Setting the Tone for the Day: Healthy Morning Rituals

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Calling all poets! April is National Poetry Writing Month — NaPoWriMo for short. Modeled after National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), NaPoWriMo is an annual project encouraging poets to write one poem each day in April.


We love discovering poetry in the Reader and are proud of the poets who call their online home, like Pushcart-nominated poet Kellie Elmore. If you’re an established or aspiring poet, or want to dabble in free verse, lyric essays, and more experimental prose, we encourage you to participate this month.

A poem a day

First time participating in a post-a-day project like this? We asked poet and publisher Maureen Thorson, the founder of this project, for advice:

Be open to the possibilities. The point isn’t to turn out a fully formed sonnet each day — although if anyone wants to try, I’m not going to discourage them! The point is to just…

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Rarotonga Library


There are 15 Cook Islands spread over more than 2 million square kilometers of the southwest Pacific Ocean. Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook islands but covers only 67 square kilometers. Rarotonga’s main road, Ara Tapu, circles the island, following the turquoise lagoon coastline for 21 miles.


We turn our scooter up unmarked Makea Tinirau Road


past the church toward  bushclad, cloud wrapped rugged volcanic mountain peaks that rise from the interior of the island


To the little library tucked in a garden


  The relaxed pace of life becomes apparent the first time we go as they are closed for three weeks to celebrate Christmas holidays. 


 as well as the choice of a librarian….






Librarian as featured in the Cook Island News

When the library opened back up on Jan 14th we scooted up there to find they had just closed for the day at 1pm. So the deal is the  library opens at 9 and closes  at 1. Ms Voss, librarian, was throwing books for give away out into a basket on the porch.  Bill grabbed two.  The librarian says, “The basket was full but they are going fast.”

On our next trip we arrived at the tiny, messy, disorganized antiquated Raratonga Library before noon. It is womanned by Sally(who may have arrived with the first missionaries to the islands), a stocky lady with blond frizzy hair who can’t see very well.  

 I  smiled at  Sally and said that I was looking for books by Michener.

  “Sally scrunched up her already wrinkled face, “Who?”

   “ James Michener the author of “Tales of the South Pacific” .

   “The fiction is on along the wall, has green tape and is alphabetical,”  Sally says in her no nonsense (Jesus, you are stupid) librarian voice.

      The alphabet is not my strongest suit and I am easily distracted in a library setting so it takes me a bit to find Mic marked with a sharpie on the green duck tape but I did find an ancient  dark golden paperback edition of Tales of the South Pacific and Return to Paradise which I was holding delicately for fear they would disintegrate. 

       As I was looking through other selections on the shelf a 4 foot tall and as big around as a parking meter, gray curly-headed lady dressed in bright pink muu-muu appeared and in the softest voice said, “The missionaries are up here”, pointing toward the reference book shelf.

    “I found the Michener books I was seeking.”

    “But those aren’t true, the missionaries books are what’s real,” she whispered with a great deal of pride and piety.

      I smiled and said, “I found the books by Michener.”

    The little pink muu-muu lady went back to the fuzzy headed Sally to report in a very disappointed tone, that I didn’t seem to want books on missionaries.

 I was also wanting a reference to the art designs around the island so they suggested a tattoo book.  I found one in the reference section which I would “ not be allowed to check out as they are rare”.

It is $35 to join the library and get a card.  We get $10 of that back when we leave IF we return the books within two weeks, and  “Don’t forget to bring your card when you come”.

That day, it was a fairly busy place with stuff everywhere, books for sale, crafts for sale, books for free and all ages poking about even though it was now thirty minutes passed closing time.  No one seemed in a dither.  We crammed the books under our scooter seat and headed back to Sunrise Beach Bungalows in a sprinkle, which turned to stinging rain and then five miles of a  Royal Soaking—from the skies and the library and the Drums of our Forefathers show (more on that later)


Two weeks later we returned our books on the proper due date stamped on the little white lined sheet in the back of the book. Rain from a tropical depression (which became Cyclone Garry) was dropping on the island in violent squalls.

