Thursday, March 13, 2014

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the Eye of a Fish

[Congratulations to Dawn Fraser Kawahara for her first-place finish in our 2012 Creative Competition.]

This is a tale, true as true, dear readers (listeners). The events took place some quarter of a century ago here on Kaua`i, but this story is timeless. It is about something that could happen in any time, any place–as long as there are fish in the sea and people who seek knowledge through their inner eye and heart, and know the secret of entering the aloha circle of love and life, and giving freely. . .

A woman–let’s call her Lisa–walked each day at the shoreline. On one particular day, picture her walking along a long curve of beach fringed by ironwood trees, enjoying the feel of sand under her feet and the trade winds fanning her sun-warmed skin. Can you smell the salt brine, hear the sound of the curling waves? What a place, she thought to herself.

Several fishermen were casting in the area. Lisa made sure not to disturb them, nor to ask questions as she passed. She had learned this made for bad luck fishing. One fisherman was casting as he walked, overtaking her. He was very dark, sun bronzed, and smiled as he passed. She smiled back, then went back to her own thoughts.

As she walked, she was hoping to receive inspiration for a story that was forming in her mind. She wanted it to be a gift for her husband’s mother, who had visited them some months back. (Let’s make her name Marie, and Lisa’s husband’s name Jack.) Before leaving the island, Marie had quietly told Jack and her that she had an inoperable cancer. The time to bring the story into being had come with a call from Jack’s sister saying that their mother had grown much weaker since returning home, that she was getting her affairs in order before things worsened.

Lisa thought back to the torrent of previously unsaid words that had poured from Marie one day as they’d sat companionably in folding beach chairs, watching the endless flow of waves. Lisa and Jack had listened carefully to all the things Marie said she’d held back from doing in her life. Their connection had deepened with the understanding that came, even as they were saddened by the encroaching sickness. Lisa wanted to use her story-telling talent to ease Marie’s regrets, and the pain that was sure to come. She wanted her story to enfold the good woman, lifting her spirit like a cool, blue wave during the difficult time at hand. She would need to find form in a fitting character and scenario.

Then, one day while she was floating in a sea pool, the idea of using a small, gray fish to represent Marie had come to her. This fish needed to swim its way into the perfect story. Her question, as a storyteller: How to frame the story of a fish who seems nondescript next to the more flamboyantly colored tropical fish, yet kindly–and meekly–places the needs of others before her own. always being supportive, and never claiming any time to fulfill her own dreams and desires?

This question–yet unanswered–was foremost in her mind as a set of strong breakers churned around Lisa’s strong calves. She moved a little higher up the sand, and looked to the mountain that loomed over the bay–the same mountain that had drawn her to Kaua`i–dark and strong, radiating an earth energy that always renewed her. No matter where she was on the island, even if she didn’t actually see it, she always felt the presence of this mountain, which seemed to represent a higher power, Always, when she needed a story, the event or events would come. She trusted in this as she trusted in "her" mountain, and in Jack.

So she walked, and breathed deeply, and drank in the sensations that were the gifts of nature; she gave thanks for all these riches in her life. The hard-packed sand by the river mouth had changed to the soft, sink-in kind, and Lisa concentrated on placing each foot; her heart beat an accompanying rhythm. Two haughty sister fish images were now forming in her mind. The little spotted fish was getting teased and taunted by her two sisters, just as Marie had been all her life. But what would give the plain fish a magic touch, a secret strength?

She gasped, because right then a high wave lifted a dark object and practically smacked her with it. When the wave receded, there lay a fish. It lay completely still. At first glance, Lisa noticed it had a horn, like a magical unicorn horn; it was greenish-gray, the size of a large platter. She had never seen a fish like this.

Other moments of magic had lightened her life over the years, but Lisa was still somewhat shocked at the timing of the event with her thoughts. She skimmed the waters of the bay through narrowed eyes, wondering if a predator might have chased this prince of a fish onto shore. There was no shadow or sign of disturbance, just the measured sets of oncoming waves coming over the reef as high tide approached. Lisa saw the fisherman who had passed her earlier trudging back toward her. He was still a way off, but he was staring. She looked back to the fish, which still did not flail. His golden eye looked so deeply into her own that she held her breath.

You just don’t throw back gifts of this sort, she thought. To do so would be to reject the magic in the world.

What do you think, dear readers (listeners)? If you like, we can talk after the story. . .

