|T H I S & T H A T|
Paté de Verre - What is it?
Paté de Verre is French for "paste of glass". It is the making of an object from ground glass. The glass may be coarsely ground, or so finely ground it feels almost like powder. The finer the grind, the more detail an artist can work into their piece through color. Paté de Verre objects are almost always translucent or opaque, due to the tiny pieces of glass used and the coloring agents that may be included in the glass.
So, how does one go about turning ground glass into a solid object? First, the artist must create the form they want to make in glass in another medium. Clay or wax are two materials that are commonly used, as both are fairly easy to remove once a mold is formed. Or the artist can start with an object they simply wish to reproduce. No matter what is used to start with, the next step is to make a mold of that object.
If the object being reproduced is large on the bottom (having a wide base) and tapers smaller to the top, you can use a one-piece mold (for this, the object can not have any undercuts.) Once the mold sets up, you simply remove the original from the mold to proceed. If the original was sculpted in clay, it is a matter of digging out the clay, then thoroughly washing the mold to remove all traces of the clay. If the original was made of wax, the wax must be burned or melted out of the mold before the mold can be filled with the ground glass. All traces of the wax must be removed to keep from contaminating the glass.
After that, the mold is packed with ground glass that is held together with CMC gum and water. Wallpaper paste, white glue and gelatin mixed with water can also be used. Different areas of the mold can be packed with different colors.
Alternatively, the mold can be made first-- particularly if the object being made is a shallow bowl or similar shape. In this method, detail can be carved into the mold once it is dry. If the original piece has areas that are undercut, or is made of something that the artist doesn't want to destroy when it's removed, then a two-part mold must be made. The two-part mold is created by first covering one half (or one side) of the original with mold material, then placing something over the top of the first half of the mold. At that point the second half of the mold can be poured or formed.
Once the mold is set, the two halves are separated and the original object removed. The mold halves are then packed with glass and carefully placed back together. This is most easily accomplished if some sort of guide has been placed into the mold while it was being formed. The mold is then bound together. Sometimes the two-part mold is lightly encased in more mold material to keep the glass from seeping out the sides when being melted.
It is also necessary to leave an opening in one end of the mold so that more ground glass can be added as the ground glass particles pack more tightly together while being melted. After the mold is prepared, dried and packed with glass, it goes into a kiln. There the temperature is brought up slowly while the CMC gum (or any other binder used with the glass) is burned away. The artist can tell when the binding agent has been removed, as the brownish color created while it burns is gone.
At that point, the temperature of the kiln is raised high enough that the glass particles melt. It is held at this temperature until all the pieces of glass have become "one" with each other. During the melting process, more glass will likely have to be added to compensate for the air spaces that no longer exist between the particles.
Once the melting is complete and the mold is full, the temperature of the kiln is lowered to the annealing point of the glass used. Annealing temperature is the temperature at which all the stresses and strains of the glass are released. Different types of glass anneal at different temperatures. The important thing at this point is to get all of the glass in the mold to the annealing temperature and to hold it there until the glass is relaxed and happy. The time it takes to anneal the glass depends on the size and thickness of the object being created.
Once annealing is completed, the temperature in the kiln is slowly lowered to room temperature. This can take several hours to several days, depending on the size of the piece (in very large pieces, this process can take weeks.) Once the glass is at room temperature, the mold is opened and the created object removed. Then the piece is cleaned of any mold residue. After that it can be polished to a high shine, or left with a coarser finish, depending on the desire of the person creating the piece.
Paté de Verre is an ancient process that is time-consuming and sometimes unpredictable. But the results that can be obtained with it are well worth the effort.
Watch the Dreamweaver pages for new Paté de Verre artworks to come!
Well, I started this blog with the best of intentions, but life has a way of interfering with our plans! I am currently in the midst of buying a new home, consolidating three households into one (my mother-in-law is coming to live with us) and dealing with the ensuing chaos. Plus I will have to build a new studio......so forgive me if I don't get timely additions here for awhile. Chaos happens.
On a lighter note, I thought that many of you might wonder what the term "dichroic glass" means. Yes, it's very pretty stuff, but what is it? Well, it was originally developed for industrial use by the aerospace industry. But that was before it found its new home in the arts. (I can just picture the first artist who saw it in its industrial home--The light flames in the eyes and the mind goes into over-drive.... I wonder if he/she passed out from brain overload due to the myriad possibilities for new works of art stampeding through their head?) Dichroic glass is created by applying micro-thin layers of metals to glass using a vacuum chamber. The types of metals and the order in which they are deposited determine the colors.