Ms Voss, the blonde frizzy headed librarian nodded in acknowlegement of my arrival, pointed to where one returns books.  I go look in fiction Mel for Moby Dick.  Not there, go up and ask, she rattles off 822 Great American works.  Don’t find it—even had trouble finding the 800’s.  Go back again and she directs me to the hidden card catalogue down one of the very very narrow aisles between book shelves.  Not under Moby Dick in Titles.  Ah, it is in Melville in titles and it is 813.  Anyone who asks her a question about location she  rattles off the Dewey decimal system number. I looked through the Arts and Crafts of the Cook Island and drew a few designs.  I checked out Somerset Maugham’s Short Stories as well as Moby Dick.  Meanwhile a young man has come into the library to prepare for Cyclone Garry.  This he did by laying black plastic over the “rare books you cannot check out”.  He moved objects on top of the book shelves and laid the outside signs down on the floor. The library radio was on with nice little island songs when the announcer came on and said “This f***ing weather is no good.  We need more music and started another tune going”   The little library  with the little books with little printed words was closing at noon as I went out in the stinging rain with the whole world  in my little plastic bag.


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Dark Settings

Dark Setting

“ I got dis fo sissy dollars”, she said fingering the 10mm glowing black pearl pendant, attached to a long silver chain. “I got da setting by Mahina, in the little building by the police station you know? she sets pearls. She does good job.”


  Scootering south along the Ara Tapu on the Island of Rarotonga with the lagoon on the left.



  Bereft of plans or even a map, turned by the collapsing sign to see about snorkel gear for looking about in the lagoon.


     An curly gray-haired, husky built man who was raking the orange carpet of fallen Flamboyant tree blooms, wordlessly waved us to the office with a pointed finger. 

     Inside, the dark concrete office had a feeling of  a remnant with empty, save for some salt shakers, rusted metal baker’s shelves along one wall, a chair and a ripped box of yellowed paperbacks on another wall and an ancient weathered desk on the wall to our left as we entered. 

   Behind the desk sat a robust lady of dark chestnut luster with a round face, large twinkling dark eyes with a  gold glow and a bare hint of a shy smile. Sticking straight up on the top of her head were many strands of kinky hair with the slightest hint of lime bleahed blonde.  I inquired about hiring 2 snorkels.  “Yeeah, we just have two”

“Eight dowllars a day”, she replied in a very soft hesitant voice.

    I  said we would like to have the two for two days.  While she  was computing the figures for this transaction, I commented on the alluring luster of her black pearl and she replied with the information on settings.

      Black pearls are created in one of the remotest inhabited settings on earth.  Their main origin, Manihiki, is a mere speck in the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean.   The pearl, set with a silver crown of sorts mirrored the rainbow-like spectrum of colors found in the black-lipped mother of pearl shell Pinctada margaritifera.  The darker hues of black, blue, green and brown are prominent, while lighter colors such as white, silver, grey and gold were also evident.  Translucent, overlaying shades of aubergine gave it added depth and glow.

   As the wearer of the pearl handed me the snorkel equipment I could see a deep luster in her eyes.  As light reflects through the layers it exposes  strengths and frailties alike.  I feel a kinship with the dark lady and her dark pearl–a kindness moves through us and between us.  The mystery is that being authentic is the only thing that reveals to us our kinship with alluring luster-the intense brightness created as light travels through the layers and is reflected back from deep within the pearl.

    I left the pearls in the dark hut, exquisite in their settings.

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Romance in Raro

Does St. Valentine’s love connection

Appear with the tropical blooms

coloring the island’s greenery with red, yellow, orange and white

or luxuriate among the fragrances of sea, gardenias, jasmine warm musk

or frolic among waving palms, warm white sands, and luscious breezes

or dine in restaurants with exotic names offering bubbly champagnes, rosy rich wines, and delicacies divine?

Perhaps not—Cook Island News ignores the natural romance of the island and gives front page color to  Knickers in a Twist:


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Self Portrait


early  (with false hair)


later with the real hair


She fell from a tall tall  tree

And landed near the sea

The wild winds and water set her free

To float about without an oar

Nor wings on which to soar

She wasn’t missed or wanted anymore

But just bobbed about for years and years

withering away in salty tears

Hearing only jabbing jeers

but the Spirit  of that nut lay within

weathered and gray with a frail stipend

still humming a faint echo of the Spirit wind.

That big ole nut did crack and began

to grow

The light came in and began to glow

The stories and songs began to flow…

The tall tall trees smothered and drowned

But stuck to their ground

While that little nut floated all around.


The juicy fruit  dried up

Wrinkles gnawed the shell

never a tall tall tree would

that nut grow to be.

undaunted, cracked it shares

from shore to shore

lore that only a nut can tell.

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Punanga Nui Market

The following is a Royal Chant, a French Poetic form that was a Gather Challenge.


Rarotonga’s Punanga Nui Market

When you should want of a tropical treat

where you will be warmed by fragrant breeze

sunshine aplenty and  trade winds blowing.

