There are two 10-foot-high mock orange bushes outside the front door. Most of the time, the bushes only provide a screen between this house and the neighbors along with shade and shelter for the cats. A couple of times a year the never-trimmed bushes erupt in very aromatic flowers.
It takes less than a day for the tiny white blossoms to become a buzz of bees. The sound isn't much louder than a cat's purr, but it's there all day, every day until the flowers fall. As does the purr, the buzz seems to say all's right with the world.
Buzzing may not reassure everyone. There is the possibility of being stung, but it's an acceptable risk, considering the benefits of pollination and honey production. Listening to the bees going about their business brought to mind up another kind of buzz that periodically floats across Maui.
In the early 1970s, there were three sources - the criminal underworld, the extraterrestrial other world and politics.
"You should do a story about how Maui is being used by the mafia to launder its money," said an acquaintance who was otherwise intelligent and well-informed. "Where do you think all the money behind development is coming from?" he asked. He wasn't kidding.
"Uh, well, do you know anyone I could talk to about this?" He rolled his eyes. "Everyone knows about it." Uh, sure, everyone knows but there's no one who will talk about it. So much for that Pulitzer. Can't very well write a legitimate news story based solely on what's going around on the Coconut Wireless.
Ah, but there were any number of individuals willing to talk about how Maui was a touchstone for extraterrestrials. UFOs were regularly spotted in the night skies. Maui Electric Co. just as regularly reported arcs of electricity on power poles due to salt-encrusted insulators and transformers. Nothing was ever seen on the radar screens at Kahului Airport. True believers were undeterred. Haleakala Crater was the location of Mu, an energy center that attracted space travelers.
Despite the small size of Maui, which made it virtually impossible for any politician to keep secrets, there was always a low-level buzz about the behavior of this or that politician and how he or she avoided being investigated. Or, how labor bosses were running the government via back-room deals. After all, "everyone knows it's true." Unfortunately, Maui has never had a "Deep Throat" to spill the beans or enough parking garages for clandestine meetings.
More recently, the buzzing has been about technology. A certain hive in society wants proof that advances won't result in harmful effects.
The GMO debate is a good example. Some overly enthusiastic microbiologist - or a thrill-seeking journalist - talked about using genes from fish and insects to modify crops such as corn. Soon, the buzz was about "Frankenfoods." Respected microbiologists tried to explain that on the gene level, it didn't matter what came from where. The bigger buzz of a mad scientist crying "It's alive! It's alive!" drowned out rational arguments. Never mind that genetics have been modified by selective breeding and cross-pollination ever since man began domesticating animals and plants.
The GMO debate on Maui has been eclipsed by a fear of electromagnetic waves coming from all sorts of radio transmitters.
A reporter at The Maui News was nervous about those radio waves. She got a guy to come into the newsroom and measure the intensity of electromagnetic waves. A particularly hot spot was found right where her desk would have been under a reorganized floor plan. She refused to move. That was OK with me. I liked sitting there.
Just for fun, I flew a paper death's head flag above the desk. I and millions of others have survived decades of being around high-power radio transmitters such as the one towering over The Maui News offices.
The latest buzz is centered on an effort to make Maui's use of electricity more efficient. The plan is to have radio transmitters report household electricity use in real time to help Maui Electric juggle its supply - including alternative energy sources - with demand.
I'd guess most of those who are buzzing about electromagnetic radio waves press a transmitter to their ears and warm up their food in a microwave oven on a regular basis.
All of Maui's various buzzings have been entertaining, but I'd rather listen to the bees in the mock orange. The aroma is sweeter.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.