The word "dichroic" actually means "two-color," but the dichroic effect really lets you see three colors on the same spot almost at the same time: the color transmitted, the color reflected, and the color you see as the piece shifts angles against the light. High tech physics is joined with age-old craftsmanship to bring out the beauty in creations made with this wonderful material. Give your imagination the chance to run free, see the deeply colored, playful effect of nature's dragonfly or the feathers of a hummingbird. Imagine a rainbow with colors that sparkle and change hue every time you make the slightest movement of your head. Think of the colors that shift on the surface of a puddle in the street after rain lifts a thin film of oil to the water's surface. A black opal freshly unearthed and newly cut from some sere, dusty outback area of Australia. All this transient beauty is permanently captured in the creation of dichroic glass.
Once you see these brilliant pieces in sunlight, you will fall in love with dichroic glass forever.
A Trip to Hawaii Part 1
Since a lot of the inspiration for my work comes from things I see (particularly from nature), I thought that including a travelogue from my latest trip might not be completely out of place here. (OK, I'm stretching it. But I had a really great time.) Some of the things I saw may turn up in a piece of jewelry or sculpture in the near future.
Day one - Arrive in Honolulu
As we come into the airport we fly over a section of ocean that looks like a malachite/azurite combination. Two shades of luscious turquoise layered into deep, sapphire blue. The deepest, most brilliant shades that I have ever seen. Of course, I'm stuck in a middle seat and can't get near enough to the window to get a picture. Oh well.
We wait to be picked up by Monica, who is the DIL of Merrie and Joe, our traveling companions. Merrie is Karen's (the world's best sister) best friend. Monica gives us a huge bowl full of fruit, pistachios, chips, etc. and gives us each of us a lovely, fragrant lei. Then off to the Navy base to get us each a pass, as we will be staying at a Navy lodge on Ford Island. (very nice accommodations, by the way, and nicely centrally located). Ford Island is in Pearl Harbor, so our next stop is the USS Arizona memorial.
Lots of pretty fishies are swimming around the sunken battleship, which can be clearly seen thru an opening in the memorial that keeps the sea calm in that area for viewing. Off towards the mountains there is a huge rainbow as it is the rainy season and there is a light mist in the air. It seemed fabulous at the time, as I don't see rainbows very often. But in HI I saw at least one almost every day. On the other side of the memorial there is a rainbow-colored oil slick on the water. Kind of pretty, but when we visit the museum I find out that there is a lot of fuel and oil still entombed in the ship. Something that poses an environmental hazard, but also something they are not quite sure how to handle. They're not even sure how many thousands of gallons may be down there.
After the Arizona we went down to Waikiki and had dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the beach where we watched the sun go down while dining. A very fine meal, but I'm so tired I don't really care. Somewhere in the distance I hear my pillow calling me. So... after that it was off to bed.
The next day we took what was called the Grand Circle tour of the island (Oahu). While waiting for the tour bus to pick us up in downtown Honolulu, we stopped at Mickey D's for breakfast. I haven't eaten at one of those in years. Not what I consider food. But I have to say the Egg McMuffin wasn't too bad, well, except for the mystery meat they termed "ham.² That went in the trash, where it rightfully belonged. The biggest problem was that the place, while offering sit-down dining didn't offer restrooms. As a matter of fact, there was no place we could find one. There was a public restroom available at the tourist information center. But it didn't open for an hour and a half. We finally located a hotel with a kind desk clerk who solved our dilemma. Good thing too, the bus did not have a restroom either.
When we came out, our bus was waiting, so all aboard! During our trip we expected to see the highlights of all the possible sites we could visit during our stay on the island. What we got was a couple of highlights and lots of stops at places to buy things. I guess some things never change no matter where in the world you are. I did pick up a few little goodies at one shop. A tee shirt for me (got to have a shirt to say you were there!) and a few small things for grandkids, etc. Later I found the same shirt for half the price. Go figure. I wonder how big the tour company's kickback was?
We had dinner that evening with Merrie and Joe's DIL and grandkids, as his son was still off on business and wouldn't be in until the next day. Very happy grandkids. Very good food. But again, too tired to really enjoy it. There is a four-hour time difference between HI and MO. That combined with two days of travel (I flew to CA and spent the night before flying on to HI the next day) had left me exhausted. Then the all-day bus tour. Sleep... I... need... sleep...
The next day, Karen and I picked up a rental car so that we could do our own thing while Merrie and Joe spent time with their grandkids. And in the next installment, I will start from that point.
A couple of highlights from the bus tour: We first drove past Diamond Head. Quite frankly not all that spectacular up close. Much better from a distance. Then we drove thru the rich part of town. Lots of expensive houses interspersed with the occasional tiny shack that had obviously been owned before the rich folks moved in. Some fabulous metal work on the gates in front of many of the driveways. That really appealed to the artist in me. I was designing gates in my head for the next 20 minutes.
