Graybeard (aka Greybeard and Phillip Drew) was wise, extremely humble and old. He was venerated for his experience, calm judgment and wisdom. He was a problem solver, a spiritual man and the master of simplicity. He walked his talk and was the definitive Sage of Seaview. It was a great loss when he left us for his next journey in March 2010.
From his arrival in 1996 he was a daily feature of the community greeting everyone, as he pedalled up or down Mapuana Boulevard on his heritage bicycle, with a cheery, ” Hare Krishna, namaste.”
Hank Roberts the KSCA President described the neighbourhood at that time saying “There are approximately 70 residences, less than half of which are built to code. And, yes, many of the structures are still little more than camping out situations.” Athena Peanut added, “You cannot imagine how different the residents of Seaview are from another. It defies any categorisation.” Graybeard was undoubtedly one of these unique individuals living a strict non-materialist frugal lifestyle in his modest lean-too shack built with small Ohia’s, recycled plywood and rusty tin.
He was a prolific volunteer demonstrating an exemplary commitment to public service. When Athena Peanut declared “We are struggling to become a real community and some of the growth is painful.” times were tough in Seaview. And, when a slew of resignations hit the community association Graybeard stepped up to become a Board member. He went forward to build bridges between rival groups and faithfully served as the scribe for the Board for many years. He once reported, “There’s a conflict between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s because many long time residents live in unpermitted homes. Some live in shacks, others in school busses or tents. The newcomers have new values fresh from California, Oregon, Washington and places further east. They build bigger expensive homes, all with permits and want to see property values rise.” There was a huge division in the subdivision with attitudes and behaviours that did not positively promote either parties agendas. Being respected by all Graybeard was able to bring calm and serenity to liaisons between warring factions.
In seven very significant years Seaview changed tremendously. The unofficial ‘official’ KSCA census of 1999 reported 90 homes and 20 alternative structures with an estimated 194 residents, 143 vehicles, 6 buses, 53 dogs, 48 chickens and 2 horses,. By 2006 this had mushroomed to 181 residences, 251 adults plus 47 children, 198 vehicles, 87 dogs, 81 cats, 11 birds, 16 chickens, 4 boats, 4 buses and too many coqui to count.
At this crucial time Graybeard became Seaview’s most consistent volunteer helping build and then continue to maintain the pavilion, the pavilion park and the community garden. In the 2002 newsletter he described his environmental philosophy. “There has been much discussion this past year about how we can keep the parks and common areas maintained on a limited budget. It came to light that we really did not have a a style or plan other than a vague idea to achieve a neat appearance by more mowing. The Imperial grounds in Tokyo demonstrate the potential and illustrate the varieties of art, style and science that can be considered in our parks. On a tract of land approximately the size of Seaview centuries old gardens have been meticulously maintained to the exacting standard of ‘Shibui’ or astringent beauty. Concurrently other large areas of the palace grounds are allowed to thrive in their natural state to maximise biodiversity and wild life habitat. I would encourage member volunteers to adopt a small plot of ornamentals or edibles and even small fruit tress and tend it for a lifetime if possible. I suggest the Association collectively strive to keep the broad meadow like areas mowed and let wild places unfold according to the master plan of nature.”
In 2005 his huge contribution to Seaview life was acknowledged by KSECA President Robert Stearns “One person who cannot be commended too high is Graybeard, a current board member, for his tireless dedication to the park pavilion and the community at large. He has been the one person to assume the daily duties of pavilion caretaker. He mows, sweeps repairs and overlooks the recycling project, picks up trash and maintains the restroom. He does it all seven days a week.”
In 2007 Graybeard wrote that from casual observation and four years of daily attention to a rain gauge at his home on E’eleko’a Street he could confirm scientifically that rainfall in Seaview is inconsistent at best with wet and dry spells totally unrelated to calendar seasons. His anecdotal evidence also suggested that it rains somewhat less in Seaview makai than Seaview mauna. After 45 months of research he reported that rainfall averaged 195mm (7.5 inches) per month while December had an amazing 33 inches!
Graybeard was one of our very first vendors at the S.P.A.C.E. farmers market where he offered free bike repairs. In the 2009 Seaview newsletter he wrote, “We have smooth roads and light traffic. Biking is good. The steady climb up Mapuana Avenue will provide your cardio-vascular workout and the long glide down will satisfy your need for speed. Bring your rusty, neglected bikes to the free cycle clinic at S.P.A.C.E. , Saturday Morning Market. Get Rolling.” He generously offered to repair some of our HICCUP circus unicycles and ended up doing a complete overhaul and repainting of our whole fleet. His tireless community service efforts extended far and I’m sure there’s many of his magical manifestations that I’m not ware of.
Graybeard had a special love for the healing powers of the ocean and rode daily to his secret mediation spot on the cliffs below Seaview. He also cared deeply for the next generation and nurtured a strong connection with some of our local youngsters. His only compromise to minimalism was the ancient Land Rover in which he had enjoyed many adventures driving through Mexico and California in his younger days. When he had it working he would drive it to the Seaview oceanside lawn or Kehena beach parking lot displaying a sign “Any Questions?” Using this technique he invited random conversations during which he would share his knowledge and sagacity. He regularly gathered an appreciative audience and for such a low-key humble human being he left a huge impression on some of our young men.
Shortly before his death Graybeard wrote this poem:
My beard grows down towards my toes, I dress in ragged, worn out clothes, but whenever I like, I mount my bike, And down the road it goes...............
He left his Seaview lot to one of his young protege’s who very appropriately made it into meditation memorial park for the benefit of all residents and to preserve the memory of our renegade Seaview mentor. Graybeard showed us all what community service is really about before he left on his final ride down the road……………………. R.I.P. dear sage.