Sunday, May 17, 2015

Watching from the Mauna

It was never my idea to become an old woman, and yet, here I am.

My sleep was haunted by dreams for my first forty or so years. By haunted I mean the same dreams would visit me on random nights. They would say "Do not discard me. Do not throw what I say here on your rubbish heap." I came to understand the dreams as messages from the deep sleep connections made with parts of the self that did not fully incarnate, the unconscious mind that did not forget all that came before the birth of this self. They connect the physical self with the spirit self, with the mind that is not conscious and available to us only in sleep, most of the time.

Then for a long number of years those dreams were quiet.  I began to write. Thoughts flowed out from my fingertips like lightning strikes, hitting whatever ground there was for me to connect to.

Freed from necessity to write to communicate corporate agendas, I made my arms and wrists sore with the words that came not from my mouth but my hands. Something remarkable was happening. I was becoming an elder, a person with a silvery top around which buzzed simple ideas that nevertheless sparkled like mica. It is in the everyday thoughts that truth can lie, or hide, or the barrage of social media nonsense can overtake the quotidian mentality much as mold grows on fruit.

It was from this cozy spot on the lanai of watchful contemplation that I paid attention to the unfolding of the argument for the top of the mountain. Mauna o Wakea, Mauna Kea, the white top mountain, had been selected for an array of telescopes that worked in concert to view the universe through which we hurtle. On this island in the middle of the ocean, where the volcano instills within us all a sense of the impermanence that informs our everyday lives, the temporary home of the telescopes became overnight the focus of cultural indignation. For a handful of kanaka maoli, a few cultural practitioners who had become caught up in the cloud thought of regaining the Hawaiian Kingdom, the plans for yet another telescope became anathema. The focus of their stolen kingdom, gone now over 120 years, became the Thirty Meter Telescope, an optical instrument that would see almost to the beginning of time.

Here in this seeing back to the dawn of our universe, in this high potential for our first encounter with life beyond our own lump of earth, stepped the idea of the sacred mountain, in what appeared to be a David meeting a Goliath. The voices of indigenous peoples all over the globe were gathering force, demanding restoration of their rightful lands.

This was to me not unlike the time my daughter came to me, demanding money that had been at one time nominally hers, in a way. The fact that her name had been on a savings account, a certain kind of trust that would have meant she would have received the money had I died then, no more gave her legal or moral right to the money after it was gone than what we see today in Hawai'i. These few people who trace a line of their ancestry to people of partial Polynesian ancestry who were alive in the 1800s in Hawai'i are equally thwarted when they try to lay claim to the Hawaiian Islands as theirs and theirs alone.  All this is not to say that the taking of the land was right, in either a moral or legal sense. But it had nothing to do with the building of the telescope. I would have given my daughter money if it was mine to give, even if I distrusted her motives or planned use. I love her, and it matters to me deeply that she feel my love. If the only way she can feel it is with giving and giving in, then that is what I will do, if it is in truth the only way for her to feel love. I do not accept that, any more than I can see the destiny of the Hawaiian people is to take back these islands. As with the money, there is no entity who holds the islands such that they may be given away.

Nevertheless, the images of a strong young man dressed in kapa striding across the road in anger and allegiance to his tribe caught the attention of a popular celebrity who joined him for a moment and lending his name and face and naked chest to the cause brought global attention to the event. That event was to have been the groundbreaking ceremony for the telescope, and the ceremony was called off. For a few weeks the sense that the telescope was going to be the destruction of the sacred mountain caught the attention of the global community that stands up for the underdog, who sees that the powerful have persistently overtaken the people at large and subjugated them. The powerful are also the wealthy, who dispersed the resources of the planet to those who needed them, at whatever prices could be borne.

A few of those wealthy had made possible the Thirty Meter Telescope. Those few people cared more about exploring the unknown than seeing their name on a stadium, owning a ball club, taking ownership of an island, winning a world cup because they could buy the fastest boat in the world, or any of the usual things those who have more money than they could otherwise spend in a lifetime crave. Ironically, matching the spirit but not the size of the monetary contributions to this cause, one of the heirs to the Hawaiian kingdom who had become wealthy in the ways of old money elite, gave $25,000 dollars to the fund of the Protectors of the Mauna, for a bail fund.

