Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ulupo Heiau Kailua, O'ahu

This heiau is just off a main thoroughfare near the city of Kailua. I don’t know how many times I have been by this place and because of heavy traffic totally missed seeing it. Legend has it (in other words, no one knows for sure) that it was built by the menehunes (the little people of the islands) way before contact with even the Tahitians. Now, that’s going back a far piece… This top level of the heiau is 140 feet by 180 feet. It sits up on a plateau and from the bottom it is overwhelming. It is located right behind the Y—or, rather I guess it would be more correct to say that the Y built near it—the heiau being first on the scene by maybe 1,000 years and the Y an interloper, as it were. The chattering of children broke the silence, which is probably delightful to the spirits—they seem to like the laughter of children. In the distance are the Oneawa Hills between the towns of Kailua and Kaneohe.
This is taken from the bottom of the heiau—the easternmost side. I was glad that the two people were walking through—gives some idea of how tall this heiau is—a full 30 feet the guide book says, and I would say it looks every bit of it and then some. I was standing across the stream when I took his picture. After I explored a bit, I came back along the path that these folks are walking and looked up the pile of rocks. It was breathtaking—quite an enormous amount of stone. The plants in the foreground are red ti. Ti is considered a spiritual plant—very cleansing.
The flat stones are lined up in a double row and lead down to a spring at the northwest corner of the heaiu. This is the “Menehune Pathway”. The menehune—the little people—are said to have built this heiau by carrying stones from Kualoa, or from Ewa or from as far away as Waianae. If the last two quarry sites are true, then the stones had to be transported over the Pali. From any of the mentioned sites, the stones traveled a long way.
There are two small pools, each about three feet wide, where it is said the priests brought the pigs to be washed before they were sacrificed on the altar of the heiau. The shadow in the water? Mine.
It is thought that this heiau might have been used for agricultural purposes due to the fact that the taro patches are right below it. That would make the taro patches as old as the heiau. In the middle of the picture are a couple of banana trees, and on either side, coconut palms. Even though it was close to the thoroughfare—I could hear the swish-swish of tires on the asphalt and see the cars driving by, it was quiet and peaceful in the taro patch. This is definitely a place I will return.

Pandanas, lauhala, and screwpine are just a few of the names of this plant, which is found all over the South Pacific. The weavers go through a long process—picking up the fallen leaves, taking off the thorns on the edges, washing the leaves, then boiling them, letting them dry, cutting them into the desired width—all to make a hat or mat, basket or sail for the voyaging canoe. One of my students said that the people of Puna, on the Big Island, have eyelashes like lauhala. I looked in her beautiful eyes and saw the same curve. “I take it you’re from Puna?” She just smiled. Another student did a report on lauhala and told of it’s many uses—would that I remembered more…

Monday, June 13, 2011



‘Cock-a-doodle do?’ I thought to myself. ‘There must be some mistake. ‘ It had, indeed, been one of those peculiar days when the negative ions had been running amok since breakfast and things were more bizarre than usual. I looked around for said fowl, and seeing none, I proceeded to let the door shut behind me. I noted the slots for outgoing mail directly in front of me, turned 90 degrees to my right and spotted a long line of silver mailboxes, turned another 90 degrees and saw a display of packaging material and a tall metal waste basket. Someone had swiped the pen from the chain attached to the counter—again. It looked like I was standing in the middle of the post office all right, but just to make sure, I went back outside and looked at the sign on the side of the building: Airport Branch, United States Postal Service. Thus assured, I opened the door again.


This time the cry came a little fainter--from the back of the chicken coop—I mean, the package handling area. The other people standing in line didn’t seem to be bothered by the rooster chorus, so I shrugged it off. Still, I wasn’t completely convinced that I hadn’t somehow mistakenly opened the door to the back of the barn. I surveyed the postal workers behind the long counter, each at their appointed cubical, carrying on as if there was nothing out of the ordinary—as if it was just another day of selling stamps, and handling packages coming and going…


Through the very door I had just entered came a large crate, “Live animal” lettered on the side of the cardboard box. Two beady eyes peered through the air holes of the crate. Below the crate, an extended paunch, a precarious place for balancing said crate, but utilized to the fullest, nonetheless. Beneath the paunch, two stubby legs ended in a pair of black zori slippers. Junior Boy, obviously an old hand at this maneuver, swung the crate around and hefted it up on the postal scale in one smooth motion.


From my place in line, I could look behind the cashier and see a cart with several crates lined up, and gauging from the racket, all filled with roosters. The bird on the scale pecked at the side of his carton, desperate to escape the dark prison of cardboard, threatening to get at his brethren and tear them to shreds.

“Cock-a-doodle-do—you son of a bitch. If I ever get out of this joint and get my hands on you I’ll….”

“You and who else?” The second bird answered.

From the back room came a muffled, “Who’s your muther?”

Junior Boy made a hasty retreat through the door and left the handling of the bill to an older man. Uncle Junior wore a sleeveless t-shirt with the logo Club Femme Nude on the back. It might as well have said, “Live animal,” the same as the crate, because the logo of a naked lady, her legs curled around a stripper pole, spoke volumes as to the character of the establishment. Birds of a feather, as it were. Uncle Junior expertly handled the monetary end of the transaction, making sure that he rested his hands under the crate at an angle the postal worker couldn’t see and ever so slightly tipping the crate and rooster up in order to subtract a few ounces from the weight of the bird, as if the weighing in of the rooster equated a prize fighter being weighed before a match. For, in truth, that is exactly what was happening—these birds had been bred for one of the island’s national pastimes: cockfighting. Legally, the birds could be shipped for breeding purposes, but honestly, Uncle Junior and Junior Boy didn’t look like they’d seen the sunny side of the law for years—indeed, Junior Boy was learning from an old pro.