Board  plane, hoist sail or whatever please

to give flights of fancy most  ample space

to far flung Cook Isles where you be going.

Across  Pacific where paradise found

On a volcanic island in green gowned

flaunting exotic rare flowers apace

in Pacific breezes that do propound

Rarotonga’s Punanga Nui place

Saturday morn you are in for a treat

With waffles, iced coffee, and rolling seas

and a plethora of what’s growing

in valley, cloud forest, plantation trees,

birds of paradise, ginger in a vase,

pawpaws, coconuts, paddles for rowing

laughter, mangoes, a ukulele sound,

pineapples, watermelons, aki  abound

yellow fin tuna, skipjack in disgrace,

fallen flame tree flowers carpet the ground

Rarotunga’s Punanga Nui place

Oh the Maori vendors you will meet

Selling  treasures for exorbitant fees

topping the list is black pearls they’re


from Oysters in Mantiki if you please

black-lipped mother of pearl Pinctada race

fashioned into  finger jewels glowing.

Barter not, for on that the vendors frowned;

value what’s offered;  efforts will redound

painted fabrics and Pareus by the case

Pandanus woven hats of grace renowned

Rarotunga’s Punanga Nui place

Chutney of mangoes and lime, Banoffee Pie sweet

paw paws, jams, breadfruit, and honey of bees

curries, and arrowroot served with much ease

by friendliest folks you ever did sees

Manihiki Uto to drink and dace

smoked to eat and a bit more for stowing.

Air, censer of delight to astound

as tropical fruit stacked just in a mound

spreading aromas abundant to glace.

While rhythms of mate drums do surround

Rarotunga’s Punanga Nui place

Many smiling Maori’s there to meet.

When slowed to island pace-the day to seize

their treasures on us they are bestowing

not just beautiful maires to appease

but  to reveal  an island people’s base

when  soul of  commonest object going

seems to us radiant with flowers crowned.

Seek not the treasures for they are inbound.

Here Ulysses might  slowed further his pace

and Prometheus may want to stay bound

Rarotunga’s Punanga Nui place

market on Avarua’s Street will be found

the most delightful adventure around

the time of your life to never efface

fine moments to live and find the profound

Rarotonga’s Punanga Nui place

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Of Coconut Blooms and Dreams

The rising sun was orange and black spotted as a  leopard’s skin.

The contemplative ocean reflected back the first risen rays in shimmering brassy gold.

    Ashore the Coconut palms clapped their long close leaves together

to make the sound of gentle raindrops.


This Palm tree so near our little bungalow on the  

Rarotonga Island beach has

an enticing flower.

Hanging in a most moist

provocative manner


in hopeful golden bloom

attracting eyes and bees

turning heads and drawing

pollinators from all around. 


 Does within those blooms

lies the hope of being

a  full juicy nut?

A milky luscious sought

after specimen of a coconut?



The rain even sets a picnic table of the blooms



 But not even ants come to dine.


In time,, perhaps all too soon,

the blonde full buxomly,

 luscious looking blooms

 wither to dry wrinkled gray crisp strands

devoid of hope

and of so very limited potential


 no coconuts?

Broken, brown, alone, withered?

Who choses not

from so much potential?

 the winds? the pollinators?

The sun, the rain?

A lack of dreams, no goals?

The mother tree’s nurturing skills?

Love, luck, or lack of?

Is an unfruitful life

for better or for worse

Any more or less

than a withered stem

of hardened, weathered grey?


What purposes not fulfilled?

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Searching for Pawpaws

Searching for Paw Paw Patches

Inland on the Island

Of Rarotonga, Cook Islands


It is a long bumpy ride on our little rented motor scooter down to the south of Raratonga in the Cook Islands taking every little road we could find up the mountain sides around the bends and back down.  The farms are little but quite lush and most of the houses  unpretentious–saw a couple of pigs running free and many many free range chickens and myna birds but it is mostly greenery flowers and fruits.  Only saw one fence the whole trip and it was a rusty loose barbwire in a hedge.

    I am looking for a paw paw patch. I have been searching for paw paw patches since Mrs. Forester taught us that song about picking’ up paw-paw, put ’em in your basket way down yonder in the paw paw patch” at North Park Elementary School in Abilene.

    Fruits and vegetables abound but I have trouble identifying many of the crops on the inland ‘plantations’ but I see cabbages, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, taro, onions, watermelons, bananas and passion fruits that could be gathered.    I was hoping to find a farmer to ask about paw-paw patches but the only ones I saw this day were sittin’ on the porch drinking beer. 

