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

Bonded

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




Saturday, March 28, 2015

Musings on the End

*This is for my friends whose life partner has gone on ahead, into the mystery beyond us all

I cannot imagine and wish never to feel
the bitter end of the twisted gnarled finish of that journey
last of the life tied to one's own
final tumble over the precipice at the very edge of breath

Here in my arms are the flowers I love
Holding blossoms out to you as if a fragrant parasol to defend
against the rain of sheer sorrow pelting, pelting as in the rain hatless

It may seem odd that I am grateful to feel you
Present with your pain
Knowing there is nothing for me to do but take it in like an aroma
Fragrance of fallen leaves and crumbling tree trunks on the floor of the forest

Today, thinking of you
Kristin ~ Jeanne ~ Beth
I walked the forest
amongst the fallen ferns, giants lying on the ground
I felt their furry tips and looked at all of them for signs of renewal
Taking the battered end of a hapu'u felled in the hurricane
I opened it and uncovered its furry essence, golden as Rapunzel's hair

For you I tucked it next to an orchid, knowing the flowers will come
Sustenance and nourishment taken from the husk of another life
All gestures have meaning
Lives are not lost, never lost
Lives carry on as the music
As sounds we have made
Somewhere beyond our hearing




Monday, October 27, 2014

East Hawaii End of Days ~ A Record

Aloha Kakou. My words have not left me altogether, but I feel them receding like you might sense a storm moving off shore, finding a true home over the ocean. My words are projections only. The real thing, what is it? I will try to share, this, what is real, now, while I am still able.

Today I rest on a pune'e, a daybed out on the lanai. Off to my right there is a cloud of smoke and gases blowing up island. This sulfur dioxide fume blanket is thankfully in my line of  sight, but not affecting my breathing. The breathing is a shallow effort, not my best, but doing what it needs to. Sometimes I remember breathing styles from meditations long ago, and I try to begin to breathe from my pelvis. Last time I tried I coughed so long and hard the children came running in off the street outside, calling me tutu and bringing me ice to suck on.

My own children are not here, nor my grandchildren. This is the middle of the ocean, and their lives are elsewhere. I would prefer that you not think badly of them, nor judge me, based upon their absence. We had our time together, and we each made our choices to live where we live, respectively. True, they could choose to come here now, to witness what is going on, both in my life and the life and history of this island. But there is both inconvenience and expense. It will be different here when they come, and come they will, as Hawaii will always be a part of them, as it is a part of me. No need for them to carry with them a memory of me as I am today, bones inside skin with just enough muscle mass left to get up and down. Let them remember the tutu who did planks and drank whisky under the broad starry sky.

Over where that plume of gas and smoke obscures the bright blue canopy above, the lava is flowing down the mountain. It is not headed for my lanai, in particular, at this moment. One cannot say where the lava will go, exactly. It is the Lava Uncertainty Principle. One can take a heat photo, and visualize the ocean of lava under the ground. It is immense. An ocean rather than a mere lake rests beneath the crust of land, breaking out here and there in its enthusiasm, it creeps downslope with the intensity of ants, purposeful and relentless, seeking its end in the bath of the ocean.

Down the mountain, all the way down at the ocean, you can see the evidence of what happens when the waves meet the lava flow. Boulders the size of full grown pigs are thrown back up onto the blanket of hardened lava.  Beneath that blanket, the shimmering red hot lava surges until it meets the sea and explodes in bombs that become pitted with splash of waves, and yet are round as breadfruit. Some are resting on the old lava flow now, left from a time when Mauna Loa burst open. I cannot tell you which time, maybe the last time.

