Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Walt Whitman says...

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Note from Auntie Logy

On Menehunes

by Gae Rusk

Auntie Logy once believed everything flight attendants said, but that was when they were called stewardesses. Their job appears the same now, same duties, same benefits, and they still make instructional announcements when a flight enters Hawaii air space, usually glib accounts of Captain Cook discovering these islands. Coming into Kauai, flight attendants often announce that magical elves called Menehune still haunt Kauai. Auntie once believed this information, but now Auntie knows history as told by flight attendants is suspect.

Yep, Auntie is done with listening to HVB’s and KVB’s theme park lies. It is mostly inaccurate and completely insulting information, aimed at a childish, ignorant type of Visitor who possibly doesn’t even exist anymore in this info-saturated, well-traveled era.

Isn’t it time to stop trivializing Hawaii in general and Kauai in particular? This thought stimulated Auntie. This thought made Auntie squirm on the library chair when researching for information. This thought kept Auntie looking into discoveries by archeologists in Oceania and studying details found in Polynesian chants.

It was fun. It was healthy too, because, unlike when watching television, Auntie does not eat Cheetos when reading. So, from all Auntie Logy’s research, here are a few historical facts to replace that drivel now spouted with such authority at every arrival.

First, Captain Cook was a latecomer to these islands. True. Even the Spanish passed through here before he did. Traveling between California and Asia, the Spanish impacted Hawaiians at least two hundred years before Cook’s gnarly, diseased crew landed, and there are Spanish maps and Hawaiian oral history to prove this.

Second, Tahitian warrior/explorers landed on these shores at least six centuries before the Spanish. These ali’i surging north from the Society Islands were powerful and sophisticated voyagers looking to claim and conquer, but even they were not the first to reach Kauai.

Third, the first people to reach Kauai were very probably the Menehune voyaging out of the Marquesas. Auntie discovered the Kauaian word menehune is uncannily similar to the Marquesan word manahune, which means “common man”, and not “little man”. This explains so much! Other evidence indicates the Marquesas suffered reoccurring drought, and drought was a major impetus for Polynesian migration. Oral history and linguistics indicate Marquesans sailed northwest, following the birds as they migrated, thinking there must be land in that direction and maybe it would have fresh water.

Before the Menehune arrived, who knows. There is a lot of wishful thinking, but no way to tell for sure, although personally Auntie favors clues indicating Polynesians first voyaged west out of South America. Anyway, the point is, when ali’i from Tahiti reached Kauai, they found a population already established. They found farmers and fishermen, common men, whom they drove into remote valleys, where they either died out or were assimilated into the newer culture.

Somehow, this wonderful, complex, fascinating history got all turned around by late arrivals - otherwise called revisionists – so it became Cook who discovered Hawaii, and the Menehune became a joke. The Menehune became a cartoon, which is damned insulting. To portray the First Nation of Kauai as elves on steroids? Come on! Auntie’s girlfriends, and even her bowling league too, everyone thinks this is insulting.

Let’s look at it another way. Auntie has been in the islands full time since 1979. Let’s say the ali’i began arriving about twelve hundred years ago, which is forty times longer here than Auntie. Let’s say the Menehune arrived from the Marquesas a couple of hundred years before the ali’i, which is no less than fifty times longer here than Auntie.

But Cook? Hey, he’s recent, only ten times longer here than me. Everyone beat him here but Auntie Logy. There are even chants in Polynesia about a blonde Viking-type who beat all other Euros to the Pacific, so why in the world does James Cook get top billing?

Because he returned to Europe and published his damn journals and maps. Then, half the population of the northern hemisphere moved in or passed through Hawaii, and it was always all about them, that’s why. As to historical facts that weren’t convenient, or were misunderstood, or were too complex to tell easily, well, it seems history got highjacked and dumbed-down and fed back to us by Visitors as the gospel truth.

Auntie now knows all those details were twisted into pretzels that favored the published. This means returning to the sources of cultural knowledge and studying the evidence of scientific analysis to find all that original information and have any chance at truth. Lucky this Auntie has one stubborn streak to know the facts, all the facts and just the facts, so it actually worked out well.

Now Auntie says shame on all revisers of history, and shame on us for letting it happen. Shame on HVB and KVB for sustaining lazy myths. Shame on flight attendants for repeating them, and shame on Visitors for not asking if those pre-landing announcements are some sort of joke. So much shame, this island. Is Auntie the only one thinking this?

Is there some Marketeer at KVB who would care to re-introduce Kauai to the world, this time with dignity and integrity and accuracy? If so, may the island’s God of Truth bless you forever.
There now, Auntie Logy spoke her mind. Auntie feels much better. A hui hou.