Lisa figured she would have time to think this through later. For now, she needed to get this fish into a safe place. She knelt beside the fish and examined him closely. She grasped him tightly above his branching tail fins, adjusting her grip as she felt sharp, bony points, then carefully carried him, retracing her steps. She placed him under her car in the shade, and turned back to the ocean. She had time for a quick swim before going home.

When she came back, the fisherman was waiting, squatting beside the fish–her fish.

"How’d you get this?" he asked, rising and picking up his fishpole in one fluid motion.

She told him. He let out a long, low whistle and stepped back from her.

"You must be some kine magic lady," he said. "This, a kala. Hardly ever lucky enough to catch."

She stared at the fish, not knowing what to say.

The fisherman went on. "Kala, they hard fighters, stay outside the reef–take a lot of pounding. Feed on kala limu–seaweed, you know the kine? Grows on the rocks. Where the water breaks. Green, slippery. Like long ribbons."

Lisa nodded, told him she had no idea how or why the fish had come, but she was going to take it home. She opened the car door, and he helped her lift the kala and put it on the floor mat.

"Are they good to eat?" Lisa asked.

He nodded vigorously. "Pulehu this ‘un. Bake, over hot coals. Wash first, then–you got ti-leaves?–good. Wrap ‘em in mebbe five, like a package." He moved his hands back and forth in front of him, to show her. "Then, the coals."

"What about cleaning him first?" she asked.

"Nuh-uh. No clean," he assured her. "Peel the skin off." He made the motion. "After."


He nodded. "After–all cooked. Dark meat–like duck. Very good. Can lift meat from guts."

"The guts?" She felt her eyebrows lifting.

"The guts," he repeated, grinning. ""That’s how you fix kala."

"Thanks," said Lisa, sliding in behind the wheel and closing the door. "I’ll tell my husband."

"No problem," he said, stepping back and giving her a kind of a salute. "Eh, Magic Lady. I see you back here bye-‘n-bye. Take you along as my good luck, okay?"

"Sure," she said, waving. She was still thinking, Cook him, guts in. Wow!

She couldn’t wait to see the expression on Jack’s face when she told him how this fish–this kala prince–came to her. She couldn’t wait to see the expression on the face of their friend, who had been printing Hawaiian fish as an art form, that is, when she was lucky enough to get them. (Let’s call her Anne, okay?)

When Jack came home to grab some tools he’d forgotten and refill his water bottle, Lisa showed him her fish.

"Christ! You might have cut your hand off," said Jack, seeing the knife-like bone spurs. She told him the story. When she got to the part about the fisherman’s comment, Jack chuckled, then kissed her. "You’ve done it this time. This even outdoes your sign of the breeching whales." His blue eyes shone and his approving grin played right to her heart.

"Before cooking this magic kala, you know where it has to go?" she asked.

He thought a moment. "To Anne, right?"

She nodded. "This might be the fish print that gets her work into the gallery. She’s been hurting for money, and some sales would help."

"Let’s take it over after work."

The kala lay in the cooler, the ice rattling as they jounced along in Jack’s big, brown truck. The rest of Marie’s story came jouncing into Lisa’s head, another gift. She didn’t want to tell anyone until she had it completely finished.

"You’re still smiling about your fish," Jack said, glancing at her.

"You’re right. I still don’t believe it. I’ve never caught a fish in my life, more or less had one come and present itself at my feet, giving itself to me."

Anne heard the truck arrive, came to the screen door. "What’s in the cooler," she asked, holding the door open for them to come in.

By way of an answer, Jack set it down and removed the lid. Lisa drew out the fish with a flourish. She and Jack were not disappointed by what they saw from their friend’s expression. Anne reached for the fish, and Jack quickly intercepted.

"Watch out. This guy has knives in his tail."

She drew back and asked, "What is it? You caught it?"

Lisa recounted her story.

Anne carefully and reverently touched the kala’s horn. "I’d like to try to print him."

"Great," said Lisa, "Have you got a big plastic bag?"

As she eased the kala into the bag, she lifted out a bottle of white wine she’d slipped in underneath him. "Let’s all have a glass of wine and toast this wonderful gift."

Anne placed the gift fish in the refrigerator, then turned to get three glasses. "To magic," said Lisa. The three friends clinked glasses and sipped.

"To us," said Jack, raising his glass, and then, with a faraway look in his eyes, "and to my mom. May she pass peacefully when the time comes."