Junior Boy brought in yet another crate. Uncle Junior parked his fingers in just the right spot, the postal clerk weighed the bird, and the roosters (none plucked for eating) piled up higher and higher in the back room. I bought my stamps, hoping I could get out before one of the workers (a very long afternoon stretching out in front of them) went postal. What can I say?


It’s just another day in Hilo…..

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pu'u Loa petroglyphs

This photo is very typical of the number, size and variety of the petroglyphs at this site near the bottom of Chain of Craters Road. And yet, there are strange elements: the straight line with the sidebars in the bottom of the picture, the “sail” in the middle of the picture, and the “star” pattern beyond. What is typical is the number of piko holes—the circles with the holes are said to represent boys, a crescent represents a girl. Not all holes have a gender determiner. It is said that the father took the umbilical cord out to this site, make a petroglyph to honor his child, put the umbilical cord in the hole and left. When he returned days later, if the umbilical cord was gone, it meant the gods accepted the child and it would live. Maybe the father only made the sign of the boy or girl when it was determined the child would live. (That is purely speculation on my part….)

This rock outcropping caught my eye from afar—it is not “on the beaten trail” and neither was I. What astounds me about this imagine is the red on the rock—that seemingly bleeds through from the molten lava. I also love the idea of this ledge of pahoehoe lava just stopping at this particular place and forming a perfect canvas.

Several of the human images had a circle above or near the head.

These “twins” stand out—they are carved deep into the lava, surrounded by other human figures and many, many piko holes and circles.

This image haunts me because I’ve not seen anything like it anywhere else. It is off by itself, along a pahoehoe tongue. The lava just to the right is rippled, but this one spot made a perfect place to carve.

Another typical section of petroglyphs at this site. Since I had seen the encompassing circle around some of the petroglyphs at another site and noted it for the first time, I was surprised—and pleased—to note it again. At this site there were also several circles that were connected, forming “handcuffs”. There are two examples in this photo.

Three human figures, all with their arms in the “down” position, but arms curved, not like the stick arms at other sites. Only one man has a piko hole in his chest.

This “rose” was another one off the beaten path. As I was leaving, I walked slow and kept looking around for other images. I was not disappointed. This one is up on the top of a low ridge. As soon as I spied it up there, I had to find a way to scramble up and photograph it—quite unusual.

I drove up to Volcanoes National Park, wondering all the way if I should turn around and bag the day—the weather was sketchy at best, and the weather report said “40% chance of rain and/ or thunderstorms.” I figured that I had a couple of hours midday that I might find some decent weather, so I kept driving through the mist at the 2,000 foot level. Even on the way down the other side of the ridge--on the dry side--I had my doubts. The rain forest, of course, was rainy—and windy, and I thought many times about turning around and eating my sandwich somewhere else, but, something kept pulling me on. Down on the plain near the ocean the weather was cloudy but not raining. I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and headed out. Photographed as fast as I could, knowing my time out there would be limited. After about an hour I got sprinkled on and I had to stop and beg the gods for just a little more time, please... They relented and stopped the rain…but as I looked over my shoulder into the wind, I knew I had to work fast--I would not be granted much more time because Mother Nature had work to do. This is the path on the way back to the car—the mist was, literally, chasing me. I threw my camera in the car, talked to some tourists who were headed out to the field, then got in the car. Just as I shut the door, the rain pelted the windshield and I thanked my lucky stars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Waipio Valley

My first trip into Waipio Valley—the Valley of the Kings. The travel brochures say it’s 1200 feet down in about a mile. I don’t know which is worse—going down or coming back up. I guess it depends on the state of your knees and lungs. Suffice it to say, I didn’t go down without help. I took a van down and then went on the mule-drawn wagon tour. Two mules pulled the wagon with 10 of us aboard. Bob, the muleskinner, said mules are much stronger than horses—and much smarter. When they get tired, they quit (that would be the smarter part…)

Looking up the valley—one way in and one way out of the valley. Back in the valley is more taro patches and private land. Bob said most of the people live back in the valley—very primitive back there. Near the mouth of the valley there is electricity. Further up, it’s solar power, propane or candles. In order to get back in the far part of the valley, you have to cross five streams. The mules grudgingly took us through two.

Hi’ilawe Falls marks the 1200 feet drop—tallest waterfalls in all the islands. There has been a drought the last several months, so there hardly any water coming over the falls. The top part of the falls had a little water, but by the time it got to the bottom layer, it was hardly getting the rocks wet.

Some families grow taro, but aren’t always around to tend the patches, which grow up with weeds in no time. The taro is for family use only—no commercial enterprises growing taro. In Kamehameha’s time, Captain Cook estimated there were 20,000 people living in the valley. Tsunamis and floods wipe things out occasionally. The last big population was estimated at 3,000—pre tsunami in the ’60’s. After the tsunami, no one. Slowly the population has grown to about 50 full-timers now.

My friend Lani’s father won a little piece of the valley in a poker game. There used to be a small house, but it burned down. Now there is a tree to mark the spot.