it that the waters of Kane can heal disease and preserve youth

 

There are many waterfalls along the way.

 

A waterfall seen from the road

A waterfall seen from the road

 

So many little waterfalls.

So many little waterfalls.

 

The rainforest is beautiful. How could it not be?

 

Sunbeams in the rainforest

Sunbeams in the rainforest

 

Rainforest vegetation

Rainforest vegetation

 

Spiders make me happy, so you know I had to grab a pic of this little guy!

 

Little spider!

Little spider!

 

After visiting the black sand beach, we headed to Ono Organic Farms for the fruit-tasting and tour my brother had arranged.

 

Ono Organic Farms

Ono Organic Farms

 

Starfruit

Starfruit

 

Fallen avocados

Fallen avocados

 

The avocados in Hawaii grow to be enormous. The specimens pictured here are some of the smaller ones!

 

I'm holding this avocado like it's a grenade, but I'm just trying to gauge its weight.

I’m holding this avocado like it’s a grenade, but I’m just trying to gauge its weight.

 

Nutmeg

Nutmeg

 

Coffee beans

Coffee beans

 

Cacao (chocolate)

Cacao (chocolate)

 

Bananas, maybe (unfortunately, I didn't take enough care to remember which plants were what)

Bananas, maybe (unfortunately, I didn’t take enough care to remember which plants were what)

 

Another shot of the banana part of the farm...?

Another shot of the banana part of the farm…?

 

Here’s a sneak peek at Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Bananas are Next

 

Banana House of Horrors

Banana House of Horrors

 

Then the drive back to Kihei, also on the Hana Highway. Here’s where you’ll see Maui looking more like the mainland than an island.

 

Coming back from Hana

Coming back from Hana

 

Not too many miles away from the rainforest!

Not too many miles away from the rainforest!

 

Returning from Hana

Returning from Hana

 

Desert-like land meeting the ocean... the opposite of the rainforest meeting the ocean at the black sand beach

Desert-like land meeting the ocean… the opposite of the rainforest meeting the ocean at the black sand beach

 

This almost looks like Iraq.

This almost looks like Iraq.

 

I wouldn't guess I was on a tropical island!

I wouldn’t guess I was on a tropical island!

 

The highway back from Hana

The highway back from Hana

 

Windmills

Windmills

 

The End.

And now we’ve been back for a week, and it’s Thanksgiving week already. Next time I post, we’ll be somewhere else yet again. More family shenanigans afoot! The best kind of shenanigans.

Maui: a lava love to give. (Haleakala volcano crater + Waianapanapa black sand beach!)

One summer, when I was a teenager and the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano was also acting up, I sat in my Uncle’s living room in Hilo and watched the surreal sight of red-orange lava coursing down in the distance.

Many years later… and also many years ago… (it’s funny how time works)… I wrote a certain poem. An excerpt:

…do you remember the first / map you traced in the shape of the island / you left… An ocean between us fires / up, inhaling its own ash from the powerlines of existence…

The ocean becomes one with the volcano when flowing lava hits the salt water. I read that the meeting of the two explodes into black sand, creating a beach. A volcanic black sand beach is the lovechild of the ocean and the volcano, rich with lore and sacred to native Hawaiians.

The Hawaiian archipelago was formed out of massive volcanic events, which is why the islands are studded with active and inactive volcanos and craters. On Maui, from the road to Hana, you can turn onto Waianapanapa Road, where, emerging from the rain forest, you find yourself on the grounds of a park that features a small black sand beach. Let me tell you: If there’s one reason to drive the road to Hana – and there are many – this is it, as far as I’m concerned. The Waianapanapa black sand beach is a gift of the Haleakala volcano, and it is beautiful.

 

Waianapanapa black sand beach

Waianapanapa black sand beach

 

Looking over the rim of lava rocks at this point, I spotted a large sea turtle swimming below in the clear blue-green water. I couldn’t get a pic of him, though, unfortunately.

 

Descending to the black sand beach

Descending to the black sand beach

 

Most people think of the Big Island when they think of Hawaiian black sand beaches, but Maui has this little gem tucked away…

 

Stunning contrasts: sparkling blue-green water, white ocean spray, black sand, rain forest

Stunning contrasts: sparkling blue-green water, white ocean spray, black sand, rain forest

 

Wet black sand, metallic in the sun

Wet black sand, metallic in the sun

 

Waianapanapa black sand beach

Waianapanapa black sand beach

 

I was quick to kick off my shoes and run down to the shore. That’s a strong tide! I had to use all the muscles in my legs to keep myself planted as the water rushed in and back out. It hit me at knee-level, and I was enthralled.