After a little bit, Anne raised her glass again, said, "To friendship, and unexpected gifts." They stood in the narrow space of her island kitchen, sipping and communing quietly, each thinking their own thoughts until Anne said, "How about you both come back? After I print him, I’ll give the magic fish a good wash-down, get all the paint off him, and we’ll cook him for dinner, the way you said."

"Deal," said Jack.

Two nights later they were back, admiring Anne’s prints while the coals were heating. Anne had clothes-pinned the rice paper to the matchstick blinds and her livingroom lamp shades, giving them a glowing effect with the sunset beyond, and then the lights being turned on.

"These are, well. . . really good prints," said Lisa.

"You gave me such a wonderful fish to work with," said Anne. "I felt like the magic came right on through."

"The sheen on these–how’d you get that effect?" Jack asked her.

"A little experiment: I tried mixing in a metallic gold into the blue and green–oh, don’t worry. It was still tempera paint, and washed off."

"No worry. Anyway, I like the way these turned out."

"Me, too," said Lisa. "They’re your best prints, yet."

Anne told them that the gallery owner wanted to see the kala prints, and all her fish prints, the following week. "All I have left to work on now is the eyes. That’ll be a challenge."

They went out to watch Jack put the fish on the grill in it’s ti-leaf bundle. Smoke and a good aroma almost immediately began to pour out of the vent holes of the lid.

Everything worked just as Lisa’s fisherman had said. Jack grilled it until it was flaky tender, peeled off the skin, and carefully removed the meat onto a serving plate. The three friends ate slowly. The kala was rich and savory with added butter, garlic and ginger.

"This meal–well, it’s like a ritual," said Lisa.

Jack agreed, and Anne said, "It seems we’re taking some elusive, mystical element into ourselves," said Anne.

Jack rolled his eyes, then refilled their wine glasses.

Anne told them she’d made several special prints for them, one to go to Jack’s mother with Lisa’s story she knew was developing. She mentioned that while she brushed on paint, one side of the kala appeared to have a slash that didn’t break through the tough skin. "Do you think a shark was after him, that he was frightened to death and came to shore on his dying breath?"

"I didn’t have a sense of that," said Lisa. "Anyway, not the fear," Lisa said.

After dinner, Jack took the remains of the fish out to the back wall, an offering for the wild kitties who had come to know that such treats were available from time to time. The next day, Anne found the remains–only tail and fins and skeleton, licked clean–out under the paperbark tree. Before she tossed them over the hill into the trees, she noticed the kala’s skeleton was very different from those of the other fishes, showing a strong yoke of cartilage along the box-like framework of its bones. She wondered if Lisa would bring something about that into her story, about how being a rough water fish, the kala developed the ability and the body that could take a battering that would do in the other fishes that lived in protected waters.

What do you think, my readers (listeners)? Would she?

Let’s find out. . .

Several mornings later, Lisa stopped in unexpectedly at the office where Anne worked. "Sorry to interrupt," she said, handing over a sheaf of pages. "I just had to bring you my story–I’m so excited. Maybe you can read it this evening." She blew a kiss as she exited, said over her shoulder, "Call me, huh? And tell me what happened at the gallery."

Anne treated herself by reading it at her lunch break. She became thoroughly engrossed in the story of a kala prince who is injured and needs care. And whom else but the kind little gray fish comes to care for him and heal him in a protected tide pool before he returns to the wild side of the reef. Lisa had woven in the vain sister in the person of a spotted, preening fish, and a belittling sister who shows her true colors by mocking their plainer sister.

"It’s a good story," she told Lisa, calling after work. "You wove it so cleverly. Marie is going to love it, and understand, too."

"You really think so?"

"Yes," said Anne. "She may cry, at first, but I think they’ll be healing tears. She will see so much about herself reflected in the story–things you probably could never say in ordinary words."

"That’s what I want the story to do. Jack’s going to fly over, to see her through the end, and he’s taking it with him."

Anne offered for Jack to take along a print of the kala, too, but she was hesitant about painting in the eye, the finishing touch. "In your story, you say it’s a golden eye, and I’ve been painting the eyes black, like I was taught. They have seemed flat, and dead. That’s why I’ve held off."

"Don’t worry," Lisa said. "I read somewhere that the masters just pictured any eye they were painting as if it reflected back the picture that it was seeing. Then it looks real, and alive."

"Hmnn. . . I’ll give it a try."

That very evening. Anne mixed her paints a new way, swirling some gold mixed with yellow, white, and a dab of gray together. She studied her own eyes in the mirror, pictured the kala’s eyes, then practiced curved strokes on a narrow strip of rice paper, leaving white space to give the impression of light, and life. Last, she followed her urge to add the tiniest dot of scarlet. And it worked.