This is not my story, but the story of this time and this place. This is in small part only the tale of the daybed on the lanai, here where one old woman with unfinished thoughts is waiting to cross over to a place where lava and time are the same thing. My father was here to visit this afternoon. I could see him as clearly as the palm shadows on the screens in the late day. He was so much younger than I am now, and that is to be expected as he made his crossing when he was but 55 years old. A youngish man, and it was younger than that he sat here near me today. He sat in silence, never having been a talkative person. His thoughts however were clear like music. He was waiting to see if I would come along with him. But the feeling was not of e kipa mai, come visit, but something considerably more far reaching, and I am tied just now to the lava event.

My daughter Alicia says I am waiting to see it fall once more into the ocean, dribbling down the pali, but it will not be like that this time. The ground is flat where it will enter. Probably it will form tubes and enter harshly, explosively, being thrown into the air like fireworks. Yes I would like to see that, but it is not likely anyone will allow me near. No, let me be more precise. It is not likely to happen before I cross over. This lava is taking its time, slowly crossing fields, slowing, stalling, starting again upslope and coming down in raggedy orange rimmed rivers. It is a fitful flow.

What will become of my home?  I do not mean this small house with its lanai facing a ribbon of ocean, planted with a eucalyptus along side of it whose peeling bark seems to have taken its color randomly from a paintbox. I mean this part of this island. When you move to the side of a volcano to live, and you know the volcano too is a living thing, you can expect to have to move sometime. The volcano will slumber and then have a dream and you may or may not be caught up in the drama of the lava.  This time, the lava is flowing in such a way that it is cutting off the part of the island where I live from the rest of the island. It is making an island within an island. At first, the main way in and out of this area will be cut off as lava flows over the highway. Until a few short weeks ago, that was the only way in and out. Now, there have been new roads cut, but not paved. These roads may never see pavement, as the lava stands to cover them as well. This lava, this time, this flow, should the lava find its way to the sea again. Many of us envisioned a bridge across the lava, but that seems to be for a future time, a time when the money does not belong to the few but to the many.

It has happened that my friends from other places have asked me, how could I choose to live where lava might one day overtake my vegetable garden, ruin my carpets, and annihilate my wardrobe. I asked whether lava was worse somehow than hurricanes or earthquakes that left you little time or no chance at all to choose whatever you might want to keep. There is an ebony statue just inside my door. I would take that, because it is carved so exquisitely. Truly, impermanence is immutable. You understand this when you live on the side of a volcano. You know as you watch lava consume everything in its path that at the same time it is creating the island, the very place you have chosen to live because, if you are not here, you cannot seem to get past the sadness of being apart from the place you love best.

As for the things that are mine, my photos are online, thousands upon thousands of them. I am guessing, although no one has talked to me of this, that when I am gone someone will run some of them as a slide show on my flat screen TV and play my favorite music while people come and go, eating and drinking and talking story. Maybe they will play "From a Dancer" by Ho'okena, a Keali'i Reichel mele. "I am pleased to have joined with you all in the dance of my soul". That, and the music that binds the reverence of this song for land and the ocean to the heart, that is the music I hope they will be drawn to as whatever is my essence drifts out like the scent of plumeria and stephanotis on the currents of the afternoon.

This island is its music, as much as it is hardened lava. The mele of Hawaii capture the spirit of a place, and set it to music. When you listen to this music, you can hear the longing of the one who has captured this essence, the yearning to join with the place in body and spirit. And you are here.

It feels often as though my mind and body are both adrift on a kind of cloud. It is not drugs at all. I take nothing, unless you count the awa, a concoction I never grew to care much for, but that does have the power to take away fear. Fear is an odd sort part of the human repertoire. It serves us well in the wild, and also when there is something or someone who might consider us prey. Otherwise, it serves no useful purpose. So I sip this brown cloudy tea, and am ready for come what may. It is not as if I will have to jump up and run away from the lava. I will be gone from here/now before it touches this land that is deeded to me.