After that it was on down the coast. I saw the beach where the steamy love-scene-in-the-surf from the movie "From Here to Eternity" was filmed. It's in a tiny cove right next to a blowhole that Oahu is famous for. The surf was good that day, so there was lots of spray coming up thru the hole. Very nice, and my new camcorder was working fine. Unfortunately that's the last place it worked, because after that it ceased to function. 15 minutes of tape was all I got on the whole trip. It goes in for repair next week, but that doesn't help me much now.
Continuing on, we headed up into the mountains to an overlook on top of some peak or the other. Talk about windy. I had my backpack with me. In it were my fanny pack (pretty heavy all by itself), camcorder, camera, jacket and a few odds and ends. It had some weight to it. But one of the gusts on the overlook blew it right off my back! I managed to grab it before it hit the ground, thereby saving my last working camera. A beautiful view to the other side of the island from up there, but pretty cold.
Back to the bus - As we're leaving we see rescue vehicles, ambulance, fire truck, etc. Someone had driven through the rock wall that circles the parking lot and gone over the side. It was pretty much straight down, but lots of trees, so hopefully they didn't go too far down and no one was hurt. But I'll never know.
From there we returned to the coast and got an abbreviated history lesson on parts of the island. This included a settlement area we were passing that was just for native Hawaiians. Seems some local made good, got elected to a national office and managed to get the federal government to return some of the land they weren't using to the people of HI. This land was given in lots to native Hawaiians to build homes on. A very pretty part of the island. We also stopped at a macadamia nut farm and got lots of nuts, made a brief stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center, went to the north shore to Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline. Saw tons of places where movies had been shot and stopped at the Dole Plantation and had pineapple ice cream (yummy). Learned a lot of the Island's history from the driver, a funny man called cousin Benny. He said that ever since the island became part of the US, we all have the same uncle (Sam), which makes us all cousins. He stayed very non-political, which was very mundane, I would have preferred to hear more of the Hawaiian view of things. He did sing a very funny local song about hanging loose as the tour came to an end.
More to follow......
Hawaii - Part Deux
Soooooo.....the next morning Karen wants to go to Maui Divers Jewelry manufacturing facility. Not high on my list, as that's sort of a busman's holiday for me, but hey, she paid for my ticket, what's a morning at a jewelry shop in exchange, eh? Well, they showed us an interesting 9 minute video on how the company got started and where black and gold coral come from (over 100 feet deep and over 300 feet respectively). Then there was a very brief trip past their facilities, which ended (surprise!) in their fine-jewelry showroom.
They employ probably 30 salespeople so that anywho who says "isn't that pretty" immediately has their very own salesperson who constantly pulls things out of cases every time you slow down. We ended up spending 2 hours at the place! I got out of there in debt and with a new pair of 14k gold plumeria earrings with large Tahitian Black Pearls hanging from the flowers. She also bought herself a goodie, then it was off to lunch, or so we thought.
Ha! Surprise! The elevator stopped on another floor with the lesser jewelry and goodies. Where there were a dozen more salespeople all pressuring you to buy more! Now when you buy something in the first (expensive) showroom, they put it in a dark green bag that says to everyone on the next floor "sucker", and they stick to you like glue to get you to buy more. I'm almost ashamed to say they weresuccessful. But hey, you can't go home without goodies for close friends and family,so more things were stuffed into bags. Fortunately for me, Karen did most of the spending in this part. Then out the door to lunch.
Well, not quite. Just as you reach the door, there are two more people standing there to get you to buy an oyster with a pearl inside. Only 13.95! What a deal! And since we were carrying those green bags from upstairs, we could have two oysters for that price. Well, why not.... So now Karen has a pink pearl and I have a black one and the two salespeople are oohing and ahhing with the best of them. Telling us how lucky we are to have gotten such nice pearls, how wonderful the luster is and the size! Enormous! They shouldn't even let us keep them for what we paid for them! (Right....and I have some swamp land that would be great for a high-rise). I'm looking at the pearl I'm holding thinking "I can buy a dozen matched pair of these wholesale for 25.00". Meanwhile they're pulling out setting after setting (starting at over 350.00 and gradually coming down to one for 95.00 as they hear "no sale" time after time). After saying "no" about 150 times we finally made it out the door. Whew! The morning is shot. It's one in the afternoon and we're starving.