But, dear friends, we should return now to the last threads of Lisa’s story. . .

Anne had read how it was the shy, selfless fish that was touched in gratitude by the prince’s golden horn, and this, before all the other fishes of the pool. Like a transforming wand, or the kiss of a fairytale, her small, shy fish’s life from then on changed; she was marked to receive special honor and respect, and love, until the end of her days, and then beyond, as she was to be remembered. So, for those who guessed "Yes" earlier, the shy fish is elevated into this honorable place by no other than the brave prince, himself–the kala who knows that those who learn to survive in spite of thoughtless and cruel people and difficult circumstances, who learn to overcome the battering and pain that come with the roughest waves of life, and to develop strength because of it, as well as remain kind and giving, are the real heroes.

Now we are getting to the center of this story focused on a gift where the energy is not held, but passed on, and on: first, Lisa wanting to give Marie a healing story; then the kala, giving itself at Lisa’s feet; next, Jack and Lisa sharing that gift with Anne, who would paint and print beautiful impressions of the kala; of course, the kala fed them all–even the wild kitties were nourished. Then, as the gifts go forward without expectation, the kala works his way into a story, a story that will teach an important principle. This amazing fish also ends up being framed and having his pictures hung on several walls–including Marie’s, as Jack takes the last vigil at his mother’s bedside. (Any of you who have ever lost a mother, or loved one, will understand the depth of feeling that accompanies that circumstance.) Marie watches the kala print and listens to Jack read her story as she floats in and out, and Jack sees her smile through the fog of her pain killers. He holds her gently; their tears become tears of joy, and victory.

Back on the island, another small victory occurs: the gallery owner accepts the kala prints, and all Anne’s prints. She gives her the chance for her own art show. People come; those attending the opening hear the story behind the prints (Hear that? Prince!)

There comes a month when Anne is short of paying her rent. A call comes from the gallery just before it’s due: It seems a woman who is purchasing several of her prints, including the kala, would like to know if she could take some fish-printing lessons. Anne’s share of the gallery payment is exactly what she needs for her rent, solving her worries. The woman, you should know, becomes a friend, as well as a collector and admirer of Anne’s work. Besides printing for her own enjoyment, she goes on to share the art of gyotaku, or fish printing, with family and friends.

Last, you should know that the kala prince, and his nursemaid fish, who was like Jack’s mother Marie, still live in the hearts and minds of everyone who has heard, and then gone on to tell, this story. The prints of the kala are to this very day hanging on the living room walls of Anne’s, and Lisa and Jack’s homes. New friends remark on the prints when they visit and want to know the story. Looking forward, long after Lisa and Jack, Anne, and the fisherman have disappeared–along with the framed fish prints that were either kept or sold–the story of the magic of giving freely and unexpectedly will go on living in each new wave of our family `ohana, and our keiki, children.

The story is told as it happened. I have told you the details as truthfully as I can remember them. Now it is up to you to receive, then pass on the gift, the secret–and the magic–behind true aloha, as embodied in the golden-eyed kala of the ocean waters surrounding Kaua`i in his last act while yet alive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meka and the Forty Fish

[Congratulations to Brian Doyle for his second-place finish in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]

Kono had two jobs, one of which was driving the bus that most people took to get to the grocery store. Soon after he got that job it had become clear to Kono that the return trip would be crowded beyond belief if he did not amend the structure of the bus, so he and the boatwright built an upper deck on the bus that you could climb to by ladders front and back. The boatwright, being a boatwright, could not help but build a deck that looked very much like the deck of a ship, with a prow and taffrail and rigging and a binnacle with a compass and sextant in it in case of emergencies. People were not supposed to sit up on the deck according to the bus company regulation but Meka loved to sit up there because she loved the wind. The first time she climbed up there, Kono reminded her of the bus company regulation, but she pointed out that as a spirit she was not technically a person, and so, technically, the regulation did not apply to her, which was a good point, Kono acknowledged, so she rode on the upper deck almost every day, smiling in the wind, even on rainy days. The boatwright, after noticing that she had to hold on to the bowsprit with both hands because she didn’t weigh anything, built a tiny forecastle for her, the size of a chessboard, with rounded railings of koa wood and sturdy ropes in case of emergencies, and Meka loved her forecastle, and would go sit there sometimes even when Kono was not driving the bus to the grocery store and back.