There is something that has been bothering me of late. Of course, the lava is a problem. It is coming right through the little town of Pahoa. It is like a child's nightmare flowing into conscious life. But it will not run over anyone. It will destroy some property. It will chase away a lot of people. Those who do not leave will relocate. I have moved 36 times in my life. Relocation is not the end of anything that cannot be sustained by phone calls and social media. You think this kupuna does not know about Facebook? How do you suppose I stay in touch with the grandchildren? No, here is the problem. The neighborhood has put up signs suggesting that anyone not from here who walks down their streets is being disrespectful. This is because people want to see the lava as it enters the town. To watch this event is to connect one's self to history and to place. To those who had ancestors in the graveyard overrun by lava, this may be an abstract and intrusive notion. They feel their mourning taking up more space than what someone may not want to miss out on. They see themselves having to move their furniture out around hoards of gawkers.

And so, Pahoa is becoming divided both by the river of lava separating people on the Hilo side from people on the Kalapana side. There is shaming of those who clamor for access, because all they are interested in is what they can get, according to some Kalapana side residents who are struggling with how they are going to continue to get anything at all. So they want the photographers to move to the back of the bus.

Is it because I have one foot in the place where the lava has already covered the island many times over, where tides of mind carry stories of volcanoes that blew open and destroyed nations, is it for this blending of there/always and here/now that it seems so evident to me that no one is right, and everyone is right? It is as if everyone thinks the lava is coming through and then will be gone, leaving its black surface, then rushing underground to the sea. I have watched the lava for so long I can tell you that it is exceptionally interesting as it moves initially across pavement. It eats it with tongues of fire, and covers it over and this sight will not be repeated, not there. The lava will flow and flow on. It will cover other pavement, a few times, maybe. Usually it will ooze over the grass, bite the trees, make a lot smoke. Those who feel no need to travel by wheeled machinery have no respect for pavement. E Pele e.

Have respect, they say. No one is by virtue of circumstance more deserving of respect than anyone else. This is worth thinking about.

Imagine this. Across this street on land that someone owns who lives on another continent and never comes to visit, some people have cleared the land and planted a garden. There are avocado trees with fruit hanging almost to the ground. There are papaya trees with orange fruit clinging to the trunks. There are lilikoi vines dotted with green and yellow fruit climbing all over the fence and across the ground, and banana trees with long bunches of green fruit forming over purple flowers.  The people who planted the land have moved on. It is watered by the rain and tended by no one. But the neighbor on the one side throws rocks at anyone from outside the block who dares to pick a fruit. Everyone gets hungry. The fruit belongs to everyone. No throw rocks. If you want to be a good person, pick some fruit and take it over to the next street. Find out who cannot get to the store, give them fruit. But, no throw rocks.

I see my neighbors from down the road, a couple maybe a decade younger than me, slowly passing in a long bed pickup truck, furniture all jammed in there, boxes and more boxes. They stop in front of my house, and Marlena gets out from behind the wheel and calls out to me as she runs up the steps to me on my pune'e. Our conversation shows you a little about us, the people of this place.

"Aunty, you still here?" she shakes her head. "No one come get you? No one come help?"

"Eh, Marlena, come here and give me a hug. I can sit up a bit."

I can see her peering in through my screen door, seeing my furniture sitting in there. "Tutu Pele, she come soon, you know."

"Not all that soon, no problem for me," I answer. "The lava will miss here." I add.

"You so sure of that? But who take care of you, when road cut off?"

"All my ohana who've already crossed over, they are waiting to welcome me.  I see them all the time, they come, sit, sometimes talk story. So where are you going, now, with all your stuff?"

"Keoki and I go stay Paradise Park with friends, all stay in one house awhile. Together, watch Pele swallow Puna."

We talk story awhile longer. Keoki comes up, we all sit,  Marlena goes inside awhile and comes out with a pitcher of lilikoi tangerine juice. I know they have plenty to do and send them along. Marlena says "I see you bye 'um bye, Aunty" and I know she means on the other side of this life. We all give hugs, and I stand up a moment for this. No need to die lazy.