Well, the lady at the door said there was a Chinese restaurant the next block over. So off we go. We're two doors down and the place is starting to look seedy. Homeless people are sleeping in doorways. A little farther, no Chinese restaurant in sight, but people eyeing those little green bags are in abundance. Deciding that another neighborhood might offer a better dining experience (and still not seeing any restaurant) we step up the pace back to the rental car and out of there. We finally find a little Chinese restauant in another neighborhood that had very good food for very reasonable prices. Bellies full, we headed for the Bishop Museum.
We arrived in another rain shower, another lovely rainbow. It's the rainy season after all. We went into the Museum and headed to the planetarium where the show was just starting. It was very interesting. They showed how the ancient Polynesians navigated by the stars to get to Hawaii. Following the instructions, the audience managed to land in Oahu as the stars moved overhead. Good for us! We also found out that at this time of year you can actually see the Southern Cross just above the horizon between 4 and 6 AM in Hawaii.. But I was never up early enough to actually see it for myself. Not to mention, it's the rainy season and there were clouds at least on the horizon, if not covering the entire sky, every morning.
After the show we went to see a display of ancient feather capes that were worn by Hawaiian royalty in times past. They were very lovely but I couldn't help thinking of the tens of thousands of little birds that had to die to make them. Some species were wiped out entirely. Speaking of birds, I'm accustomed to seeing Cardinals. They are everywhere in Missouri. In the winter they stand out against the bare branches or snow (if we have any!). In Hawaii they have the red-crested Cardinal. It is a black and white bird with an Irridescent red mask and crest. It is not at all shy like our Cardinals, but can be seen everywhere and is underfoot almost as much as the doves. The doves are not the Mourning Doves of the mainland, but a version about 1/3 to 1/2 the size. They have a light-blue face and beak and a black band around their necks that has little white spots in it. After seeing the capes, leis, etc. made from feathers we went downstairs where there were lots of dinosaurs roaring and pawing the earth. They were all life-like and animated. The kids loved them. Heck, I thought they were fun too. Then over to the science center (all on the same grounds) to make a volcano explode, see how a tsunami is created, etc.
By then it was after 5:00, the museum was closed and they were kicking us out. So we decided to take a drive down the coast. The road along the section of coast we were on dead=ends at the tip of the island. So we saw towering cliffs, lots of water and people camped everywhere. A lot of the tents we saw looked as though they were there for the duration. They had huge tarps spread above them to keep off the rain and looked as if the people lived there for months at a time. I'm not sure if that was actually the case, but all beaches in HI are owned by the state and are accessible for public use at all times. Even in the richest neighborhoods there are access trails between the houses so that anyone can reach any beach. In many places you can see surfers picking their way down extremely steep cliffs to the beach while hanging onto their board with one hand and a bush with the other, so that they don't tumble head-long down the hillside.
After watching the sunset we headed back to our digs for the night. So ended another day in paradise. (and boy were we tired!)
The next day we got up early and headed out for a ride in a glider. Yep, no engine. We called ahead to the Dillingham Airport to enquire and they were having a slow morning. So at 11 AM Karen and I were squeezing into the backseat of a glider that is really meant for one person. They put extra cushions on one side so that one person sits higher than the other and your hips don't grind one another down to the bone during the ride. Heck, I even had enough room to maneuver my camera around to where I could take pictures during the ride. Once we were squeezed in and the canopy was closed, we were off.
The plane towed us up for quite awhile then went sharply up for a brief time, then sharply down. Sort of like a roller coaster. On the downward slant the tow cable was released. This allows the cable to be released without a lot of noise. Apparently if they release the cable without this maneuver it lets go with a sound like a gunshot so they do it to keep from scaring people. But Karen doesn't like rollercoasters and told the glider pilot he should warn people before doing that! Once the cable was released, the ride was smooth and uneventful.
It was cloudy off toward Pearl Harbor on the other side of the island, so we could barely see that far. On our side of the island it was quite clear and we could see all the farmland under cultivation, the surf crashing to shore and the myriad blues of the ocean. At one point we saw what might have been a whale spouting in the distance, but no whales close enough to shore for us to see them. Originally Karen had wanted to go for a 40 minute ride, but the woman who took our money told us that 20 minutes would be plenty, as the plane just made circles over the same area, just from higher up. No sense spending twice as much money to see the same things, only smaller!
The mountains that fill the center of the island were very beautiful from the glider. It is hard to imagine the steepness of their slopes until you actually see them. I grew up with mountains in the backyard, and they had slopes that were plenty steep, but nothing like these. They are virtually straight up and down. There is no way you could climb up them without ropes. They look like they were chiseled there rather than something formed naturally. As we got lower and lower you could see all the rocks and reefs just off the shore everytime we circled out over the ocean (which set me to wondering how well that plane could float....). The clarity of the water is incredible.
