A Good Example of the Need
We have quite a few home improvement projects on our “to do” list this summer. Since handyman skills didn’t come to me naturally, we often hire the applicable talent for this sort of work. However, several of the items on this summer’s list involved landscaping and they seemed to mostly require brute strength so I decided to take them on myself.
Of course, my Wife, Ruth and I agreed to a landscaping game plan before I dove in. One of the main landscaping projects was to use red rock to replace the areas of bark chips that make up a significant portion of the ground cover in our front yard. Additionally, to address some issues that have been developing with two of the three mature Ash trees presently within the bark chip covered areas; we planned to set all three apart with decorative rings, replacing the bark chips with organic compost amended with organic fertilizer.
As I said before, this seemed like a project that required more brute strength than skill. Equipped with a 1/2 ton pickup borrowed from one friend and a wheelbarrow borrowed from another friend, I thought I could complete the job in a couple of days. About three days into the work, I found myself in our front yard continuing to rake and shovel away at four or five layers of bark chips … I actually ended up removing about six cubic yards. Meanwhile, for those three days, a cubic yard of red rock had been sitting in the bed of the borrowed pickup, parked in front of our house. Unfortunately, there was no place to put the red rock until I finished with the bark chips removal. Also unfortunately, with the pickup full of red rock, I had no way of hauling away the bark chips. Based on my original plan, I thought the volume of bark chips would be low enough that I could dispose of them via one or two of the city’s semi-weekly yard debris pick-ups. This meant that I needed to find a place to store the bark chips until I did have the ability to haul them away … in other words, I got to move the 6 cubic yards of bark chips twice! And even more unfortunately, removing the multiple layers of bark chips was exposing the upper half of major roots of the Ash trees we were striving to save. This meant that I would need to put down about a cubic yard of compost around the trees before putting down the red rock. But, due to the fact that the borrowed pickup was still filled with red rock, I had no way of hauling in the needed compost.
All this meant that, as I continued working away in our front yard, I was wishing I hadn’t started this project and that I had a magic wand that would allow me to return our front yard to its beginning state. At that point, my thinking was that our front yard might actually end up looking worse, not better and that I could end up killing the trees we were striving to save. Since Ruth sensed my exasperation, on a regular basis, she was coming to me with “just one more idea meant to help.” When she came to me with what (in my mind) was about the “dozenth” of these ideas, she reacted to this resulting in a negative change in my countenance by saying, “Never mind.” I responded by saying, “No, I want to hear your suggestion but I want you to know that it would have been most helpful for me to hear these ideas when we were setting the game plan for this project. At this point, they’re tending to just add to my frustration.” As I said this, I realized, “We’re having another ‘Kayaking Up the Waialua’ experience.”
The “Kayaking Up the Waialua” Experience
Of course, in order for you to understand where this fits in, I need to tell you about our experience “Kayaking Up the Waialua.” This came along with our getting to join in Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa – Married Couples Fellowship’s inaugural Kauai Retreat. Of course, this was something we had planned for well in advance and that we looked forward to for months.
Fittingly, the first day of this week-long retreat was our Anniversary. So, that evening, we got cleaned up and dressed up (Aloha style) to go out for our Anniversary dinner. Our dinner reservation, based on a recommendation, was at Café Hanalei at the Princeville Hotel, on Kauai’s North shore, at sunset. It turned out to be a magnificent recommendation. I’ve been blessed that I’ve seen some pretty fancy hotels, from Hong Kong to Europe. None of them compare to the architecture of the Princeville Hotel’s lobby. The Café Hanalei overlooks Hanalei Bay – the Hanalei that Peter, Paul and Mary were inspired by for “Puff the Magic Dragon”. The view is spectacular. The Café Hanalei is a bit pricey but it’s one of those superb restaurants where the food makes it seem well worth the price. At the end of the meal, the restaurant brought out a dessert we had not ordered. I can’t describe it but it was wonderful and the plate it was served on said, “Happy Anniversary”, in chocolate. Afterwards, we waddled to our car and drove back to our resort for a good night’s rest.
The main reason for me filling you in on that Anniversary dinner was because it was so dramatically different from the following day’s experience, “Kayaking Up the Waialua.” The day started with the two of us going out on the beach to watch the sunrise. Afterwards, we went to a continental breakfast provided by the company the church used to book the trip. We left the breakfast at 9 a.m., so that we could meet the Married Couples Fellowship group on the beach for our first time of praise, worship and Bible study. It was wonderful to get together for praise, worship and Bible study in the midst of such a beautiful part of God’s creation. However, that first time on the beach together was a bit abbreviated because a majority of the couples had signed up for a kayaking trip up the Waialua River. That’s where our challenges started.
