Spotlight: Carol Noel (AlohaHoya)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on May 24, 2010

Sometimes in life we meet a new old friend when we least expect it. So it has been since I met Carol Noel. She is one of those people whose words hold smiles, and those smiles are contagious. I'd like you to get to know her, too.

When I first met Carol Noel, it was through my Art and Artists Cubit. She was playing with a limited paint palette and happened to show a sketchy painting on one of the threads. It was beautiful and captured my artistic eye, but it was her words that truly grabbed me. She has such a joie de vivre, we cannot help but be uplifted by her spirit. Carol lives in Hawaii, a dream for most of us. I am often speechless when I see photos of her tropical 2010-05-22/Sharran/267504gardens. I asked her for a short biography, and she sent to me the words she had written for her 50th high school reunion, one she was unable to attend a couple of years ago. Instead of questions now, I'll share some of her words with you, because they capture her delightful spirit.


Carol:  Fifty years ago I thought everyone had it ‘all together’ except me…and I was wildly envious of the friendships and bonds that everyone seemed to have built up over the years. I got some good grades and some truly awful grades, I liked some teachers more than others.  And Bible class taught me that religion in an historical context was fascinating – and still is. All in all I was miserable those years…home life was difficult and I generally felt lost.  My mother always wanted me to be like someone else’s daughter (didn’t matter who) so I spent a lot of time trying not to be me.2010-05-22/Sharran/20a1f7


So….the next 10 years after high school graduation, I lived and/or worked in Barcelona, Washington DC, Southern France, Paris, Madrid and then Mexico City.  Some of the adventures were because of my Navy father and some because I had sand in my shoes.  A few of my early jobs were: Secretary to the Ambassador of Afghanistan, and for the International Institute of Education, IAEA in Cousteau’s Musee Oceanografique (and I even interviewed with Princess Grace to be her personal secretary but my French wasn’t good enough), Kelly Nason Marketing Company, and I was Newhouse Newspapers’ Central American Correspondent in Mexico where I met my first husband.  We had a whirlwind romance and divorced after two and a half years.  The best out of it was a great son, Mark.  We lived in Spain until he was 4 when we moved to Seattle.


My next life was as a single mother, raising a son alone, and while working in the printing industry in sales, I became a menu designer.  This, of course, was before the world went digital and young designers still spoke “analogue”.  Today I would be lost!!!

....When I was 21 I saw a beautiful 12 meter sloop sail into a harbor at sunset in the south of France. Instantly I had a dream to sail around the world on my own boat. I said to myself "Self, we are going to do that!". (Hold on to your dreams because they can happen!) But my dream got lost for awhile, what with a bum marriage, moving to Seattle, and raising a son alone.  At about 40 I said to myself, "Self, we better get our knickers in gear ..." so I started by learning to sail Prams, then I crewed on any boat that would have me and in a couple of years I was asked to sail on the boat I lusted after in the fleet - sailing vessel WINGS. We were a great team! At 50 I met my husband, Bob, who had just returned from sailing around the world, yes, by himself. He was VERY different from anyone I had ever known. He is a Chemical Engineer (Purdue) with a mind like a computer, and we married 3 years later in 1993. That same year we bought a Westsail 43' sailboat and spent the next year getting her ready to sail around the world.  And at 54 we set off on that sailing journey.


My next life, as a sailor, was actually happening!  In April 1994, we  left Seattle and sailed to and through Alaska, then down to S. California and Mexico …further down through Central America to Ecuador, and Southern Chile.  For the next 4 years we sailed to/through the South Pacific (Easter Island, Pitcairn, French Polynesia, Samoa and Tonga), New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. 

In 2000 and we had a decision to make;  continue sailing around the world…or…begin a new life/adventure.  We were both 60 and we found bashing our brains out on the high seas was a lot of work!!!! We also felt that there were so many new things to experience… so, after 6 years, we sold the boat, shipped it back to the USA and flew home to Seattle. I had always responded to the question: "What are you going to do when you quit sailing?" by always answering, "I am going to live somewhere where I can plant a broomstick and it will grow." I hope I never stop having goals and dreams because they CAN and WILL happen. You should see my orchard of broomsticks! 2010-05-22/Sharran/ef0743

Bob had the fantasy of living in a log house in the snow, in the mountains. surrounded by moose/elk/deer/bears.  I didn’t.  I wanted ‘warm, sun and fruit trees.’  A short trip to Hawaii and it was a no brainer.  We found the East side of the Big Island much like life in the South Pacific…but with a few more conveniences!  It is not the ‘first world’ …nor do we live in grass huts…just something in between… It does rain a heck of a lot and we do have an active volcano up the hill….but only one mall (thank goodness) and 3 major grocery stores.  We don’t even have a COSTCO!!