After that we headed up to Waimeia Falls and the Arboreatum and Audubon sanctuary that were in the same canyon. We made the short hike up to the falls, stopping to take pictures all along the way of the various flowers that were in bloom. Most of the plants were not native to HI, but lovely anyway. They had a huge assortment of Hibiscus, ranging from the oldest varieties to the newer hybrids. Many were types I had never seen before. The falls themselves were rather non-descript and somewhat disappointing. There was one person swimming in the pool at the base of the falls, but I opted not to join in. The water was very dirty looking and full of silt. Not at all what I expected. So we headed back down the path taking side paths as we went in order to see more plants and birds. There was a lot of interesting vegetation and plant life that I had not seen before and one of the paths went along the river that comes from the falls. It was quite nice.
Back at the base of the canyon we sat down to have a picnic lunch. The birds in the area were quite tame as one would expect of a place that is normally full of non-threatening people. While we were eating, we put an open plastic sack next to us for trash. We had hardboiled eggs and we put the shells in the bag along with the yolks from Karen's eggs as she doesn't care for the yolk. A collared dove of the variety I described in an earlier part my little "trip memories" landed on the table and strolled over to the bag. He or she started in on a yolk and really must have liked it because he ate almost the whole thing! He just kept pecking and eating, pecking and eating in spite of it being only a couple of inches from my hand. While the dove was eating (apparently he couldn't read the "don't feed the birds" signs that were all over the patio) a pea hen hopped up on the bench next to Karen and started looking over her lunch. It pecked at her sleeve once but apparently didn't see anything to its liking and left after a few minutes. There was also a peacock strutting his stuff about the patio, shaking his tailfeathers for all to see. The hen couldn't have cared less. The people having lunch were much more interesting to her.
After our lunch we headed up the coast to try and find the turtle beach we had passed while on the bus tour. When we passed it on the bus there were no turtles on the beach and I wanted to see one of the endangered green sea turtles that make that area their home. After we had been driving for awhile (not finding the right section of beach) it started to rain very heavily, so we headed back towards our hotel. As luck would have it, we spotted the beach on the way back and there were turtles resting on the beach. The rain had stopped and I jumped out to take a couple of pictures, then off we went again. On the way "home" we stopped in some historic little town that is now mostly shops and galleries catering to tourists. This time I managed to keep my wallet in my purse except for a pound of coffee for Jim. It is a variety that is only grown on that part of the island and is not yet being sold outside of HI. After seeing too much "stuff", we headed out again, hoping to find something called the Sacred Birthing Stones that we saw on the map. But the rain set in again and there were no signs on the road telling us where we might find the Stones so we gave up and went to the hotel.
I have to say, the map of Oahu put out by the state of Hawaii is probably the worst map I've ever had to deal with. Many streets weren't on the map. A couple of highways had no numbers to indicate what they where and another had a totally different one than was on the map. It made navigation very interesting in a "may you live in interesting times" Chinese curse sort of way. And this was the current map, not due to expire until the end of 2007. We found our way to the hotel, getting lost on the way once again. We never made it back to the hotel without getting lost at least once until our last night in HI. We always managed to take the wrong turn off, pass the street (they don't believe in street signs over there) or something. It was, um, interesting, finding our way around.
Fourth, or Forth!
Both Karen and I really, really, really wanted to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. We called after arriving back at the hotel to see if we had to make a reservation, but all we got was a recording saying the bay was closed due to storm surge. Due to committments for the remaining days, the next morning was to be our only chance to go. We were bummed. We slept in a little later the next morning waiting for the visitors center at the bay to open. When we called we found out that the bay had opened as usual and we could have gotten straight in if we had been there! The recording we had gotten the evening before was just a canned message they put on any time there is a storm in the forecast. A storm had come through but there was no unusually high surf so no reason to close the bay. If we had known that, we would have left to hotel early as we had to renew the contract on our rental car that morning. So now we were rushing around trying to get everything done and get to the rental car agency. We arrived there to find their usual line of people waiting. We finally got that taken care of then we sped off to the bay.
When we got to the ticket window the sky was completely overcast. The ticket sellers were telling everyone that the water was very murky and no refunds would be given. It really didn't matter to us, this would be our only chance to see the bay, the reef and all the fishies. So we got our tickets and were herded into a small theater to watch the mandatory movie about the bay, reef and fishies... and all the dos and don'ts of entering the bay. Then we hot-footed it down to the shore. Once our valuables had been placed in lockers we went straight to the water. We only had one hour to spend there as we had tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center for that day. We had promised the couple that we had flown over with that we would meet them there by 2 PM. Silly us!