There will be songs written about these days. I can hear them sometimes, in the far off. They are place songs, about Pahoa, about Puna. The stories will last of the people who helped move the refrigerators, who loaded the sofas and gave their neighbors a place to sleep as long as they needed to borrow a bed and a room for the bed. The story will persist of the high school students who saved the electric poles. The stories people tell and repeat gain the traction of truth in the times in which they are first told. Then from some horizon comes evidence that blots out part of the story and leaves behind something amazing. It is like the footprints in the ash in the Ka'u desert.

Here is a version of Keonehelelei, the falling sands. In earlier times, in the time of the revolutionary war in New England, the floor of Kilauea Volcano was such that water from rains would accumulate beneath the surface, the water table itself being higher than the bottom of the caldera. In 1790, there was a violent pyroclastic eruption.  At the time, it is said that the conquering armies of Kamehameha had been fighting his cousin, Kiwala'o, and certain members of his cousin's ohana had survived the battles and were living in Hilo and Ka'u respectively. There was an uneasy peace on the island, broken when Keawemauhili in Hilo decided to throw in with Kamehameha and accept him as ali'i nui. Keoua in Ka'u was displeased, felt disrespected, and after killing his uncle Keawemauhili in Hilo, chased after Kamehameha, laying waste to the island as he went along. By the time he got to Volcano, and Kilauea crater, home of Pele, he began to feel a form of remorse. This remorse took the shape of fear of Pele. The crater was rumbling. So Keoua tried to appease the angry goddess for several days, then divided his army and sent them in separate contingents back through Ka'u. The timing was such that part of the army was annihilated in the eruption of 1790, when the wet ash exploded out of Kilauea, rained down ash and boulders, and made a storm of ash over the area of Ka'u around the volcano. The footprints in the ash were supposed by Thomas Jaggar, a volcanologist at Kilauea at the time of their discovery, to have been made by Keoua's army. As science advanced, questions about the footprints persisted. The science of lava retold the story, this time with such violence in the winds and pyroclastic flow of the 1790 event that in all likelihood the warriors were not alive enough to leave footprints. The footprints are not single directional. They are believed today to have survived as the legacy of ordinary Hawaiian people who traveled the Ka'u desert, made petroglyphs, fashioned weapons from the glassy lava, and carried on ordinary daily activities between outbursts from the volcano.

As I lie here on my pune'e, I feel life receding all around me. It is as if the volcanic cloud that blows away from my lanai is lifting my spirit in increments from this place. As it disperses, truth feels as fragile as any drift of ash. It settles upon me like a protection of my spirit, that who will see the lava as it spills over my town matters as much as a flurry in the rain. Some hear it, some feel it, the sudden shift in the rain is over, and eventually the storm passes. What happens to my home, Pahoa, my lanai, seems but a pencil sketch drawn hastily and about to be discarded. These tears that begin in my heart are the tears of my people. My people are all of us.

Something will survive, something like the footprints of Keonehelelei. We cannot know what it will be, who will marvel, who will think they know. I wonder if I will know, in that non-place of no-time. I wonder if there is mattering there. Maybe that is what is keeping me here, more than the lava, which it seems less and less likely I will see licking across pavement this time. I do not know why this matters, beyond simple human desire to make a record of one's own.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Season of the Volcano

Usually I post poetry here. This time, a short story. I wrote it September 7, 2014, as lava threatened Pahoa.


It is the season of the volcano. Here on our island in the middle of the ocean, the lava has been flowing longer than you have been alive, and especially most of the years that you have lived. I know this because I have been here, but not for all of it. Like the lava, I have come and gone, and returned to stay. At least stay awhile, my feet up on the railing of our lanai, notebook on my lap. The air has the scent of frangipani, a word that rolls in the mouth like a lychee fruit before you bite through to the seed. 