 

Enraptured at Waianapanapa

Enraptured at Waianapanapa

 

Life: complete!

Life: complete!

 

Driving in from the Hana Highway, you know you’re there when you see the sign:

 

Entering the Waianapanapa State Park

Entering the Waianapanapa State Park

 

The day we visited the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater, the sky was blue and the air was typically thin and cold above the clouds. But we were dressed for it, and other than Callaghan’s very mild touch of nausea, we weren’t bothered by altitude sickness.

 

Heading up the Haleakala crater path

Heading up the Haleakala crater path

 

Mid-morning light on the lava rocks

Mid-morning light on the lava rocks

 

Haleakala under a blue sky...

Haleakala under a blue sky…

 

The inside of the volcano crater is another planet.

 

Looking down from the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater

Looking down from the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater

 

The Haleakala volcano crater is too vast to capture in one phone pic...

The Haleakala volcano crater is too vast to capture in one phone pic…

 

Blue sky, carpet of clouds

Blue sky, carpet of clouds

 

We tried to get a selfie with the other-worldly crater floor visible behind us, but alas… this was our best shot:

 

Haleakala volcano crater – selfie at the summit

Haleakala volcano crater – selfie at the summit

 

Haleakala volcano crater (10,023 ft above sea level)

Haleakala volcano crater (10,023 ft above sea level)

 

Haleakala volcano crater

Haleakala volcano crater

 

Treading on lava (Haleakala)

Treading on lava (Haleakala)

 

Entering the Haleakala National Park

Entering the Haleakala National Park

 

I can’t think of a structure of nature that intrigues me as much as the Hawaiian volcano.

And for some reason, I didn’t get pics of the one Haleakala Silversword we saw. The Silversword is a rare succulent plant that only exists on and around the Haleakala volcano; it grows on volcanic cinder.

That concludes this post. Next up on Tuesday, I’ll share some pics from the road to Hana, and another gem we visited along the way!

SHAKA beach workout in Hawaii! Capoeira-inspired! (But still a garage gym post.)

[Edited To Add: Pidgin English ahead! The pidgin words and phrases are in italics!]

It’s Friday! Howzit?!

Essential elements in Sunday’s beach workout: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a partner-in-crime with a willingness to take pics, and a nephew whose photobomb game is hilariously ON. You’ll see da pictures!

Knowing that I was going to miss three workouts while in Hawaii, I intended to slip one in somewhere. When there’s a beach in front of your rented condo, no can work out anywhere else, yeah? I mean, why would you?

Neither could I help but keep it light. No to da max this time. I was on a beach in one of my favorite childhood places, on the Pacific, my favorite large body of salt water. My workout wasn’t hardcore by any means, but whatevahs. “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” – !

Was good fun!

There was no plan other than fo’ do da kine. A little shadow-boxing. I jumped in and went with the flow, and the flow swerved in the direction of capoeira, because, I guess, the setting invited it. You play capoeira… it’s a game, not a fight. Energetically speaking, capoeira makes more sense on the beach than anywhere, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t train in capoeira for very long, but I loved it and still love it. I practice the techniques here and there. Why no do it more often? I should do it more often!

Anyway, enough talking story. Here are just a few pics from my mostly capoeira-inspired beach workout. You’ll notice that I mixed it up with a little Muay Thai:

 

Warming up: squats

Warming up: squats

 

Warming up: lunges

Warming up: lunges

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Burpees

Burpees

 

Sprawl (from burpee)

Sprawl (from burpee)

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

Hanging loose with my nephew!

Hanging loose with my nephew!

 

Front kick chamber

Front kick chamber

 

Bencao (push kick)

Bencao (push kick)

 

Roundhouse chamber

Roundhouse chamber

 

Ginga

Ginga

 

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

 

We had other pics that showed better execution of this esquiva, but I chose this one because HELLO, epic photobomb. (Click to enlarge!)

 

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

 

Spinning back elbow

Spinning back elbow

 

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

 

AH hahaha!! I seriously love my nephew.

 

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

 

(Cringing at my form here… I should be lower, closer to the ground for this one, yeah? Gah.)

 

Resting

Resting

 

I finished the workout with a dive into the water and a 10 minute swim for a little more cardio – I like frog stroke – then floated for a minute to rest. Or, I tried to float. I don’t float well. (I sink.) Regardless, it felt fantastic! Callaghan said he likes this pic because I look like an otter. I suppose this is a compliment of some sort.

 

"Walking off" - ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

“Walking off” – ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

 

All pau! Mahalo for reading.