Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Disembodied Voice

Two nights before I went to Maui, I was sleeping in the Manoa valley—gently dreaming of I know not what. The doors and windows to the apartment were open to catch the cooling summer breeze. I woke from sleep when I heard a man’s voice say, “Hello.” My first thought was that someone had entered the apartment and I didn’t want to open my eyes lest an uninvited visitor present himself. I held still and listened—no other sound—no one breathing. (for I was unconsciously holding my breath) I turned my attention to the open window behind me, knowing that a stone wall was back there, but someone could be standing by the water spigot. Slowly I opened my eyes and looked around the room. No one. Then I turned my head and looked out the window. No one. Then I realized it had been a disembodied voice calling to me from the spirit world. “At least he’s friendly,” I said to myself and went back to sleep, little knowing that a couple days later I would hug the source of that voice. “You need to consider the winds,” he said. “Yes. Great idea. I just finished the book ‘The Wind Gourd of La’amaomao.” Of course—he already knew. I smiled to myself. Thus is the magic of Hawaii manifest.

Shadow of the Voice

Olowalu valley

I was blessed to walk through the veil and into the Olowalu valley. I had been to the petroglyph site there several times, but to be able to go beyond—up into the valley where Ali'i nui Kalola Pupuka-o-Honokawailani lived--was a dream come true. In days gone by, Olowalu was rich in breadfruit and taro, a place of refuge, and the home of one of what I have begun to call ‘the sacred queens.’

Olowalu valley

Olowalu Cultural Reserve

This organization is bringing back the magic of/to the valley. As I walked into the valley, I blessed the new kukui trees on both sides of the road. They are doing well, and it won’t be long until their shade offers relief from the scorching mid-day sun. Olowalu valley still has a running stream—which many valleys do not due to the controversy over water rights and water transportation systems controlled by the sugar barons. OCR has planted taro patches and many native plants in order to return the valley to its once luscious and productive state. As they work, they teach… passing on the knowledge from one generation to the next. It is truly a beautiful thing to see—the large flat leaves of brother taro welcomed me to rub up against it, like family.

Olowalu lohi

As I walked deeper into the valley, the rush of the world fell away. Tall peaks rose on either side, blotting out any noise save the “she’s coming” call of native birds and the gurgling of the stream. The farther I walked back into the valley, the quieter I became inside--until inside and outside were one. To think that my feet were on the same trail as the sacred queens in their flight from Kamehameha after the Battle at Iao… I tried to imagine their flight, how they had climbed up out of the steep valley of Iao, crossed the ridgeline and come down yet another cliff into Olowalu—running for their lives—no doubt crossing the pali in the dead of night. How desperate they must have been! They were fleeing, and I was taking a leisurely stroll. I imagined I could hear the rush as the tall grass brushed their legs, remembering the time I was hiking in upper Palolo and got down on my hands and knees, crawling across the foot-wide precipice because the wind coming up the valley blew me off my feet.

Olowalu trail

Baptism at Olowalu

I slipped off the shoes that were killing my feet—not being used to the confines of a closed-toed shoe—and dipped them in Olowalu stream. I bent down and cupped my hand, splashing my face and pouring the cooling water down my back. Then I bent even lower and stuck my head in--fully. I, the Doctor of Divinity, performing the ritual baptism of the self.

Baptism at Olowalu

Kukaniloko on the Ewa plain

On the Ewa plain, the Kukaniloko birthing stones are where the ali’I of the islands wished to be born. I first visited them almost 30 years ago when they were almost buried in the middle of the pineapple fields and lost to the world. Now, with the resurgence of Hawaiian culture, the area has been cleaned up and people come to pay their respects. I wandered among the stones in the distance, envisioning the Ali’i camped around the perimeter awaiting the arrival of the child. Many Japanese tour busses pulled up while I was there, one man catching my attention in particular. He placed an offering on one stone that was being used as an altar and sank to his knees in front of it. I had never seen a man pray so reverently. Gods, if the man wants to be a father so badly, I hope you hear and grant him his wish.

Kukaniloko on the Ewa plain

Papa and Wakea

The symbol of the father and mother of all the children of Hawaii.