I had been snorkling before and knew that we would never be satisfied with that but I kept my mouth shut as Karen had never been snorkling before and for all I knew she might not enjoy it. Silly me again. The reef at Hanauma Bay starts almost immediately after you enter the water. As soon as you can float (about knee deep) you need to be doing so. If you walk on or touch the rocks of the reef you kill the algae that grows on the rocks. That algae is the food source of the fish that live around the reef. The fish that everyone comes there to see. I had expected the water to be on the warm side since we were so close to the equator. As soon as I got into it, I knew that was a mistaken notion. When my body hit that water I could hardly breathe for the first couple of minutes! Fortunately it wasn't so cold that I couldn't adjust quickly. Also, I immediately saw fish and the hunt was on!
I had brought a disposable underwater camera with me to take pictures of the fish. This was the best place I had ever been for doing so. The reef is so close to the surface of the water that under normal circumstances it would have been ideal for picture taking, but these weren't normal circumstances. The water had quite a bit of silt churned up in it from the previous night's storm. That coupled with the heavy overcast kept light to a bare minimum. I had no trouble seeing the fish up close, but the camera wouldn't focus closer than 3.5 feet. At that distance the fish were getting harder to see. A lot of the detail and color was alreay lost. So while I took almost a whole roll of film at the bay, I have no idea if any of the pictures will come out. Or if all the fish I had hoped to capture as memories will be nothing but small gray blurs on the paper. The upside of the trip was... the fish! I have never seen so many fish! So many colors, varieties, sizes, patterns. anything! I even saw a Christmas Wrasse. It has bright green stripes on its body that form squares. The squares are a coral-red color, hence it's name.
The fish there are very accustomed to having humans around. They pay no attention to you as long as you don't chase them or try to touch them. You can float right over the top of them, their fins an inch away from your nose and they go right on feeding. I could hear the sound of the algae being ripped off the rocks as they fed when I was right above them. They ranged in size from little over an inch to one that was close to two feet long. All too soon our hour was up and we had to rinse off the sea water and change into our clothes and head for our next event. Karen kept talking about how much she loved snorkeling and how she wished we had more time. I hadn't but I could have told her so! Then we were in the car and heading for the Polynesian Cultural Center. Next mistake, we thought it would be quicker to circle the island than to go back into town, with all its traffic, and take the freeway.
Right. On winding two-lane roads you only go as fast as the slowest vehicle. We didn't reach our destination until 3:30. We barely had time to see one brief show in one of the "villages" (each village contains the culture of a different group of islands). Then we had to head to our luau for dinner with my sister's friends. It was a decent meal with decent entertainment, but the prices in that place, yikes! Fortunately for us, Merrie and Joe's son (my sister's friends) is in the Navy and got us tickets at a discounted rate. We did not get the most expensive package. What we got allowed us to see any of the villages, a luau dinner and the after-dinner show in the main ampitheater. The retail price of the tickets was 80.00 each. There was a higher priced ticket that allowed you a better dinner that included lobster and crab and was priced at over 100.00. It was so not worth it.
Don't get me wrong, it was enjoyable. The after dinner show was very nice. The dancers from all the various islands were wonderful. It was great fun. But 80.00 worth? I don't think so. I might have felt differentlly had I spent the whole day there and seen every show in every village. Merrie and Joe saw many of the shows. They were there hours longer than we were. They were of the same impression: Save your money. Then the fun of trying to find our way home in the dark. Actually, it wasn't that difficult. We made it without getting lost until we were within shouting distance of our hotel. Then we only took one wrong turn. We're getting better.
I'll Take the Fifth
The next day we went to visit the royal palace in Honolulu. It is the only royal palace on American soil. We watched a short video while waiting for our tour to start. Then we were issued little booties for our shoes so we wouldn't scratch up the floors, told we couldn't take any pictures (!) and ushered into the palace. The tour guide was a caucasian woman whose lineage in HI goes back to the times when royalty still reigned. This became a sticking point later in the tour. It also led to a rather biased representation of how the monarchy was deposed. Had to do with someone named, oddly enough, Dole, and a few rich merchant cronies. Seems they felt that HI would be better served if they were running things. Anyway, back to the palace.
It was built by the first Hawaiian king to tour the world. He felt that there should be a residence where royalty and leaders of other nations could be suitably entertained while visiting his country. To that end, he built the palace. By European, or even American standards, it isn't that large. Hearst's castle is much larger and more opulent. But the king who built this palace was more interested in the welfare of his people than how much money he could spend. Pretty good guy. The woodwork on all doorways, stairways, moldings, etc. was beautiful and ornately carved. It had all the latest advances of the day including complete bathrooms with flush toilets, hot and cold running water, large tubs and even bidets. He had electricity installed after meeting Edison. He even had a telephone. It only reached the gatehouse and his head aide's office as there was no telephone network in the islands at that point, but he had one. During his travels abroad he purchased fine china, linens, chandeliers, etc. for the palace. He had a keen eye for how heads of state entertained and made sure that they would receive equal treatment when visiting HI.