Before going on, I need to tell you a little about the sun and me. Suffice it to say, I’m an extremely white guy. When I was a kid, my Mom would make me wear a tee shirt when I went swimming and I’d get sunburned through the shirt. So, that means coating myself thoroughly with sun block before spending any significant time in the Hawaiian sun. You should, also, know that both Ruth and I left home with sinus colds so that was our first bit of discomfort that day. And, we had been up since 3 or 4 in the morning, due to the three-hour time difference between Hawaii and California. Additionally, less than a week before our trip, I’d taken a fall while roller blading and I was suffering from some pain in the left part of my chest and back. I think it was a bruised or cracked rib. Even without all these afflictions, we knew the paddling would be strenuous for us, particularly since we hadn’t been doing much in terms of upper-body exercise. However, Ruth thought we’d be able to pull up to a bank to rest, have a drink and a snack whenever we got a little tired. Otherwise, we thought we’d be able to enjoy the beauty, take some pictures and end up visiting Waialua Falls and the Fern Grotto. Here’s what really happened:
During the worship on the beach, I realized I’d been too liberal with applying sun block to my face because it was getting in my eyes and nearly blinding me. As soon as worship was over, we went to our room so I could use some eye drops. Fortunately, that helped, though it took most of the next hour for my bloodshot eyes to stop smarting. Then we drove to the kayak rental place to learn that we had to load the kayak and equipment on our rental car, drive to the river, assemble the kayak, get it and us into the river and do the trip without any further assistance. We, also, learned that we hadn’t dressed properly. Although we had swimsuits and aqua socks with us, we thought that shorts and tennis shoes would be proper dress for the trip we had in mind. We were wrong. By 10:30 a.m., we were in the river, wet up to our butts, hot and sweaty, covered with sun block, eyes smarting and heads aching. If that sounds like fun, there were no banks to pull up to due to heavy foliage along the banks; there was no opportunity for picture taking due to the need to constantly row against the current and the fact that all you could see was the water and the heavy foliage along the banks. The need to constantly row really tested our upper-body strength, aggravated my chest pain and gave us both blisters in the fleshy area between thumb and forefinger. The need for teamwork to keep going straight and to not turn over also provided some interesting testing. I’m pleased to say that we seemed to pass that testing, in as much as, unlike several others, our kayak remained upright. We eventually came to a fork, with one way going to the falls and the other going to the grotto. Since people coming the other way warned us not to try to go to the falls due to strong currents, we took the fork to the grotto. Actually, we went past the grotto because it wasn’t marked well but we did make our way back to a place where you could tie up and with a lot of effort, get out of the kayak. We then hiked up a muddy hill to see the Fern Grotto, being visited by group after group of Japanese tourists who had come by tour boat. While doing this, we drank a soda and scarfed down a couple of pieces of fried chicken we’d gotten at a Safeway the night before. It was hard for me to believe that this fried chicken was from the same species as the macadamia nut crusted chicken I’d had the previous night at the Café Hanalei. By the way, there are lots of chickens running around loose on Kauai, as a result of Filipino immigrants bringing in fighting cocks. It’s kind of disconcerting to be eating fried chicken with live chickens running around you. You sort of feel like they’re cheering on the bugs that are biting you. The return trip was pretty much a mirror image of the initial leg except that we were going against the wind instead of going against the current. The one thing I did enjoy seeing on the return trip was schools of mullet jumping over waves. However, the waves were from the wake of huge tour boats (carrying those Japanese tourists) that nearly swamped us. It was between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. when we got out of the river so the whole adventure had lasted about five hours with about four hours of it being in the river. On the way back to the hotel, Ruth and I agreed that we wanted to do nothing but sit still for awhile before getting cleaned up.
No doubt, there were several points during our “Kayaking Up the Waialua” experience when we were having wishes similar to the one I had three days into our recent landscaping project – i.e. wishing I hadn’t started this project and that I had a magic wand that would allow me to return our front yard to it’s beginning state. But, we survived our “Kayaking Up the Waialua” experience and at Bible study the next morning, we began to have more appreciation for our experience, realizing that everyone had a challenging experience and that it had strengthened our relationships, as a result.
The lessons learned from our “Kayaking Up the Waialua” experience have served us well over the years. Even when you’re doing your very best to carry out the game plan you put together as a couple, often life just doesn’t go the way you expect. As I noted in the story about our “Kayaking Up the Waialua” experience, “The need for teamwork to keep going straight and to not turn over also provided some interesting testing. I’m pleased to say that we seemed to pass that testing, in as much as, unlike several others, our kayak remained upright.” We passed that test because our commitment to each other is to stick together, caring for and depending on each other, regardless of how real life plays out versus our game plan. And that applies even when it’s very challenging to do so. A good example here is when, in an attempt to help keep us “going straight and to not turn over” in our kayak, one of us decided to provide some uniformity to our rowing through the cadence of calling out “Right, right. Left, left.” but, unfortunately, the cadence being called out was the opposite of the side that person was actually rowing on. Another good example here is when one of us senses exasperation on the part of the other and offers “just one more idea meant to help” but that well-intentioned effort isn’t received gladly. In the first case, we still ended up with a very entertaining story to share about the treasured memory of a trip to Kauai. And, in the second instance, we ended up with the attractive appearance of our front yard causing neighbors to stop by and ask if we were getting ready to sell our home. Moreover, through the lessons learned from our “Kayaking Up the Waialua” experience, as well as from other lessons the Lord has equipped us with to strengthen our relationship, we’ve been blessed with a marriage that is far richer than we ever imagined.