And so I watched from the lanai. In the meantime, on another mountain, a lesser mauna in terms of height but not in terms of powerful mana, began a new phase of being. In Hawaiian culture, being is life. In western culture, life has to do with breath. In Hawaiian culture, life is also breath. So there is life that takes breath and the rest of life. To westerners, to think of life without breath is absurd. So let's consider the volcano, the living earth.

At precisely the same time that this struggle ensued for control of the other mountain, Kilauea began to heave and swell. First a lava lake that had been rising and falling in a visible way for a few short years swelled up and overflowed its hole in the ground, spouting and fountaining for all to see. Then amid a series of earth tremors, hundreds per day, the lake fell and fell. It became visible only as a red light in the dark, as a plume of sulfur dioxide, volcano breath. Or exhalation.

"Pele is angry that her mountain is being abused," said a few Hawaiian people who forgot that Poliahu whose home is Mauna Kea was no friend of Pele's, and unlikely to find an ally in her. If anything, Pele had become annoyed that Poliahu was pulling the attention away from her, and began a special show to regain center stage.

Much as through dreams the old collective mind communicates with the present mind, as in one's own life all the living ancestors that have come before have passed on, so the kupuna will make themselves known. The kupuna of which I write here are the ancestors, the ones who once strode upon the land where we happen to be now, and who are its protectors. They are no more protectors of the land than of the people themselves. I have felt their arms around me in the darkest of times, in the moments when I might have made terrible mistakes, where my impulse was stayed and not by any thought originating with me.

Thus one late day where the ubiquitous cloud cover on the mountain Kilauea had vanished in the hour or so before sundown, I ventured over to the caldera. The lava lake had fallen deep into the mountain, and the crowds that had swarmed the viewing areas during the twenty days or so of visible lava had dispersed. The earth movements had continued on, with noticable shaking as I sat of a morning at the dining table after breakfast, savoring the warmth of sun on my back, or that of the flames of the fire if the morning was wetly dark. In preparation for the sun falling below the horizon and the winds striking across the caldera in spiky fingers of deep cold, I had wrapped myself in layers and grabbed the camera in the hopes of catching a rare sunset with emerging planets in the dusky sky.

My car was the only one in the Kilauea overlook area. There were deep sounds emanating from the crater, a low rumbling as of a freight train in the far distance. A faint vibration was underfoot. I set out in the direction of Jaggar museum, not along the path, but treading the edge of the outer rim of the volcano, where sturdy red blooming ohi'a would frame out whatever view I chose of the coming light show.

There beneath my favorite tree a woman older than myself was chanting an oli, her long long hair white as the mountain Mauna Kea in the full on winter. I stopped a respectful distance away, and mounted my camera upon its tripod. I was able to collect a couple of images of her form against the setting sun, arms raised. I tried for a short video clip to include her voice, but the winds were all the microphone could capture.

I watched as she picked up a walking stick from the ground and came toward me. I prepared myself for possible anger that I had trained my camera upon her, and as she approached, she raised her hand in friendly greeting. Then our foreheads met in honi, sharing breath in the old way of affectionate greeting, and her hand rested upon my shoulder.

"It is good you are back here. The time has come." By back here, I understood she meant well away from the crater's edge as the sound from the volcano, Halema'uma'u, swelled from a dull rumble to a magnificent roar. The earth began to shake with a pounding ferocity. I held onto the tripod lest my heavy and expensive lens hit the ground. It was all I could do to keep on my feet, but the steady form beside me gave me extra ballast and together we witnessed the churning lava rise first in sparks of flying fountains from below the edge of the crater and then after some minutes as a flaming fiery curtain of lava striking into the purple sky.

Tears were falling in wet trails down my cheeks, squeezing out of my eyes. Once I had witnessed the Cassini Mission strike out from the planet toward Saturn. I stood upon the asphalt and watched the rocket's streaming trail out of our atmosphere, as surprising to me in that time as this massive spray of molten rock fountaining in momentous power and splendor. In another time and place, in the aftermath of my mother's departure from her body, there had come over me some sense of what it is to release mana or spirit or power of being. There had been the time when my daughter's soul sense had become ensnared in madness and I fought with the fibers of my own most profound sense of being for her to remain in sensible form upon this plane of existence. And here, I was watching the impossibly radiant insides of the planet shoot into the sky in thunderous glory. In all those times, tears had squeezed themselves out of my eyes.