It was after the World Trade Center disaster and before the collapse in real estate that this came to me. My friends had scattered about like messages let go in helium balloons. My oldest dearest friend, whose politics and religious leanings have veered sharply away from my own, but with whom I still share more memories and dreams than either of us could list, was the only one still living in the county where we grew up. Now one of the boys from high school has returned. So two friends in one place, but not then when I left.  Everyone else is in Charleston, South Carolina; Hartland, Wisconsin; Pacific Grove, California; Toronto, Canada; Sydney, Australia; Mwanza, Tanzania. That is for starts. Even my children are not rooted, even if this month they both live in Oakland California. This is what I decided: I would move to Hawaii, where I discovered as many friends move away as friends come to visit. Eventually, someone will move here from somewhere else, someone I already know. That is a prediction, not a promise.

It is said that Madam Pele decides who will stay and who will go on her island home. The people who tell this story are sometimes the ones who take it upon themselves to chase anyone away they don't want in their back yard, and sometimes anyone at all who has managed to hang on many years while watching others fly off the wheel around them.  There is no particular worthiness to those who stay. Take for example the couple who lived next door to us at Leleiwi, across from the ocean. They ran a bed and breakfast. You might suppose that a couple in the hospitality business would not be one more set of impossibly bad neighbors. But no, there was the man of the house chasing the neighborhood kids with his weed whacker, drawing blood and sending one ten year old to the hospital for stitches. You would think the parents would bring charges, but this is Hawaii, so they gave him the stink eye and stole the fish out of his pond. I was trying to like him despite all his bad press and the times he seemed to be deliberately taunting my dogs, but then he shoved me into traffic on Kalanianaole with his hands while accusing me of being a flower thief, and kept saying he would call the police.  I said please do, as I would love to tell them how you just pushed me in front of a car. He is still there. I am not still in his neighborhood, but I have survived years upon years on this island, taking whatever ill will was pushed my way and deflecting it like our mountains break up storms. I cannot dance hula, but the mele flows like the tides in the blood of my body. I belong here as much as any malahini, except of course Pele herself. 

One morning a few days ago my friend whose farm is near the border of the Wao Kele o Puna reserve put on a serious gas mask and loaded a pick up truck with her things. She didn't bother with everything, just the bed in which her children has been conceived and the two nightstands, about a third of her clothes, the dining room set and the old stove with the iron burner tops. The rest would either go to the lava or thieves, whoever came first. The chickens had been moved the week before, along with the pyramids that were their houses, in the same pickup truck, to the home of friends in Paradise Park. Some who had vowed to stay were already gone, overcome by the sulfur dioxide emissions that clouded the air and thoughts of Pele's hair, microscopic glass fragments riding in the plume of rancid toxic smoke. You breathe those in and probably get mesothelioma or some such vile lung condition from the particles that lodge in your tissue and irritate you to death. 

Here is what you find out. You think you will stay until the lava eats your home, or you will sit idly by while it flows past you, sparing you in your kipuka, to feed the birds, gather the eggs, and live out your life. Instead, in advance of the lava comes the cloud of everything you do not want in your life, the stink of something that will kill you if you do not move on. It is not that no one perishes in the lava flow - some still manage to walk out on a crust over a crack, and fall into the lava, or fail to heed the warnings to stay off the new lava shelf because they want a better view of lava cascading into the ocean, and fall into the lava. But these are few. The rest are ushered out by Pele's bad breath, at this time, for this flow. 

While my friend was fitting her boxes of clothing into the back of the truck I was out walking my dogs, thinking about her and the chickens. Here where I live on the island, the lava last ran more recently than it did through her farmland. It could run here, and so fast I would not be able to gather my china or crystal or more than an armload of clothes. If the lava runs here, it will come upon us like a hurricane, furious and unforgiving, faster than a freight train run amok down a mountain pass. This morning, there were six turkeys in the seeding grass, the morning sun shining through their red wattles. They stood still as a display in a museum, as my dogs were sniffing at the grass, ready to bound into them but for the leashes. I and the turkeys were equally unsafe, or safe, for so is the uncertainty of life and the steadiness of the hand upon the leash. My friend is doing what has to be done to keep herself safe. Only last week, we were talking.  She said she and her husband were trying to decide whether to wait it out. She talked about surviving in inhospitable lonely environments at earlier times. We were not yet talking the language of lava, but still caught up in the anticipation.

