“Hula girl” – this time, it’s personal

11 August, 2019            “Hula girl” – this time, it’s personal

I pass a little plastic solar powered hula girl on a sunny (most days) windowsill once each week. I wrote a brief essay about it and sent it to Evelyn and my four siblings. It was moderately well received. I’d been thinking of another story, but maybe next week. Ev said “You should use this on your blog. It’s more personal than what you normally use.” I liked the way it felt when I wrote it, so I’ll include it at the end of this. After the usual flurry of pictures. 

I took this picture of Mackey and Turner at the river this morning. With my phone! We were farther down the river than normal. Look at Mackey shining! He is a handsome, elegant, graceful boy. Turner is too, of course, but he arrives at the destination of handsome elegant grace by a much different path than Mackey. In a manner of speaking: 

That is unimprovable. How could you make it better? It is entirely w/o flaw.

The river this morning: 

Paradise on the James

Here’s Tiger Swallowtail from the river Tuesday: 

Pony Pasture male swallowtail

Sometimes when I go out and look at a rose in our backyard in the morning it just stops me in my tracks. Which, as I think about that sensation, is odd. Because I am not particularly young, and I have seen a lot, lot, lot of roses. And one freshly bloomed red rose doesn’t look significantly different from another. But every time I see one is like the first time: 

The bloom is on the rose

This big female Red-tailed hawk hasn’t seen as many roses as I have, but she’s seen a lot. If there was a mouse or a chipmunk crouching under it, she’d look right through the rose. Or anyway, that’s what I’m guessing. I don’t know what evolutionary advantage it would offer an alpha raptor to spend time looking at a rose. On the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church:  

She looks stunning in that light. I’ll bet she’s not daydreaming.

A hibiscus within a short branch length of the rose. There’s nothing subtle or mysterious or hesitant about a hibiscus. Very welcoming. Flowers to the best of my knowledge do not have emotions. But it’s difficult not to look at this and feel cheerful: 

This flower is not dour

I was stopped at a light on the way to the river Tuesday when I turned right and took this picture of Turner (dog is my copilot) in the passenger seat. Turner sleeps, although Evelyn is certain sometimes he sleeps with his eyes open. But Turner for the most part goes through life with this expression on his face:

Turner’s go-to expression – appropriate for any occasion:

I’ll close with a picture of Dash from Friday. I already posted this on social media so some people have seen it. I’m not even sure what is so appealing about this image, but something is. He’s not trying to hide anything (unless it’s under that box) but his gaze is (IMO) inscrutable. But it’s also welcoming and maybe even confiding. Trusting – I think that’s the adjective I’m groping for. It’s a calming (to me) look: 

Dash’s expression: inscrutable but trusting

Have a great week! And hopefully you’ll enjoy my little “hula girl” blurb. This story’s been chasing around in my mind for a long time. I’m glad I finally typed it. I hope you enjoy it! And I hope you come back next week! 

All best, 



This is the way I sent the “Hula girl” musing to my family, edited slightly here: 

= = = = = = = = = = =

Hula girl

August, 2019

See that little plastic solar powered hula girl right there? Back to the camera? Green plastic grass skirt? She’s a brunette? 

Hula girl

Hula girl

Sorry about the quality of the picture. I was taking it with one hand while pushing a friend’s wheelchair with the other. Plus I was trying to be discreet, i.e. act like I wasn’t taking a picture when I obviously was, because that’s in the glass walled pastry shop at Whole Foods on Broad Street and a bunch of the cooks were in there and they all know my friend and me and I didn’t want them to think I was more of a weirdo than they already do. But they’ve all got crazy tatts and piercings and wild dye jobs and wilder haircuts, and when they’re out on break they always talk with my friend and me and they’re open minded and welcoming. They have a solar powered hula dancer in their pastry kitchen. Just to give you an idea of what sort of folks they are. 

But that hula girl’s plastic grass skirt covered rear end and the little solar panel it’s fortunately not shading face the sun rising way down Broad Street, and the sun shining on the solar panel makes her shake her little green plastic grass covered booty.  

At Mom’s house when she died – and probably before that for a really long time – Mom had some crazy little solar powered plastic thing like that in her bedroom window, a chicken or a pig or a duck or something – one of you might remember. And when she died, I have this recollection of that thing, I always, always, always think of it. Every single Wednesday morning when I’m in there with my buddy and that little plastic person is doing her hula dance, I always think of it. 

I sat down on the floor at some point right after Mom died, and I was with Mackey and Turner. I don’t know why I sat on the floor; that’s not one of my things. They had soft carpet so it’s not like the hardwood here. And I was thinking that the night before, Mom and all of us had been alive, and now it was just Mackey and Turner and me plus that little solar thing in the window, which was obviously not alive, but was solar powered and just bobbing or swaying or craning its neck or whatever it was doing, and I also saw a stink bug crawling on the rug. It was alive too. Mom wasn’t, but we all were. 

It’s been way more than two years since that happened, closer to three, but I still think of it every Wednesday morning. It’s never sad or melancholy. It’s for the most part emotionless. It’s not painful or unwelcome but it’s always struck me as odd. But in no way unwelcome. Mom and/or Dad would appreciate it. I know I do.  

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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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4 Responses to “Hula girl” – this time, it’s personal

  1. adamseliz@aol.com says:

    Enjoy reading your blogs.  I too think of your mom often, not every Wednesday but very often.  I miss her phone calls and her friendship. Liz Adams

    • Thank you Liz! I enjoy writing them. My mom, as you’re aware, was not a person who passed through this life in a subtle or withdrawn fashion. Interesting you mention missing her phone calls; I miss those as well. Thanks for the note and have a great day,


  2. Rob Martin says:

    Hula girl like your mom is eternal! 💚🙏🏼

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