Authored by: 
Beverly Mendoza

Beverly Mendoza“It sure as hell doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving,” Todd said today as we were driving down the Red Road, windows down, Al Green playing in the background, eighty-something degrees, sun just roasting our skin, typical day off, doing errands in Pahoa.

We’re both from Chicago and Thanksgiving in Chicago is more like: driving your car through crowded streets, shoppers everywhere getting their Thanksgiving Sale on, Christmas music ad nauseum spilling out of every store and restaurant, scarf weather, boots weather. Not a bad scene either, we reminisced.

So this is my first tropical Thanksgiving with this new group of kids and I couldn’t be more happy and thankful for all that has happened this year. For all the lessons, for all the tragedies, for all the moments of redemption, for all the people I’ve met, for the embrace of this beautiful island and I couldn’t imagine celebrating this holiday elsewhere.

tropical jungleWe’re all away from our families this holiday. And as one of my great friends, Marco, said today to me, “because we’re in the jungle and so far away from the mainland and our families, holidays like this bring us so much closer to each other, we cling on.”

There’s something about surrogate families. The family we create outside our bloodline. The people we choose to love and surround ourselves with are truly reflections of who we really are. They are our mirrors, they become our foundations, they become the fire within us to live the best and most compassionate lives we can. They come from all over the world (especially at a place like Kalani which seems to just be magnet for super cool folks) and imagine all the stories and fates and destinies that have to line up to get us all here at this time, in this moment. From a fated conversation to a lost job to a random article read in the New York Times – whatever the catalyst was that sparked the idea to come to Kalani, it is all connected to this larger and more profound web that is constantly being spun, that is constantly connecting us.

Todd is going to cook some turkey on the grill tomorrow which he helped build for Kalani years ago when he was here last. His name as well as this Japanese kid’s name, Ichiban, is carved into the cement. We bought the wine and the beer from town today and we’re pretty set. We’re going to set up Thanksgiving games on his lawn and have it be an all day affair. Corn hole (aka bean bags), football, Frisbee, dodgeball… you name it, we’re going to play it.

I’m also going to take this filmmaker, Alli, a guest here, who is doing a film on Kalani volunteers, on a real estate tour of A-Frame land tomorrow. We’re going right after breakfast and I’ll be playing host. My TV days have begun, apparently. As my friend Claire Cooey (aka Cooooooooeeey) says, “who am I?” It’s her signature motto when we wake up every morning and have our “morning meetings” about the day before and always there is a story which makes us both wonder “who are we?”

I took a guest from the Gaia group on a real-estate tour yesterday of A-frame land. She was just walking across the lawn and wanted to take a peek. So we A-frame hopped. She owns a healing center in Australia. She’s angelic --- long blonde hair, deep blue eyes, a flowing white sundress on, she practically walks as if she was levitating. She asked me what brought me here.

“Magic,” I said. “I got a random email from who knows who on the day I was laid off from my job. I went into my office and wondered what the hell I was going to do next and there in my inbox was an email about Kalani’s Volunteer Program. I still don’t know to this day who sent it to me, to my work email of all places. It was so illogical, it was so random, I knew it was the next adventure. “

buddhaShe asked if this was enough for me. If I was happy. That day (yesterday) I spent the whole day hopping from the sauna, to the pool, to the hot tub with my friend Marco and Chris Angel. We soaked up the sun, we made English Breakfast tea, we drank lots of water and I swam around the pool with my snorklers under water for hours pulling Marco around in his round float with just one finger linked to his. I did back strokes away from the reclining six-ton Buddha in our meditation garden existing between these beautiful bamboo trees. I’ve had the most wonderful conversations all day. I was told that this gorgeous man named Reese, a master of martial arts, covered in tattoos, with the lightest bluest eyes you just want to dive in and never surface, his friend told me in the sauna, “I’m not supposed to say anything to you, but my friend over there has been admiring your beauty all morning. He thinks you’re so beautiful.” I’ve gotten and given at least thirty kisses all day and who knows how many warm hugs. I live in a great lil’ a-frame. I love people so much that it hurts sometimes, but it’s worth it. Yeah, I think this is enough for me. Yeah, I think I’m happy.

“What did you used to do in your past life,” she asked.

“I was an editor for three magazines in Chicago,” I answered.

“Life was insane. And now I am here,” I said, as I opened my arms in the middle of the jungle encompassing “here” while Tangerine (our resident orange cat in our neighborhood) meowed at us as if confirming that yes, life is good, there is plenty to be grateful for. “Word.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wherever you are, I hope you are surrounded by wonderful people, lots of laughter, and love.