Please note: Antilogy is an inconsistency or contradiction in terms or ideas, causing controversy and discussion.

Gae Rusk copyright 2006

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Leaving Legacies

[Editors' note: Please help us finish the last line of this poem. Simply click on "comments" to submit your suggestion.]

by Kim Steutermann Rogers

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Robert wants to be an environmental lawyer.
Paul wants to be an organic farmer.
Jean-Michel wants to save the oceans.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sally wants to adopt all the world’s children.
Bono wants to feed them.
Oprah wants to cure them of AIDS.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Toyota wants to be green.
Dove wants to build girls esteem.
BP wants to be beyond petroleum.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Switzerland wants to be neutral.
Brazil wants to be self sufficient.
Greenfield, Massachusetts; Bennington, Vermont; Santa Cruz and San Francisco, California want to be Big Box free.

Kauai wants to be…?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Remembering Lawai Valley

[Editors' note: This piece originally ran in the Honolulu Advertiser.]

by Mahealani Perez-Wendt

My corner of the world began with the bounty of a family garden, ranged beyond it to fruit-laden trees in a yard unremarkable for this part of the country, and extended to wild orchards tantalizing from low rolling hills to Norfolk mountains.

In the garden, a tangled vineyard of cherry tomatoes spilled over its lattice onto rows of chickpeas, carrots, radishes, green onions, and many other edibles. These were hedged in by the dense foliage of Surinam with its tart, pumpkin-shaped fruit, protecting against burrowing animals like Junior, our pet mountain pig.

There were mango, banana, avocado, and sprawling mountain apple trees, strategic blinds to friendly but sometimes overly-inquisitive neighbors who vigilently reconnoitered vehicles traveling the jeep road in and out of the valley.

Thickets of wild tangerine, oranges, strawberry guava and roseapple grew along the hillside. Green tendrils of liliko`i hoisted above kukui nut trees, forming arbors with topmost branches. Wild achote, oregano and cilantro grew in abundance, planted by my grandparents many years before.

There were flowers and ornamentals in the yard manicured by my Hawaiian mother – roses, calla lillies, ice pink akulikuli, canna, gardenia, hibiscus, innumerable varieties of ti and Hawaiian medicinal plants.

The roadside displayed miniature bouquets of fiery lantana, and lavender curls of manaloa hung from weathered fenceposts.

A stream traversed the pasture beyond our garden, its banks choked with reedy Job’s Tears and succulent white ginger. An old stonewall still assembled, its crevices ablossom with shell-pink and orange flowers. They were cheerful and resonating in the sun, a subtle aurora at day’s end. Eucalyptus, white paperbark and hau – these sentinels added to the magic beyond our garden.

Across the stream, an aging Auntie Louisa and Uncle Dionicio sunned themselves on their front porch, contentedly smoking black twists of Toscani. Their home smelled of freshly baked bread, and not infrequently, she stood on the porch, singing out and calling to everyone within earshot to come for fresh malasadas.

There were rituals of men, rituals of women. The men were consummate hunters, skilled with horses, livestock and cattle. My earliest memories were of tall, dark men in black saddles with leather riding crops and boots. The children were weaned on horses and cattle; they understood roping, branding, methods of slaughter. They listened as their fathers swapped hunting stories – some chilling, others full of country humor.

The women often worked as seasonal trimmers at nearby Lawa`i cannery, and were skilled with knives and techniques of butchery. The slaughter of animals occasioned a marathon of activity – cutting, sorting, wrapping, labeling and provisioning for families as well as market.

Sometimes they would gather to make sausages. At these times, the women would don kerchieves and spend the entire day bent over heaps of hot, savory spices and mountains of onions, peppers, parsley, garlic and pork for mosilla and linquesa.

This was a community of devout Catholics, and there were many discussions about church and the holy sacraments. How does one pray a soul out of purgatory? I wondered about these things.

There were festive celebrations and revelry with special wines, wonderful food, “katchi-katchi” music and of course, lively dancing. Everybody cut loose. I remember my uncles putting on their wives’ clothes, including brassieres, and dancing the rhumba. Unbelievable.

On some Saturday nights, families piled into jeeps and Model A’s for John Wayne movies at Kalaheo Theater. At these times, a great cheer would go up when the calvary galloped in against “redskins”. Times sure have changed.

It seems a child’s life in Lawa`i was an idyll of dreams – hours spent catching crayfish with guava branches and string; hours sitting on topmost branches of trees with forbidden shakers of shoyu, salt and pepper; exploring every trail, every fence, every foot bridge; knowing special rocks and secret places – we passed our time this way. We learned about family and kinship, and from the earth, we learned our place.