Perhaps the best present you can give anyone is your presence. Just showing up is at least half of what it takes. The other half is fully being there with them in that moment. NO cell phones (or at least put it on airplane mode), no side conversations. Give full attention to those that you are gifting your presence. You don’t have to be perfect and say just the right thing, just pay full attention to what the other person is saying. Smile or frown when appropriate or nod if you can’t think of exactly the right words.
It may be disarming to them at first. It is a rare thing and always has been. We would like to, but can’t blame technology. People have always been distracted and giving someone this gift of your presence does put a bit of you on the line for approval or not. You will probably find, if you persist, that this is really what is wanted. Perhaps even more than that big screen TV.
If you don’t quite have the bravery required for this (it does take a bit), try at least putting the cell phone away and pay better attention to the moment. For those people that always seem to get you irritated but you really want to try, go to a movie or participate in an activity they like. Maybe bowling, hiking, snorkeling or even sitting together and reading would be good. You could try reading out loud to each other.
If even this is tough give them a gift of your time by doing something for them, paint a door, pull some weeds, cook something or fix that drippy faucet.
The surprise is that when you give this gift of presence you receive a whole lot more than you give.
A full moon at Waihe’e Coastal Dunes & Wetlands Refuge is magical. Maybe it’s because the spirit world becomes seamless with the temporal world. Maybe it is always special because of everything that has happened there. Or maybe it’s just me and the times I’ve been there. The moonlight is bright, so everything seems more alive, more real. Scott Fisher of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is an extraordinary storyteller. On a recent visit there with my family he told “chicken skin” stories about the spirits that are attached to this place. My nephew really felt the stories.
I’ve been to this place a few times, once as a volunteer with Scott when he was doing a walk with ecology students from the University of Hawaii, once for a Kupu dinner and again for this Full Moon Hike.
The early Hawaiians believed that during a full moon the membrane between the spirit world and ours was thinned or more permeable. Movement from world to world was easier, so spirits could pass into our world. Night marchers with lights in the distance were seen more frequently on nights with a full moon. This site has many Heiau, sacred sites or places for worship. The Ali’i or royalty lived here and the people produced food in managed fish ponds and kalo or taro fields. This place was full of life and apparently is still full of spirits.
I have spent a lot of my life protecting places like this on the mainland with nonprofits and local governments. Our hike in Waihe’e refuge reminds me why.
I am grateful for organizations like the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust for protecting lands like this so that we can get out in nature, get close to historic and sacred sites to feel that connection that sustains us. The connections that fill our hearts.
Thanksgiving has almost always meant large family gatherings for me. Sixteen people or so when I was little. More recently gatherings with my husband’s parents, a couple of his four siblings and their families And now our children have started families. Someone is always flying to or from these large family gatherings. I have done a lot of that flying and so often feel so sad at leaving, but so fulfilled and grateful for the time and love we all have shared.
This year was very different. My husband and I ate alone, grateful this year to be at home on Maui together with the love we share. Again though I flew after Thanksgiving, but this time to a small family gathering of just my daughter, son-in-law and my 4 month old granddaughter. When I fly home in a little while I will be sad, fulfilled and grateful.