When the king traveled, he left his sister in charge in his absence. She was a very educated woman who was very capable of running affairs back home. This proved to be a good thing, as the king died without marrying or fathering an heir. At which time his sister became monarch. This was another first, a woman monarch. And she proved herself a good ruler. Unfortunately, Dole and the other merchants took over. She tried to restore the HI monarchy thru legal means but got nowhere. Meanwhile, some of her subjects decided they didn't want to wait for rule to return to them and tried to regain control of the government by less peaceful means. They were put down immediately but this gave the merchant rulers an opportunity they just couldn't pass up. They had the queen put on trial for treason and found her guilty. She was sentenced to six years hard labor. The sentence was commuted to house arrest and she was locked in her bedroom for the next six months, unable to even put her foot out the door. At the end of six months she was allowed to resign from the monarchy and go live in her house in the country.
At that time, all the furnishings in the palace were put up for auction and sold for pennies on the dollar. All the proceeds going to the new "government". Many of the items that were sold have since been returned to the palace as gifts. Others are being kept by the heirs of those who bought them at auction. This is where it got sticky with out guide. I asked if there was a list of the missing items that had been stolen from the royal family. I was informed in a most haughty and ice-cold tone that "the items weren't stolen, they were purchased." Call me old-fashioned, but if you take someone's possessions and sell them off then keep the money, that's theft. But, hey, what do I know?
Anyway, after the tour of the two floors of the palace we all trouped down to the basement to see the museum down there. Lots of jewelry, pictures, more feathered capes, etc. Also a gift shop where I got some postcards of the palace so I had some pictures of what I had seen, a book about the palace and a book of Hawaiian folk lore and traditional stories written by the king who build the palace. The HI royal family were a talented bunch. They all wrote, not just books, but also music. They generally played at least one instrument and many had artistic talents as well. After the palace tour, Karen and I walked over to the state government office building which is designed to look like a volcano when you are standing in its courtyard. Well, like a stylized volcano. But it's kind of cool.
Then we hit the International Market for souvenirs. Actually, we walked thru an alley to get there. The alley was wall-to-wall vendors of jewelry (costume, not fine), clothing, tee shirts, watches, etc. Karen and I each purchased a Hawaiian dress (actually made in HI) and a couple of other inexpensive trinkets. Bargaining is something everyone does in HI. The marked price is just a suggestion. My dress went from 54.00 to 34.50, with tax. It pays to dicker. When we found the International Market (supposed to have the best prices on the island, ha!) we found that the asking prices were all higher than in the alley. Sure glad we had to walk thru that alley. However, I wish I had bought more macadamia nuts while there. I love those things. The pound and a half I did buy are long gone... and I miss them!
We had a quick lunch while in the market then headed to the beach where we were to go on a submarine ride. Since we had been having quite a few storms, the sea was rather rocky. The boat ride out to the submarine wasn't too bad, but getting from the boat to the submarine meant hanging onto the the handrails very tightly. Once we were all aboard we had to wait a few minutes while people who were already seasick at this point got back on the boat to go ashore again. That submarine was REALLY rocking! I was fine until I looked behind me to see some woman utilizing one of the many seasick bags. I turned around pretty quickly before she made me sick! Then we dove. The ride was very smooth once we were under the surface. I pulled out the box of caramel corn I had puchased before we went out to the submarine and started munching while watching all the fishies. I think that made the woman behind me even sicker. Oh, well.... There were many artifical reefs, made from sunken airplanes, sunken ships, metal pyramids, all kinds of stuff. Old "stuff" is a great way to create new reefs and help endangered species proliferate. More places to live.
We saw so many species of fish, in every color of the rainbow, it's hard to remember them all. We saw four large sharks, resting on the ocean floor. They belong to one particular variety that doesn't have to remain in motion to stay alive. We also saw several sea turtles resting on the reefs and a couple of un-puffed puffer fish. But the best part was as we were surfacing. Just before we broke the surface a herd of turtles (well, what do you call them - flock? school? swarm?) of the green sea variety swam by the portholes on our side of the sub. They were absolutely awesome! After that, dinner and off to bed. The next day would be our last and we had to be up early to fit in the two things we still wanted to see before we headed for home.