Papa and Wakea

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friends Who Know the Score

Where would I be on Maui without my guides—the folks who know their way not only around Maui, but also around an archeological site. I guess I should call them the iwi pickers because that does seem to be their role in life—digging up the bones. Besides being a great resource, they are gracious hosts and good friends. What a lucky girl I am to know them both. Their favorite vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler I’ve nicknamed Whitey, feeling that if I name a vehicle, it won’t leave me stranded by the side of the road (and on back roads Whitey takes us on, it’s a damned good thing!) The picture here is in the middle of civilization, but don’t let that fool you…


This heiau was behind a school. Fortunately for us, school was out that day, so we were able to go through the school grounds and enter the trail unannounced to the school officials. The spirits, of course, were a different matter. It had rained the night before and so the trail was very muddy. We slogged our way through the bamboo, the birds alerting the spirits long before our arrival. We hoped they didn’t wake up the feral pigs as well because as soon as we broke out of the bamboo and got under the canopy of the forest, we could see large fresh tracks in the mud. We climbed over a fence, slipped and slid through more mud—Dee always mad at me for not wearing appropriate footwear—my slippers not what he considers standard issue. Of course, for safety reasons, he is right, and he wandered on ahead as I tried to decide whether to take off my slippers all together and just go barefoot. We broke out of the forest into the clearing—a pile of rocks right before us. The rocks were slippery from the rain and the floor of the heiau too rough to venture up. Clearly the spirits that dwell there did not want to be bothered—the floor being so uneven that a twisted ankle would surely have been the result. Beyond the larger heiau was this smaller one—many times a smaller women’s heiau was behind the larger men’s structure. This one had a more inviting aura, as evidenced by the lei adorning the rock at the entrance. Someone is obviously caring for the structures, keeping them cleared from the encroaching jungle, but certainly off the beaten tourist track. In other words, you’d have to know they were back there…


We stopped at Wai’napanapa State Park, which was one of those adventures we had not planned on. I love when the spirit says, “No, you can’t do what you think you want to do—do this instead.” Dee took one look at the tourists and headed in the opposite direction. Since he had dug the sites on the Hana Ranch land, he knew exactly where he was going. He led us down an empty trail that ran through the a’a along the rugged shoreline. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the ocean exactly that color of blue. If I were to name the color, I’d call it ‘get-lost-in-it’ blue. Down the trail we went, rounding bays and headlands until we were far from the sight of anyone. Allison and I stopped to point out faces and animals in the stone—sea monsters (certainly mo’o) and spirits whose eyes stared back at us from the holes in the rock. It was as if we were the only three people on the island. Since Wai’anapana was an old village site (and the only beach to land a canoe for miles and miles) I imagined us as being old souls walking a path from one village to another. In and out of the forest we went, Dee pointing up into the trees and saying, “There is a heiau up there” or “We found some graves.” Suddenly, it being the windward side, a squall blew up and in less than a minute, we were soaked. Allison scrambled up some rocks and said, “Up here!” I saw her sitting at the mouth of a cave, dry as a bone. I climbed up and sat beside her while Dee, who had already lowered himself down some very steep steps, continued on. Soon we heard him coming back to join us. “I just wanted to see if I could still find that petroglyph,” he said. Again, we felt like villagers taking refuge from the rain, as so many had obviously done before. What amazed me was that the timing was precisely right—the cave appeared just when we needed it. The squall blew by, we crawled down from the cave, and headed back the way we came.

Kaupo Store

This trip to Hana we drove the south shore in the direction the tourists usually take. (as opposed to our trip last summer, when we went against the tourist traffic) After leaving Hana, the road snakes around the dense jungle coastline of Maui, the Jeep pinned to the sides of the cliffs. Even though I had held the image of the store strong in my mind (since I am using it in the novel I’m working on) I was amazed at how much my imagination had taken over—I had painted my own scene, which pleased me because I realized I had grown to know the area in my imagination much better than anything my mind could remember. That little store, out there in the middle of nowhere—sometimes I think about how they get supplies out there. Who is the brave soul who drives an ice cream truck out there? I can imagine a helicopter being an easier delivery vehicle. The store is at the bottom of Kaupo Gap, the last lava flow from Haleakala Crater. There is no other word than desolate to describe it: few houses, few fences, and cattle grates across the rutty road. We assured ourselves of the petroglyph location we had found last summer (a place I want to explore again), and continued on to civilization.

Kukuipuka heiau

This was a site none of us had been before. Dee had directions, and after we left Pihana heiau, we drove up the coast to Kukuipuka. It seems that spiritual groups have taken over the responsibility for care of the site. After climbing some stairs, we found ourselves in a grassy knoll at the top of a ridge far above the water. Grass has been planted and kept mowed, and both green and red ti plants flourish around the perimeter of the rock walls. Inside the walls there is a pile of rocks that has obviously been used as an altar, as offerings of oranges and flowers had been left. (“Oranges?” I thought. Me, who is currently residing near orange groves in California. “Must be some kind of transcontinental form of offering to more well-traveled gods. What the hell? If the gods of old Hawaii could travel across the ocean from Tahiti, then I guess the offerings can come from Safeway) When I discovered the birthing stone, I couldn’t resist sitting down in the seat, putting my legs up on the rock wall and looking out over the ocean. Imagine giving birth to a child in such a luscious setting. Imagine being that child--what a place to be born! The keepers of the site have planted around the grounds, and Allison spotted a koa tree struggling for survival out on the windblown lawn.