It's September. This morning I I flipped the page on the calendar over and shouted to my four year old, "hey! It's a new month! It's September!" This seemed important enough to interrupt her drawing time (detailed vignettes of fancy girls in triangular dresses, backdropped by loop-dee-loop clouds). "Summer is over, now it's Fall." She gasped: "Oh no! So we can't go anywhere?!" I was puzzled. She broke it down for me: "Because it will be cold now?" She ran to the door to look for a library book scene of corn-stalks and pumpkins and scarecrows and maple leaves.

Nope, not cold. Light green kukui nut leaves, pale yellow cascades of starfruit like pinatas, hard green mini grapefruits on the trees, bittermelon vines choking the compost bins. But still, Fall. The beginning of the new school year -- that rhythm that pulses throughout a post-school (or pre-school) life. The storing away of summer, reporting on my summer vacation, considering the change in grade numbers, in ages.

We went on a summer vacation-- our annual pilgrimage to the mainland. We don't crawl to holy caves on our knees for a fortnight, but we flew overnight to the east coast with two small kids. Which should count for something in the penance department. Leaving Hawaii snaps you into another world: white people and black people sitting on plastic airport chairs, hustle and bustle, a sense of competition and connectedness and time whipping past importantly.

I observed slack-jawed. I enjoyed feeling like a country mouse-- oohing and ahhing at gourmet food trucks and lebanese restaurants and live music and independent book stores. I grinned my way through little crafty cool shops and art supplies stores-- Etsy, writ large! And I swooned at the sheer overwhelming quantity and quality of choice-- every kind of food, every kind of shop, every kind of scene. The kind of coolness that would have bent me double with jealousy as a teenager now is fun and interesting, but I have no delusions of coolness for myself. So I can make inappropriate fashion choices and sing unjaded praises through mouthfuls of, say, inked pasta with scallops or amaretto gelato.

City living must make you smart. Crazy, maybe, but for sure smart. To get from A to B on Kauai, you either go to the left or the right, and then stop when you get there. To get from A to B in, say, Boston? There are an infinite number of choice points along an exponentially branching choice continuum. I pictured the mathematical loveliness and complexity of digitally rendered trees, fractals splaying eternally splitting choices in every direction. Walk or bus or train or drive? highways, tunnels, toll roads, side streets? what time is it, what's running, which food place is still open, and how late are the busses going and what's the neighborhood like after 11 and if it rains or if the venue changes or should we can it all and stay home and watch a movie?

In Maine I took photos: loving close ups of queen ann's lace and black-eyed susans and acorns, and chipped buoys and tattered lobster nets and white picket fences and screened porches. I set out, with determination and courage, to gorge on lobsters and haddock and clams blueberries and raspberries and raw milk and fresh summer sausage. And I really enjoyed it-- the flowers, the scenery, the food. But I didn't bring home any real estate rags, or even any cookbooks. Just one lump of summer sausage. As wonderful as it was to be there, I don't need to own it, carve it up and make it mine for ever.

And now we're back, one more trip under our belts, one more set of family memories we'll have to keep re-inventing for the kids for years until they believe they remember the fox in the raspberry bushes or the seal by the boat, too. Reinventing ourselves for the year, limping into new routines, testing out the snugness of old ones, rediscovering favorite things and pausing to notice the acerbic ribbed surinam cherries, and considering  what fall means, here.


  1. another piece of great writing....and memories of how I felt when I only had two. sweet. I've never been to the East coast, "someday".


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