            One very windy day Kono was driving the bus along the shore on the way to the grocery when he heard Meka banging her feet on the roof to send him a message. When he pulled the bus over and climbed up to see what was the matter she pointed out to sea and Kono saw the trouble – three people foundering in a small boat. They looked to be in fairly shallow water but the waves that day were terrific and the boat was overturned, so Kono drove off the road and down along the beach as fast as he could go. He parked at the high tide line and he and the passengers jumped out to see what they could do but the people in the water were too far away to reach, and the waves seemed to be bigger by the moment, so everyone got back in the bus to try to imagine what to do. Meka drummed on the roof again with her feet and Kono climbed up to see what the message was and she said we have to drive the bus to them, you drive and I will throw them ropes, so Kono asked the passengers to wait on the beach, and he and Meka drove the bus into the water. The bus was quite new and had a powerful engine and it drove easily right to the three people, who climbed up the ladders and lay down gasping near Meka, who gave them ropes to hold as Kono drove back up the beach. The passengers then took care of the people and dried them off and gave them food to eat and after a few minutes Kono drove back up onto the road and they went on to the grocery store, the bus sloshing a bit and leaving a gleaming trail of sea water behind on the road.

            When they got home that afternoon Kono and Meka cleaned the bus thoroughly, opening all the windows and doors to let air and birds and insects in to calm the bus down, and Meka told Kono about the ono fish she had seen near the three people in the sea. There were forty of them, she said, hovering in a formation shaped like an triangle, and the one in the front, the bluest one, said that while usually they did not pay much attention to people drowning, in this case the three people were children, two brothers and a sister, and to have children die would have been a shame, so they were there to see if they could help. They were glad we came to get the children in the bus. They said they would remember us in case we needed help also someday. I told them where we lived and they told me they lived to the west, in a little bay with no name, where no one fished for them very much and they could raise their own children. They were very polite, Kono, and even though they said they were honored to speak to me I think I was more honored to speak to them, isn’t that so? Kono agreed that this was probably so, and then they went back through the bus again polishing everything until it shone like the sun.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who's A Pig? A Modern Fable.

[Congratulations to Margaret Guiler for her third-place entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]

In the tranquil Koloa neighborhood life was perfect, a glorious and sweet bucolic expression of all being right with the world. A mix of nature with human and other animal habitation. The dogs and cats were on good behavior, not too much barking or yowling at night. The chickens and roosters procreated at a moderate pace and were within bounds with their crowing. The humans smiled with self satisfied pleasure as their gardens grew and their grass flourished.

“Yum, yum, yummy” she said as she looked through the hedge. Then she poked her snout all the way into the yard where she had left off work the night before. It was four a.m. And time to do a little digging. Actually she didn't say those words, but rather several loud but controlled snorts, as in “Snort, snort, snuffle”. But you get the picture.

In they came, Mama Pig and the seven smalls, not in a line but all helter skelter. Mama's discipline was a bit lacking when when she was on the hunt for food. This was the fourth night this week for this yard's treasure trove of worms and grubs, and she snuffled some more minor snorts and began to gouge ever more dirt from the lawn. What a pig's garden of grubbish delight. And she did share with those youngsters quick and strong enough to elbow their way in for a morsel or two.

But what was this sweet smell wafting on the pre-dawn air. “Could that be..... mango? Mixed with a little molasses?” Mama sniffed the air and followed her snout, and although it was pitchy dark, no moon, she could see a shape from whence the deliciousness came. “Oh my goddess, how do I get to that succulence?”

By this time the seven kids had kept up the rototilling of the formerly lovely and pristine lawn all on their own. What a pig sty mess, not a blade of grass lay undisturbed by the young and the hungry.

Hunger getting the best of whatever caution she felt, Mama charged right into the trap, and started to feast on the fruity delights therein. So good to lick up the molasses as you crunch the mango. Heaven on earth. Hog heaven. And Oh, gotta call the kids.

But, uh oh. The door of the trap came down and swatted her all the way into the cage. And it was then it came to her there was no free lunch. She whirled around to escape. Ah, Missy, not so fast. Couldn't budge. Snorting to the kids gave a clear warning so they didn't come close and instead headed south on a dead run.

Then she began to blow, loud and hard, with real anger mounting in fury and frustration. And she started to crash into the sides of the cage tusks ringing on the metal, feet tearing at the flooring beneath her. It was “built” that cage, so there was no give from hitting the sides with her 175 pound bulk.