Back at my house at Puuanahulu with the dogs, I let them run wild, chasing what foolish Erckle's francolins wander through the land they consider their own. The dogs have this concept of their space, are permitting of few interlopers without raising an alarm if not banding into an army of two fully capable of heading off any living threat. I settled into the swinging chair, my favorite place outside other than the lanai. It is in the full shade of the jacaranda, not too far from the butterfly calling heliotrope with its fragrant purple flowers the monarchs find irresistible. In the distance the ultra marine blue ocean reposes, beneath the swells of green pastures rising and falling amidst waves of gold where the grasses have seeded and are turning their dry season colors. It must be mating season for the monarchs - they fly and flit into one another in twos and threes while a gentle makani shakes the feathery jacaranda tips. 

A Hawaiian woman dressed in a long white dress and kihei stamped with a red lehua flower tied at her left shoulder is walking along the street. At her side is a white dog. I expect at any moment my two mellow german shepherds will turn into fiendish hounds and do their best to terrorize the white dog. They are sacked out on the cool earth beneath the jacaranda, and show no signs of stirring. I wave to the woman, a neighbor I have not seen before. She lifts a hand in greeting and turns up the path toward me, past the ti plants and the heliotrope. A pair of butterflies flirt with each other directly around her head, forming for a few seconds a lei po'o of fluttery wings, and I am distracted from warning her about my dogs. But the beasts sleep on, Koko uttering a tremendous sigh, his lips vibrating before he settles into ever deeper dog sleep. The woman smiles and I gesture to the seat next to me on the swinging chair, and it groans as she fits herself in next to me as if we are old friends. Her white dog sniffs the faces of my sleeping dogs and gives Koele's snout a light lick before lying down right next to them. 

My new swing friend begins to talk story after our initial alohas, beginning with the days before the francolins were here in these parts, before the jacaranda, when the iliahi and koa forests covered the meadows before us. Jet black O'o with brilliant yellow tail feathers and fuzzy yellow epaulets nested in the trees. The 'alala thrived. I had never seen the Hawaiian crow, and had heard that it was nearing extinction with only a few birds being kept alive in captivity. And then as can happen here when the name is called, there appeared in the branches above us first one then two 'alala, and the woman next to me on the swing remarked that things are seldom as they seem and even less often as we are told. I asked her name and she told me Leilani. 

In the distance orangish red flashes of wings seeming too large to be butterflies darted in and out of the green understory.  "Akepa", Leilani remarked, inclining her head in the direction of my glance.  And then in the near distance, ʻakiapōlāʻau another bird I had never seen except in photographs joined the scene. When I came here to this island it was with the dream of contributing to the reforestation of the endemic woodlands, but the sandalwood and koa trees I personally planted did not thrive. But in my section of the rainforest, the bird population grew each year. Amakihi, i'iwi, apapane multiplied in abundance, their tiny nests coming down out of the ohia when there were rainstorms. Here living on borrowed land, I did not think often of the missing trees, and felt a sharp regret for having dropped the idea. 

"You could plant iliahi here, and in that land behind you," Leilani suggested. "If those trees came back here, the akepa and o'o would return as well." She waved at the friendly jacaranda under which we sat. "This tree does not belong here." She thumped the ground with her walking stick, stirring up a plume of dust that spread like smoke. She looked sharply aside at me, her black brown eyes taking ahold of my eyes such that I could not look anywhere else until she released me, doing so by looking back at the dusty cloud where she had tapped the earth. It persisted, like the plumes of steam escaping from the cracks in the lava at Volcano. She smiled and dragged her foot over the spot, and the smoky effect stopped abruptly. In that moment it came to me that I had drifted into a dream, into hypnogogia where images formed by my less conscious mind seemed real, and I willed myself to rise up out of the swing and fly like the birds in my dream. But nothing happened, and Leilani was still talking about where I might be able to find some young iliahi, two year old trees she thought, that would be just right. 

