A spirit may have been born in the back of a Miata.

It’s debatable when the Hideaway’s Semangat Rumah came into existence.

In Malayo-Polynesian beliefs, the spirit of a house – called the “semangat rumah” – is created as the the walls and roof are fitted together. A house spirit is born in the process. It begins to exist in interdependency with its builders. The house protects its inhabitants, and the inhabitants protect the house. Its creators are its soul. The efforts of the builders in crafting the decorations, carvings, and features transfer mana (i.e. spirit, energy) into the house.

I bet the Hammerhead Hideaway’s Semangat Rumah existed earlier than that point in time. In fact, I suspect it was the moment LuRu rescued a fiberglass hammerhead shark from the curb and took it home. Regardless, I do know this. The semangat is strong at the Hammerhead Hideaway, LuRu and Don’s large, open-air tiki hut in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

LuRu was cruising around Fort Lauderdale in her Miata one day when she eyed two guys hauling a huge fiberglass shark to the curb. Within seconds, she’d stopped and asked the men if she could have it. LuRu wasn’t the only one who’d stopped. Another person began to inquire, but LuRu’s enthusiasm and quick wit won the bid. Next, she was figuring out how to fit a nine-foot shark into a very small convertible. Head down? After a successful and precarious drive, LuRu triumphantly hauled the hammerhead in the living room. Moments later, Don emerged from his institutional researcher’s zoom cocoon, took one look, and immediately accepted the fact that they now had a huge hammerhead for a spirit guardian. It was life as normal.

I like to think it’s actually the Hammerhead who found LuRu. What spirit wouldn’t want to exist in interdependency with an creative artist and a merman researcher? It’s a perfect match. As soon as the Hideaway – a large thatched meeting style house built by local Seminole crafts people – was finished, the shark swam to its high place of honor among four spirit tikis that adorn the ceiling.

The Hammerhead Hideaway is a creative and artistic feat. LuRu has designed and brushed tapa to adorn the walls. She has hand-crafted ceramic tile mosaics. She has painted the hammerhead with tattoo symbols. Don has built and sanded and stained the structural elements. They have learned to tie ropes that honor old ways. They have collected and researched the original (and sometimes shocking) cultural uses for their Papua New Guinea art. And it’s only the beginning years for this beautiful space.

The Hammerhead Hideaway is also a welcoming space to all spirits. It sits in a mature tropical garden called the “Land of Many Yards,” which has been cultivated over the last sixteen years from what was originally a simple grass lawn. Twenty-eight trees and numerous tropical varieties of plants were planted over the years and have matured into a tropical oasis. The house cats, lizards, and iguanas coexist, albeit not so peacefully at times. Wild parrots, mostly descendants of escaped parrots from zoos, feed from the sea grapes next to the tiki hut when the trees bear fruit. Friends often sit together and share stories to connect their spirits.

I too felt welcomed. The temperate tropical warmth of the winter season only strengthened the feeling of escape. With Don’s well-crafted libation in my hands and friends all around, I sensed the semangat surrounding me. With a quick look up to the hammerhead, I offered a quick moment of gratitude and life moved on.

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