Word of the new eruption spread quickly, and within minutes we were met by rangers who ushered us onto the path as cars entered the parking area and people emerged shouting in excitement, competing with the volcano's throaty deep voice. I was allowed to take down my camera while my companion spoke in Hawaiian to the ranger, who answered in English telling her to move along. She thumped her walking stick on the ground, and a new trembling began. The ranger stepped aside and spoke into a walkie talkie while she put her arm through mine and walked us into the darker area at the end of the path opposite the museum.

"Watch now," she said. "They will close the gates and soon no one will be allowed in to see this."

It did seem that concerns for public safety were cited with the all too frequent closures that prevented the public from viewing lava.

As though seeing into my thoughts, she went on. "People will get hurt. It is inevitable. All their efforts to control what will happen here are the scurrying of fire ants." She waved her arm back at the volcano, and a plume of flames shot in a narrow arc, reaching as if toward the growing crowd. Another rumbling began, and some of the crowd headed back for their cars. One car swung out backwards, and knocked a couple cutting across the parking area to the ground as someone else ran over and pounded on the backing car. The driver got out, hands to head, and bent over the couple on the ground, bending and straightening, and bending again. Official vehicles with lights flashing pulled up and blocked the parking lot entrance lane.

She said into my ear. "All these people know that they take the power of the volcano into themselves as they watch this spectacle but for most the knowing stops before it comes all the way to their thoughts. The knowing then feels like they found something in the street, a wad of money maybe."

She predicted that this massive eruption would divert attention from Mauna Kea such that the media would pull away from the protectors and the construction would begin. "Even the strong headed ones will leave the mountain and come this way, you know. The Kapuna will speak to them and pull them this way. The young kanaka will claim the right to access this place once it has been closed off, and break down the silly barriers set by the park superintendent. They will keep their movement alive."

I invited her to come back to the house with me, and share a libation. She smiled and said "You know I like good scotch but tonight my place is here. I will stay on after they send the people away. A hui hou, my friend." She brought her face close enough to mine to share breath once again, then ambled off with her robust walking stick.

We had met before, the old woman with the stick and I, on that afternoon at Pu'uanahulu when she urged me to plant the iliahi trees, and suggested the flow of the lava from Pu'u O'o would stop short of Pahoa town. The earth, the ground on which we set our feet, the voices of the kupuna, they all speak to us. They do not always tell us what we may wish to hear, and their truth is as cloaked and veiled as the steam of sudden evaporation hides the lavafalls into the ocean, until it suddenly blows off and we are treated to the sight of that brilliant orange firefall. The ones who want certain outcomes are those of us who are consciously present in our bodies, attached to wishes and other people. It would have been nice if the Kupuna had reassured me that my daughter would forgive me, but we were speaking of things Hawaiian.

As I sit now in the high desert late day, my grand daughter has poured a round of scotch whiskey for me and her beloved Tutu Kane Bob.  We will watch the sunset together and she will tell us about the project she will return to at the Thirty Meter Telescope in the next week. Her mother is happily in charge of her own Waldorf School in Waimea, partially funded by her daughter's employer. We all understood that what makes up our bodies started as stars somewhere very different than here, and that between us there is no distance.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Halema'uma'u ~ House of Everlasting Fire

Fireworks of the deep earth
Island expanding
Challenge our sensibilities
With your mystic molten rock oceans 
Blood of the planet
Show us the workings of your heart
We hear your deep voice 

From my home just down the human roadway
I stay tuned to your rhythm
Listen for your changes in cadence
Rush off to be close

If I had your music within myself
There would be new symphonies
Expression of my gratitude 
To be alive in this time
When discovery through technology 
Forms a marriage with matters of the Spirit

In recognition of sacred spaces
We come to Kilauea 
Experience through more than human ears and eyes
What it is
Volcano that blooms in perpetual fire
As earth's plates move above it

Here now we are together 
Reaching ever further  
Beyond the veil of the undiscovered

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

These Voices

Wherever we look there is our trace
Not a mere shadow or footprint
An automobile on the sand
Eight hundred campfires in the valley
Valley of the smokes

We set aside public lands
And use them
And use them

Those whose sensibilities are anchored in lava
Old lava grown obdurate cold impassive
These have taken up banners
Grown a collective voice
A voice that cries and shouts
Angry voices of those long displaced

Oh hear our plea
It this the voice of the requiem?
Or will they stop the vision of those who want to see
all the way to edge of the universe?

Whales of winter go
They return to their other home
Every concert ends
We fly like the geese in patterns we know
To places we understand

We are vast numbers with needs that stretch
horizon to horizon
water from the sky made to go to
vast pools those who cared for the land
cried out destruction of the temple
Mirror or valley
Water for a city or riverbed?

