Every morning, I see schoolchildren, our Little America carrying their backpacks and lunches to school and laughing with their friends. Each one of them possesses great originality and hidden talents waiting to be discovered. Little America is full of energy and enthusiasm but also extremely needy. Just as we once were, they are in need of knowledge, inspiration, and a canvas for their imagination.
Who helped us when we were Little America? Think back to a time when someone taught you something that became very important to you, or that amazed you. or that changed your life. What a gift that was! Give that same gift back to the children in your life, to our Little America.
A teacher isn’t always a person who stands in front of a blackboard with a piece of chalk in their hand. A teacher can be anyone who cares about Little America.
When my daughter was younger, the neighborhood children used to come over to play and together she and I would teach them to read. We laughed and had great fun. We called it ‘playing school’ but it was really teaching.
We used to throw imagination tea parties for all the neighborhood children. The parties always started with a nature walk and as we walked, I started an imaginative story about the adventure that we were on together, allowing them to finish it any way they wanted. As they became excited about the stories they were creating, they all talked at once and at times I thought I might go deaf. This experience taught me that we don’t just need to educate but also to listen, for only by cultivating independent and original thought, we will arrive at a brilliant future.
Everyone in America can take time to teach a child. It might be a five minute conversation with a neighbor child. It might be an hour long session each evening with one of your own children. If you have ever been taught anything, you can teach it to someone else. If you have ever been listened to when you had something important to say, you can listen to a child.
And to Little America, I only have this to say.
“If someone is trying to teach you something, listen. They are trying to give you a gift.”
This happened many years ago as I was waiting for a bus on a dusty road in Thailand. It was early in the morning and I’d left two hours earlier than I needed to, hoping that the bus wouldn’t be too crowded at this time of day. The bus was late, as usual and a Buddhist monk dressed in orange robes sat down next to me on the bench.
I had two oranges in my bag so I offered him one. I wasn’t sure if he would take it from me but he took it graciously. “One must always say yes to everything,” he said in English.
I smiled and nodded. “Is that really possible?”
“Imperative,” he laughed.
“Saying yes to life, even to adversity, teaches us joy. You are learning joy,” he said.
“How can you tell?”
He didn’t answer my question. Instead he said, “In the future you will learn to stop worrying. You will learn to live in the present moment but when you do this, do not forget to bring the beauty of your future dreams into your present moment. Do not forget to bring happy memories of the past into your present moment. This combination is the true meaning of present moment and of joy.”
I saw my bus coming down the street. “Why are you telling me this?”
He laughed. “To thank you for the orange.”
I boarded the bus but the monk remained seated on the bench. “That’s not my bus,” he explained.
As the bus pulled away, I turned to the driver and asked if there was another bus on this road. “No, the driver said. This is the only bus.”
I looked out the broken window of the bus but the monk had left the bench and was walking down the street in the opposite direction. I never saw him again.
From time to time we all wonder why we were put on this earth and I love the way everyone comes up with a different reason. From the day I picked up a yellow pencil and scratched out my first sentence, I was convinced that I was put on this earth to write, to be a storyteller. From that day on I scribbled stories and fifteen-page, magnum opus novels. I terrorized the neighborhood children with delicious ghost stories, until the adults begged me to stop. After that I only told my scary tales to our partially deaf dog. At least she never developed chronic insomnia. I outlined adventure stories in my head when I was supposed to be paying attention in class. I scrawled notes on everything. And for the past thirty-five years, I’ve even been writing novels in my sleep.
So after thirty-five years of serious writing, four years of extensive research, loads of supportive friends, five publishers, three, almost successful book deals and one unethical agent whose name I can’t remember, The Wife of John the Baptist is finally published and available on Amazon!
I know, I know John the Baptist isn’t supposed to have a wife but after all that research, what I discovered was that he probably did have a wife. As a man of the rabbi class, he was expected to marry before his thirtieth birthday. And according to Jewish tradition, ‘a wife was necessary to keep a rabbi out of trouble’. Who can argue with that? Besides the character of John’s wife in my novel is charming, wonderful and hopelessly flawed and I just love her.
So I’m very excited to announce that The Wife of John the Baptist is finally available at amazon.com in paperback and Kindle. This book means everything to me and I can’t wait to share it with the world. Since word of mouth is so important, I wonder if you would be willing to share this information with all the readers in your life. And if you want to buy a copy, that would be awesome! I’ll even autograph it for you. Aloha! K.
There was a time when I lived in a luxury apartment in Tokyo and I had a housekeeper four days a week. I hate to admit it but shopping was one of my hobbies. In my defense, I must point out that Tokyo is like a giant shopping mall and it’s impossible to walk down any street in the city without glittering shop windows enticing you in. Yet deep spirituality and serenity coexists alongside the blatant materialism and quest for money. All of these things are evident every moment of the day in the chaotic melange that is Tokyo life. I’m not complaining. I love Japan and for all its paradoxes, I embrace it all.