It's our last day. I'm not ready to leave and neither is Karen. There are several items left on our "to do and see" list. We have to choose. So we choose to see the Buddist temple and Manoa falls. First stop, the temple. This would also allow us to see the newest section of freeway that cuts across the island thru a gap in the mountains. Most of it is elevated and the highest section goes thru a fairly long tunnel. It was a beautiful drive and it was interesting to watch the plant-life change as the elevation changed and the differences on each side of the island. We did have one unanswered question. The occasional coconut palm in the higher elevations. There weren't many, just one here and there. And there weren't any roads in their vicinity. Now I know that many plants are seeded by birds and animals that eat the plant's fruit or seeds then leave their own "deposits" during their travels. But a coconut? No bird carried one of those, and no animal swallowed one whole then deposited it later on the hillside, so, how did they get up there? A question I guess I'll never know the answer to....
OK, enough digression. We're on the other side of the island. We're trying to find the street that the map (remember this is the official State of Hawaii map) that leads to the temple. We watch carefully. No such street name. Finallly we reach a street that is past the one that goes to the temple, so we turn around. On the way back, there is a cemetery we passed earlier. It is in the right location. There is a road going into it, so we turn. (The cemetery, large and old, is not on the map either.) Part way up the road, there is a little shack, with a little tiny sign - $2.00 fee for temple. That's it! We're on the right road! All we had to do was turn into a cemetery that isn't on the map, on a road that doesn't even resemble the name of the one on the map and we're there! It really was worth it though. Well, at least once the gardener left with his awful blower. I hate those noisy things. We have six huge oak trees in our yard and they create a lot of leaves every fall. I still won't buy one of those contraptions. Can't stand the racket they make.
Back to the temple. There it is. Nestled up against those impossibly steep mountains, brilliant red, high peaked roof with a phoenix at each end of the roof. There is a huge, bronze bell at one side with a log striker that is to be rung before one enters the temple. The sound is deep and rich and resonates through the air -- a calling to the spirit , a balm to the soul. Peace hovers. So unlike the crowded parts of the island we visited on previous days. (I guess all those dead people inhabiting the area leading up to it don't make much of a ruckus.) In front of the temple is a small lake, filled with Koi. The lake is fed by two or three small streams that have small ponds of their own, each with more Koi. Inside the temple itself is a 16 foot high statue of the Buddah. His coating of gold paint long-since faded away. But still impressive, impassive and very peaceful. We have the temple and grounds completely to ourselves, except for one man, quietly sweeping all the walks around the building.
After seeing the temple, we walked around the small grounds. A woman came to open the gift shop and feed the ducks and Koi. I bought more food for the Koi in the upper ponds, those that can't reach the feeding area. They turn out to be as well-trained to people with food in their hands as their brethren below. After a few more photographs we left and headed for the falls. Back to the other side of the island! Down to town. And up another road into the mountains. This is the only rainforest on Oahu. As we reach the final section of road that will take us to the trail to the falls, there is a low rainbow in front of us. As we draw closer and closer to the rainbow it gets lower and lower to the ground, until-- the road and the rainbow meet, and we are driving, literally, on a rainbow. For the first 50 feet or so we could still see it shimmering on the road in front of us. Driving on a rainbow is something I will never forget. No, there was no gold, nothing other-worldly happened. But it was still magical and beautiful and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We reached the parking area for the falls and got out our rain gear (the ponchos we got at the Polynesian Cultural Center) as there was a light rain falling. We started the hike to the falls in good spirits. The sun was shining in spite of the rain, the follage was beautiful, flowers abounded and all was well. As we climbed higher there were large orange blossoms littering the path, fallen from the top of some tree. We climbed higher, the trees became thicker, the clouds heavier, no more sun. And the rain, well, we were in the rainforest now and it took its name to heart. It was raining in earnest. It was also warm and humid enough that the ponchos were getting a little uncomfortable. We kept climbing. We passed someone who said we would be there in 15 minutes. Well, we would have to be. Because in 15 minutes we had to head back to the car. We still had to pack and clear out of our hotel room before leaving for the airport.
By now the climb is steep enough that there are stairs cut into the trail. It is also raining hard enough that the trail is a streambed. Our shoes were muddy and waterlogged. We were sweating enough that poncho or no we were soaked. The people we had passed before told us not to stop when we saw the falls. They said that was just the upper falls and you really couldn't see the beauty of the place until you could see the whole thing. So we kept climbing. Time was running out. Finally! The falls! But only the upper part. And it's past time for us to head back. Reluctantly we turned back. Another half-hour and we could have seen the whole thing. Oh well. I'll settle for having driven on a rainbow. Beyond that, what is there to say?