Each of us has displaced those who came before
leaving footprints in the ash

Know these truths
When we gather in our cities
We all drink the water from the reservoir
And if we are to understand how this all began
There are not already enough telescopes

Earth Day April 22 2015 Hawaii Island 
photo from San Francisco Examiner
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sacred Forest, Homage to the Mountain

If it was my personal ancestors
Whose footsteps came before mine
Here on this ground atop the mountain
I do not know about it

And yet I feel them here
All those whose breath still has faint traces
In the air I breathe
All whose weight upon the ground
Was light by choice
claiming little or nothing as theirs alone

I do not think of the ancestors as mine
Not my people and not your people
But we, and us, all who came before
If you go back far enough
you will find the ones we all share

I am not talking about some primal couple
But that certain couple whose act of love
made it possible for both you and me
to breathe this air

But let me still talk about the ground
This ground where I walk
This sacred ground made sacred because
I call it such
And you too may call it sacred
And you too many walk upon the moss and decadence
of fallen ferns and leaves converted
to reddish yellow and brown strands
filaments of mycelium

For this is the fabric of the sacred forest
Mycelium binding earth and plant, holding each and every
rooted living thing in place
forming the earth skin
Living skin of the sacred planet
Beneath all our feet

Saturday, April 11, 2015

E aha ‘ia ana o Mauna Kea

They want to build the world's largest telescope on the tallest mountain
It is tallest when you measure from its base on the floor of the ocean
Taller than Everest

This telescope will see almost to the beginning of time
because when we look out we are looking back

So far not even the world's largest telescope will show us
something that has not yet happened

But still and all time moves in all directions
It moves over there to your grandmother's great great grandchildren
It moves here to the time someone left the water on
And every drop was drained from the city
It ran out into the gutters and found the bay and eventually the ocean
Which became less salty then

Here is another direction for time
Let it take you around the bend
into the era of lilac colored jacaranda trees
purple flowers carpeting the ground beneath your feet
yellow pants under scarlet dresses
pale woven lauhala hats on smiling men
dancing with Fred Astaire flair

See the hula moving back in time to the lost Chiefess
Clinging to the ways of far back
Where women could not partake of food with men
Where you a common person would be put to death
Should you tread upon the shadow of the ali'i
See her fight to the end of life rather than move forward
When her culture shifts

Look now upon the faces of the earnest people
People who claim the mountain
People for whom the telescope is a terrible thing
It will be too big, and there are too many telescopes, they say
They call the mountain Sacred
It is about the culture of a lost kingdom
Brought forward in time despite suppression
reborn in the realest of senses
as fire impaling water in pentatonic scales
glass forest sublime golden waves
ancestors with sharp rows of teeth riding the azure waters

On the mountain Kilauea I sit within walls
constructed of a torn down church
I hear the choir singing oftimes when the late rains fall
anthems of seeking that which is on high

Look out here, see Mauna Kea, the link between heaven and earth
Mauna Kea, the mountain that longs to see everything
as far back as possible
is this not why she has thrust herself up
and become the bridge to all that is not
of this earth

E aha 'ia ana o Mauna Kea
What is going on with Mauna Kea
White Mountain reaching ever farther into the sky
May you touch the stars and tell us where we all came from
Show us our beginnings
Help us find the rest of us in the vastness of all there is
Mauna o Wakea

Saturday, April 4, 2015

swirls and curls

In the deep of the night
they awakened me
the haunting breezes
drawing in dimensions
upon my arms and face
I exposed a leg
to their attentions
deciphering the spirit language
much as when I touch my dog
grateful intentions
caresses of the air
pulled slumber over me
blanket alive as ocean
gentle as mist

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


There they are now on the rumpled bed
Lying like comma and apostrophe
My two German Shepherd Dogs
Radar ears pointed up and out
One faces me the other the door
As if asleep except those ears

Their master is off on a mission
Their being in the world is to stay close to me
If I sit too long they will prod me up
big faces under my arms urging me up and away
They never leave me alone in bed
Unless I am fully awake

I hear her breathing now
Soft exhalations
Her eyes are wide open
She can hear my thoughts
How intense their hearing is
She happy to be noticed and written about

She may be a dog
But her wishes are like ours
Content to feel she matters
Ready always to do whatever is needed
Robust character, gentle soul