When I left Japan and brought my daughter to Hawaii, all of that changed. There were no more shopping excursions and I had to work very hard just to put food on the table. I sometimes complained about the work, but I didn’t miss the shopping trips.
Now we live in a little wooden house that was built over a hundred years ago by a Chinese immigrant. His name was Tam and he was the eldest son from a large family. He came to Hawaii by ship and carried with him a small, bitter olive tree in a ceramic pot. He tended it carefully on the journey so that he could plant it in his new home. He knew that he would be homesick and he wanted to have a familiar taste of China.
When he got to Hawaii he built a small house in the upcountry of Maui. He planted the olive tree in an auspicious corner of the yard where it flourished in the fertile soil. Then he planted a yellow, bamboo grove so that when the wind blew through the trees, it would sound like China. Next he planted what his neighbors told him he needed to sustain himself: banana, mango, lilikoi, guava, papaya and taro. He tended pigs and chickens.
He brought his family over from China, among them his younger brother, Eddie Tam who would grow up to become one of Maui’s most illustrious mayors and he added on to the house to accommodate his family.
We were lucky enough to move into the house just after it was remodeled but the outside looks much the same as it did in Tam’s day. The Chinese olive tree towers over the house and shades the street, pelting innocent cats and playing children with olives when the wind blows. The rain beats down on the corrugated tin roof and the wild descendants of Tam’s chickens run through the yard chasing my cat into her hiding place under the house.
Not a day goes by that we are not grateful for our little Hawaiian house.
Some years ago my daughter came home from school with an assignment to create a power point presentation on her family history. I told her what I remembered about my family and then urged her to call her father in Japan. He had always been very quiet about his family history but because it was a school assignment he rallied to the cause and sent photos and stories of his famous ancestor, Jirocho.
My daughter and I were both astonished to discover that Jirocho was a 19th century folk hero, known as the Robin Hood of Japan. Legend has it that he was a young, charismatic samurai who started out as nothing more than a common gambler. In time he became an undefeated super-swordsman who rushed to the aid of the innocent in Edo era Japan.
His legend grew until over one hundred films were made about his life and adventures. Twenty five of these were silent films that have been all but lost. For most, only the still photos survive. No one knows just how much of Jirocho’s legend is true but he was very famous in his own lifetime and he was the only person to ever receive a commendation from the Emperor Meiji.
Though many of his exploits were probably embellished, Jirocho himself was not prone to exaggeration. Late in his life, someone asked how it was that he had never been defeated in a duel. Jirocho replied, “If someone was skillful enough to defeat me, I ran away!”
Good stories are what we are made of. Share them and we live forever.
Daniel Defoe’s novel, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, was based on the real-life adventures of Alexander Selkirk, a Scotsman who was a sanctioned pirate, capturing and plundering enemy merchant vessels for the Queen of England. This swashbuckling privateer dreamed of returning to England a rich and admired man, but life took a strange and unexpected twist for Alexander Selkirk.
In 1704, Selkirk was First Mate on her majesty’s ship, the ‘Cinque Ports’. The unfit Captain, William Dampier, was determined to round the dangerous waters of Cape Horn in a stormy sea. The worm-eaten ship was badly damaged when it finally limped into the Pacific, barely making it to a tiny uninhabited island sometimes used by pirates.
Captain Dampier, who had made every wrong decision, made yet another one and decided to set sail without repairing the crippled ship. Rich merchant vessels sailed these waters and Dampier dreamed of the loot they could capture.
Rather than risk his life on a ship that was sure to sink, Alexander Selkirk decided to remain behind on the island and await rescue. The Cinque Ports left him, finally sinking off the coast of Peru with all hands drowned, save eight men, seven of whom spent the rest of their lives in a Peruvian jail.
Nighttime was the worst time as he heard strange howling noises coming from the beach. Fearing that they were sea monsters come to shore, he hid in the rocks, screaming in terror until he fell asleep from exhaustion. He didn’t sleep for long. Soon he was awakened by the sharp pain of island rats gnawing at his feet. Eventually he discovered that the howling noises came from sea-lions and not monsters.
Selkirk thought he wouldn’t have long to wait for rescue but weeks turned into months and he resigned himself to making his home on the island. He had brought only a few things with him from the ship: his bedding and clothing, a rifle, a pound of powder and bullets. He also had a hatchet, a knife and a kettle. And to pass the time he had a Bible, his mathematical instruments and a few books.
Without human companionship, his loneliness consumed him and on many occasions he was close to suicide.
He explored the island and found freshwater springs as well as wild goats and cats left behind by Spanish ships. There were fat turnips and sweet cabbage trees, Jamaica pepper and Malagita for seasoning. He found sweet black plums which were difficult to get; they grew on high trees in rocky terrain. He also ate tender turtle meat and rich crawfish which were as big as lobsters. At first he found it difficult to eat meat and fish without salt and bread, but in time he grew accustomed to these simple tastes.
Selkirk built a hut out of fragrant pimento wood, covered it with long grasses and lined it with wild goat skins. Almost out of powder, he began running after the goats to catch them and soon wore out all of his shoes. His bare feet became hard from running on the rocks.