 Several days later we again toured the back roads, or inside road, passed many more fields of fruits and vegetables.  One field with a farmer working had tomato vines growing up  hisbiscus tree trunks. Cloud forests loom overhead on the volcanic mountain tops and down below are the swampy verdant valley floors with taro growing up a storm. 



  Soon we circle back on the main  beach road without identifying the ever elusive paw paw patch.   We turned down a two lane tutted trail to the Matutu Beer Brewery, a shed with an old guy washing beer bottles with a brush by hand and another guy with rubber boots and a jacket like he has been in a cooler.



      The beer, there are two kinds, comes in tiny juice glass so we sit on the porch and chat with the guy in the boots. After discussing the state of education on Rarotonga, Bill ask him about a fruit he could see hanging in a tree and was told  it was mangoes. He said the paw paws were Papayas—on tall skinny trees with a few split leaves.  Ahhh what one finds out at the beer brewery.

        Google:   The name pawpaw is applied to the unrelated tropical fruit papaya (Carica papaya).


 Now I just need a basket so I can pick up paw paws and put them in it. Then perhaps I shall make

Green pawpaw curry  with  2 medium-sized green pawpaws
2 tablespoons butter, 1 large onion, 2 cloves crushed garlic ,1 small piece grated ginger 
2 green chillies
, 1 tablespoon curry powder
, 1 cup coconut cream  ,
1 cup water, 
½ cup lemon juice
 and Pepper   by melting the butter,.2. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes.  3. Add the chillies and curry powder and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is a rich golden brown colour.4. Slowly stirring in the coconut cream and water.5.  then washing and peeling  the pawpaw,  and adding the pawpaw cubes to the curry sauce. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice and pepper to taste.    6. Served hot with cooked taro sweet potato or breadfruit.


Or perhaps a Pawpaw and pineapple salad With 2 cups diced ripe pawpaw,  
2 cups diced pineapple, 
6 tablespoons lemon juice   mixed together and allowed to sit for half an hour in a cool place, then serve with cooked fish or meat and some taro, breadfruit or sweet potato.

Of course I still haven’t found the paw paw patch.

      Saturday morning in Avarua, the town on the Rarotonga, is the Punanganui Nui market.  I find Ruda who sells picked Paw’s Paws  from her red truck.  She picks up some for me. 


        Ever in search of the unpicked (yet) Paw Paw patch we motor-scootered on a jaunt to the north from our studio on Sunrise Beach mostly on the inside/upper road—very narrow more like a driveway. 


        For my many followers who like geography, this road is called Ara Metua aka  great road of Toi .  The south end starts near the Avana Stream in Ngatangiia and going north  passes over the Matavera Stream into Matavera territory over the Tupapa Stream into Tupapa territory  and into the town of Avarua.  It goes further but I will spare you the details — for now.

 We met a little white truck  leaving the area loaded with pineapples topped of upper leaves—have yet to see a pineapple with leaves on top on the island.  We tried, unsuccessfully to find the pineapple patch.

I know we are looking for Paws Paws but we are easily distracted.

   We stopped to chat with a working farmer out in his Taro field and figured out the most common crop we are seeing, besides coconuts is cassava, a high carb root, used for tapioca and known as manioc (māniota).

   Cassava Cake is a dessert best served cold. It is easy to make.” says lola . We need 
2 cups grated, cassava (aka yūca), 2 eggs, 1 can evaporated milk, 
1 can sweetened condensed milk and 
1 can coconut milk  all stirred up and put in a baking dish in 350 oven for 1 hour.  Broil 3 or 4 minutes until top is brown then cool in refrigerator until serving time

     Google: In Chicago is the CASSAVA CAFÉ: They pay a mouth-watering tribute to the wondrous cassava plant—a part of daily cuisine in much of the tropical world—by using it to make all-natural, gluten-free bread and empanadas.


Around a narrow bend and there is a paw paw patch.  Found!!


 I found the fruit I was looking for but what is it I ,and perhaps you, are really looking for? Those things such as love, peace, wisdom and passion are intangible.  We cannot hold them in our hand or turn their pages.  Yet they shape our lives and are the driving mystery of all sacred wisdom: the only things worth saying are those things that are unsayable.

  Suddenly standing in the PawPaw patch I realize that I have spent a life gaining fruit after fruit of wisdom, working to understand it and struggling to express and share it, only to become more a part of it, unspeakable, again into a stillness, exposed beyond resistance, and losing my ability to express the findings.

Oh, paw paw.

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