For the past 7 years I have been running my own nursery, planting, and working with Master Gardeners.  We live/work/play on 12 acres, orchards of fruit trees, coffee,  timber bamboo and exotic plants. My Hoya world has taken me back to Australia, the Philippines an2010-05-22/Sharran/6c8a69d Borneo, and I have decided that in my next life….

I am going to paint, something I have wanted to do for years.

While the years (and sun exposure) have added character to my face and hair, and I am not as firm in the glutes as I used to be and I really don’t understand hip-hop (not a requirement), I have never been happier in my life (lives!).  Being open with people is no longer threatening; I can say ‘No’ without feeling guilty. I am very aware of myself and my footprint on/in this life.  Real feelings don’t puzzle me – I probably didn’t have them when I was younger so never knew how to deal with them.  Imperfection (political corruption, tyranny, pollution, bad breath etc.) becomes less and less tolerable.

Now I have more time and am reading voraciously. There are s2010-05-22/Sharran/ee0613o many budding and blooming new writers from entirely different generations who write about things our generation wasn't supposed to even know about!!!

Think of it!!!  In our lives we have experienced such incredible advances in all fields. (In 1975 some people from the phone company tried to sell my company a fax machine.   What an brilliant concept, we all said, but, ‘No way, it’ll never catch on.’) 

Now, why can’t someone invent a 1 minute do-it-yourself body tuck, teeth whitener and cuticle remover?

Q: That was simply too good to interrupt, Carol, but I do have a couple of questions. You are in San Francisco this weekend, and you visited some friends on your way there. Can you tell us a little about that?

Carol:  I interviewed Ted Green (my host here and really good fri2010-05-22/Sharran/e3563dend) for an article on my Aloha Hoya Cubit so that the hoya world can know more about this man who has done so much for hoyas and the plant world. He is 88 and just returned from Pohnapei on a collecting trip! Ted said some things to make me think a lot.

Friendships, whether they be with animals, plants or humans, mean the world to me, and walking around my garden I feel surrounded by friends. Our lives are so short and all we have to give freely of ourselves is our consideration, respect, our nurturing nature, our joy....I believe we have an intrinsic responsibility to nurture each other, to preserve each other. Realizing this, I also realize I didn't always feel this way especially when in 'survival' mode raising my son as a single mother, working 12 and 14 hour days to support ourselves.

I wonder if this is part of maturing? Is this the wonderment and joy we love to watch in babies and the many pets we share our lives with? I came to these thoughts waking up this morning, listening to the surf and hear2010-05-22/Sharran/32e6b8ing the palms dancing in the early morning rainstorms.


Q: I have one more question I just have to ask you, Carol. What's the most important thing about you that you'd like people to know?

Carol:  I believe in the passion of the human spirit and its ability to achieve whatever it sets out to do. And I think it's OK to end a sentence with a preposition. 


Can you see why I allowed Carol to conduct her own interview? Her own words capture her delightful personality much better than my words could do. And she's promised to paint!  I expect her artwork to be as passionate as is her writing. Speaking of writing, she's promised also to write with us in the Writers and Words Cubit as well. Her art and her writing will be something to look forward to. (Please do note my own dangling prepositions!)2010-05-22/Sharran/74f416


Carol, my new old friend, thank you for sharing your life with us. You are truly an inspiration. If you folks would like to chat with Carol, you can do so here in the comment threads that follow this article. You can also visit with her in her cubits, Aloha Hoya, Epiphytes, Improving and Amending Soil, and The Tropics and Tropicals. 

Thanks to all of you for joining us. May we all 'wake up listening to the surf and hearing the palms dancing in the early morning rainstorms.....'

Related articles:
Hawaii, hoyas, interviews, tropical plants, tropics

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
What a wonderful story .... LiliMerci Jun 9, 2010 10:29 AM 0
Dittos all the above Trish Jun 6, 2010 6:03 PM 5
Just so you know.. Sharon Jun 1, 2010 4:48 PM 5
What an Inspiring Life! Greenfield May 26, 2010 11:31 PM 1
Whales LouC May 26, 2010 1:04 PM 0
What an Adventure! Bubbles May 25, 2010 11:02 AM 1
Oh Carol... Katg May 25, 2010 10:20 AM 8
Carol... threegardeners May 24, 2010 7:18 PM 0
Contagious enthusiasm Lance May 24, 2010 2:20 PM 0
Sharran...thank YOU AlohaHoya May 24, 2010 11:27 AM 1
I loved it! Patti1957 May 24, 2010 10:54 AM 2
Wow! plantladylin May 24, 2010 10:50 AM 2
What an adventure kareoke May 24, 2010 10:44 AM 1
Living Your Dreams nap May 24, 2010 10:42 AM 2

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