The big rats that gnawed on his feet at night were still a problem, so he tempted wild kittens with goat meat until he had tamed a hundred cats. They slept in his hut with him at night, keeping the rats at bay. A few of the cats even followed him like dogs on his hunting expeditions. He also tamed goat kids. Sometimes in the moonlight he danced with his cats and goats for company.
Vigorous exercise kept him in remarkable shape and in time he began to find joy and tranquility in his solitude. He practiced devotion with prayers, meditation and reading the Bible, his cats always close by. In time he gave up speaking altogether and relaxed into a blissful state that he had never known before. His adventure became an inner tranquil journey that few ever experience.
Four years and four months later, he was found by an English ship but Selkirk was indifferent to being rescued. The sailors had to talk him into returning to England and even stayed for some time with him on the island before he was ready to leave. They knew Selkirk was a good privateer and they wanted him to help them capture rich enemy vessels.
Selkirk worried most about his hundred cats. They were so tame that they were semi-dependent on the goat meat he fed them and he knew they could not all survive without him. When the sailors finally convinced him to leave the island, it broke his heart to leave his cats and he cried like a baby until the island was out of sight.
Selkirk returned to England a rich man from his pirating but he never adjusted to life in civilization. Without the vigorous exercise, he lost both strength and agility and he frequently voiced regrets about leaving the island. He was never able to get used to drinking alcohol again and the food did not agree with him. For a time he lived in a cave in Scotland. And at the time of his death, he was planning to return to the island. He once said, “I am now worth 800 Pounds, but shall never be so happy, as when I was not worth a Farthing.”
It took fourteen years of researching, writing and promoting but The Wife of John the Baptist is finally published and in my hands. After spending so much time with these characters, I love them so much that they are like family. From the curious, intuitive Hessa, the young Greek woman who falls in love, to the charismatic John, a man whose destiny would lead them both into the wilderness and into a future that neither one of them can control.
Now available on Amazon: http://amzn.com/1493722468
Some early reviews:
“This would make a wonderful movie if any producers are listening.”
“Captivating story and gorgeous prose. An original story set in a unique time period. A very satisfying experience. Highly recommended. Stunning!”
“I had great expectations for this book by K Ford K, and it did not disappoint me. It has all the elements I love, leaving me with the desire to hear/read/feel more from this author. It transported me to an individual’s life in another time and culture, and I felt as if I were a fly on a wall, observing it all. I am intrigued by the thought of fate as being created unwittingly by those who believe they will outsmart it. I loved the story’s unexpected twists and turns, a surprise for me around every corner. However this story was dreamed into being, in reading it I am reminded of my enchantment with the writings of Joan Grant and Diana Gabaldon. When a story is portrayed so clearly, I am left hungry to watch more of the larger picture “movie”!
A winter cold-snap in Maui means wearing a sweater to the beach (unthinkable). It means digging through our clothes looking for a pair of socks and wondering if we even own any socks. It means preheating the oven in a vain attempt to heat up the house. A cold-snap in Maui doesn’t mean below zero, it means below 70 (and we complain endlessly about the cold). Our noses run, we shiver and huddle. Our cats become insistent lap blankets and we build frozen sandmen on the beach. Okay, not frozen but cute.
I’m writing a new book on creativity. Not sure why I’m doing this right now since I have several novels just waiting to be published, but creativity is a subject that is very dear to my heart and one that I have been thinking about most of my life. I was an unusually creative child. My teachers labeled me, ‘the most creative child they had ever seen.’ (I think all children are the most creative I have ever seen) My professors urged me to do nothing but write, and not to write for publication. They felt it would ruin my creativity. Could be.
But what exactly is creativity? Is it a hard to define, multifaceted way of problem solving? Partially. But to understand creativity we can’t just look at it as an academic problem. Creativity is not just a mental activity. It’s a well-spring, a fountain of emotion and expression. On some level it is deeply spiritual, connecting parts of our experience together in unusual ways. Creativity demands physical response. We must act on it when inspiration strikes. In that way, it’s almost like a physical need. Highly creative people certainly feel that they have a physical need to create. This need is so strong that it ranks right up there with the physical drive to eat and sleep and have sex and sometimes supersedes all of those.
I just found this definition on the net: ‘Sadness is the wellspring of creativity.’ Well, maybe, but so is happiness, excitement, boredom and the deep stillness of having nothing to do. Creativity can come from every aspect of our lives and just as there is no easy definition of creativity, there is no one solution to the problem of how to teach and increase it in our lives and in our society. I can offer one possible reason why there is less creativity in our busy lives. Our lives are too full of stuff going on. Too much time watching TV (don’t have a TV). Too much time on the internet (guilty). Too many endless details and to-do lists (definitely guilty).
Creativity is as complex and multifaceted as life itself. I’ll even go so far as to say that creativity is not quite the same thing for each individual. Our experiences are far too unique to define in only one way. Creativity is a never-ending prism, a labyrinth of endless possibilities. Creativity is a delicious dream from which I never want to awake.