KIPAHULU, Maui — “I feel dropped out of the world,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote to a friend on Jan. 21, 1971, from Kipahulu. “This is the most isolated place on earth: 35-40 minutes from the nearest village over a very bad road often washed out by rains. It rained steadily the first week we were here – not only rain – driving storm, howling winds, and floods rushing down our slopes … two inches of water, mud and leaves came through our ground floor …
“(Charles A. Lindbergh) rushed out … with a pail (our only implement) and dug out a channel and collected mud to make a dam in front of the back door.
“I patted up a mud dam while C.A.L. dug trenches to channel the water around, not through, our house …Also, of course, the roof leaks … I struggled with the wild inhabitants of our house, to get out of the rain, no doubt, (which) have sought shelter with us: ants, spiders, lizards, rats and mice … (ants crawling over everything drive me batty) … the last thing I do at night is spray under the bed and brush ants out of it before I climb in!
“C.A.L has now gone off for two weeks, making me furious …
“(I) burned the garbage and swept the floors (sweeping up an enormous dead rat under the sink!) …washed my hair (perhaps like the song in ‘South Pacific,’ washing “that man right out of my hair!”) And I feel much better.”
Almost a half-century later, Erin Lindbergh lives off the grid in much the same kind of house, next door to where “Granny Mouse” wrote her letter to an unidentified friend.
The A-frame that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh built and christened “Argonauta” was the refuge where Erin’s famous grandparents lived in privacy and wrote in solitude. Eventually its timbers deteriorated and lava rock crumbled. Argonauta’s remains got dispersed locally.
Erin Lindbergh’s house was built in 1964 and purchased a decade later by her father, Land Lindbergh. The 25-by-25-foot square with an add-on narrow garage that is now her bedroom “is still a work in progress,” she said, which is why she was “cleaning up lots of gecko poop and sorting the residue of 16 years” on Memorial Day weekend.
Like Argonauta’s tribulations, rains repeatedly have flooded her house. Three carpenters — her third rehab team this year — are tearing out mold and a ruined support wall, reinforcing a rock foundation built mostly without concrete, and replacing rotted window frames and leaking glass. Nothing is standard, she says, “so it takes more time to custom-make replacements. I’ll probably run out of money.”
“Crazy winter weather did us in,” she said. “First, huge tropical storms forced Haiku carpenter friends to leave. When we got two whole days of sunshine a Kipahulu crew was able to finish the roof, but they had to leave for another job.”
The third team is from the other side of Maui and plans to camp out four days a week until the job is finished
Frustrated by the unavoidable delays, Lindbergh was heartened by the never-published letter sent from her father that detailed her grandmother’s similar combat against Maui’s extreme weather and invasive critters.
“It is going to take years to get this place in shape,” Ann Morrow Lindbergh presciently wrote. “A kind of equivalent to the Mexican ‘manana’ fever exists on this island. There are few … workmen or craftsmen and Honolulu is fifty miles away by small plane that doesn’t come in bad weather. You have to be right on the spot to see that things are done right …”
“However, I am not as gloomy as I sound. On a beautiful day (and today and yesterday were really beautiful!), it is as clear and sparkling as a perfect summer day in Switzerland (I still prefer Switzerland!)
“And who knows, I may turn Hawaiian after all,” she summed up. “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of several books including her bestselling 1955 memoir, “Gift From the Sea,” did not return to Maui after her husband died in 1974.
“It was too lonely for her, the landscape too wild,” her granddaughter said. “She loved the whales and birds but preferred Switzerland and calmer seas.”
Erin Lindbergh has claimed the island’s wild east coast as her place. Ever the optimist, she believes the “third time’s a charm” and her new carpenters will finish before winter’s storms.
“I’ll know it’s done when mongoose stop stealing cat food from the kitchen.”