She assured me there would be more rain than usual in the season ahead. I asked if she lived in Puuanahulu and she laughed and said no, on Kilauea, but she felt like taking a walk. It was not likely she could have walked the hundred or more miles from Kilauea, across Mauna Kea, but she said she had. I offered her some juice and she said she preferred whiskey so I brought out the Glenmorangie and the Buffalo Trace bourbon and a couple of heavy glasses. She tried a little of each, and came back to the scotch. She became more insistent upon the tree planting. 

"Your friends on the other side of the island would be grateful if you distract me over here," she said, or something to that effect. I cannot recall her exact words. She all but came out and said that if I got the sandalwood trees, she would be back to help with the planting. She told me of a farmer who parked alongside the highway of a Saturday with seedling trees, as if he would be there the next day. She urged me to buy everything he had. "A hui hou" she said as she pushed herself off the swinging chair. "I will see you tomorrow after the morning rain. Do not forget the iliahi". Her white dog jumped to his feet, shook and trotted off next to her, as she lightly touched the ground with her stick. 

The whiskey while the sun was still in the sky had its effects, and I was languidly lying across the chair swing, now occupying as much of it as possible given that Koko had joined me, his butt pressed against the cushions and his head on my shoulder. Koele was lying beneath the swing. The clouds along the horizon had gathered a few friends and there was a golden glow about their edges. It was going to be the sort of sunset that you would drive down the road a bit to find that puka lani, a hole in the clouds where the light could shine through in many fingered rays.  

Two days later the lava had made a severe turn. It seemed likely it was going to bypass the Wao Kele o Puna reserve altogether. It was no longer pointing its fiery finger at the houses of Kaohe or Leilani Estates.  Seventeen iliahi trees is not much of a forest, but they are in the ground behind my house. I bought everything he had. Leilani strolled up with her white dog as I was digging the holes. She called me sister and showed me where she had already turned up the ground in anticipation of our project.  "While you were out getting the trees," she explained. And she chanted. Rain fell upon us as her rich voice covered the forest and joined with the birds. 


I do not like to use the word miracle, as it says something extraordinary happened. The truth of the everyday is that we all do small things, manini things that cause everything to shift. The world changes every day, every night. There is no connection between seventeen iliahi trees in Puuanahulu and a change in the lava flow at Kilauea. The truth of the story is a Hawaiian woman came by with her dog, stayed awhile, and talked story. We planted trees. The lava changed direction. That is all.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Emerald Forest

Over millennia or least centuries
Some say less than 200 years but that seems so short a time
The emerald forest happened
It began with magma spewed from the earth
Trees and ferns grew out of desolate lava beds
Dropped leaves that became soil
Fell over sometime and rotted
Each year ferns and trees add scant inches of stature
Now the untoppled ferns form a high canopy
Fairy tale green amidst the twisted trunks of ohia
You may slip orchids in where the branches once were
Purple, gold, white, colors of wine and birthdays
Flowers open down leafy stems
Blooms open upon hand-like sprays
When the furious rains come
The orchid petals cling like sturdy fools
Take their lengthy pelting
Without a tear and answer with perfume smiles
Beneath the robin’s egg blue sky
Below epiphytic aerial root structures
Amongst the twig and golden furred homes of apapane
Stands this human shelter
Platform without walls beneath peaked roof
Garlanded with crystals of light
Floor polished brown and smooth underfoot
Come share in the elixir of the misty woods
We will open vintage wine and drink from favored goblets
Glass blown from molten globs
Feel your blood spirit replenish your heart beat deepen
Here, there is poetry of place
Yes, here there is volcanic magic