Ah, but wait. A light from the house nearby came on. And out shuffled an angry scarecrowy looking thing with a peculiar, flappy appearance, tippy toeing with a flashlight and an air of menace. “Aha!” said the scarecrow in its own kind of snorting, and then, “Finally, I got you.”

Mama answered with a snort and a blow which meant, “Horrible being, selfish creature, I was only trying to feed my family, snuffle snuffle, sniff, snort.”

And the scarecrow said, “AARGH”, which meant “Go someplace else. I like nature that behaves and is respectful of my superior human presence. You can stay there until morning. Enjoy those mangoes, they'll be your last.” And with that, Scarecrow went back to the house, and the light went off.

And now in the yard, nothing but the silence of quiet desperation. And some heavy breathing as Mama considered her options. Although she didn't know what Kalua Pig was, she had a sense that things had taken a turn for the worse. One might say she offered a kind of prayer to the pig goddess to help her get out of this mess. She didn't approach being in the trap with a feeling of futility, but instead with a firm resolve: leave or... well, forget the “or”.

Renewed attempts to the sides and floor and top of the cage brought no reward, until she whirled her bulk around and attacked the lowered cage door. Clang, clang, clang went her tusks on the welded steel.

In the house the light went on, the Scarecrow came to the porch.

And with a mighty, Hail Mary shove the Mama Pig hooked her snout under the cage door and lifted it up so that her head and body could follow. She was out, she was free, she wouldn't be Kalua pig after all. She would live to hunt grubs, forage for avocados and mangoes, teaching her piglets the best places to hunt. Like right here! Snorting and blowing with continued fury, mixed with profound relief, she took off, high tailing it out, out and away, and eager to share more grub filled lawns with her babies ….and other friends and family.

So, if you humans have a pig problem, your yard is a ruined mess from pig rooting, your garden destroyed, just consider this: are you being piggish?

As we know, sharing is caring.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Only Thing Certain Is The One Song Of My Heart

[Congratulations to Steve Backinoff for his runner-up entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]

    E Ala E, E Ala E!   May my eyes see only beauty today. May my heart know peace today.

We rolled around again. Rolled the blazing fire out of the sea into the swiftly running puff balls of shifting shapes until this new day shot me firmly in the eye.   A gaggle of nene pass and call. Groups of boobies cruise toward the east side. Solo mature albatross out to collect for their funny fluffy mohawk chicks sitting on open plateau.  Straining to perhaps see kohala breach.

Breathing in this newness, and fighting to dis- remember yesterdays bad dream.  I was blessed to be selected as one of the riders and witnesses on the garbage tour of our garden island. We were shown the gem piles of broken bottles, bundled newspapers, aluminum cans once briefly filled with soft drinks and beers, and miracle of miracles, numba one and two plastics, pressed and wrapped for shipment to China delivered by barges burning oil to factories burning more oil for the smelting and pulping to break down these materials brought into big box stores by other

container barges burning more ancient fossils and eventually sold back to us to make more unneeded packagings for non- nutritious and chemical products. They say it takes a village. I wonder if any one in the village ever stops and listens to the village idiot who sees that the king is naked.

E Ala E, E Ala E,   Wake up again.    Remember the beauty and the peace.

I also went off the road to see how they had blocked off the path to Kipu Falls. Thought maybe just signs.  Saw prison fences , high with barbed wire and viscious rolls of spiked wire , ripping skin wire, right to edge of bridge , to edge of ravine.  You could definitely get hurt bad trying to go to enjoy a swim like we used to. They protect us from ourselves.

May my eyes see only beauty ! May my heart know peace.

We went from the " RECYCLING" center out to the " LAND FILL".   Instructed in the high tech construction with layer after layer of containment for the breakdown of our daily tons of un-recyclable stuff. And standing on the mountain of waste, in the delicious aroma of rot, we could gaze directly down the runway for some sort of jet related to our ability to detect early a missle fired by the North Koreans ( or maybe the Chinese sending just a small bit of our garbage back) and we can then launch our missle to intercept. " Keeping us Safe?"  ( making us a target).

The other views included GMO test crops and the shrimp farm. The foreground.  I look further to the plain of Mana and feel the spirits that have flown off from Polihale grimacing and sickly laughing in disbelief of what we have done.

I begin my awkward wobbling run toward the cliff. I'm alive. I have not been eaten by stray dogs. I have the prayer of flight.  I feel the lift of a stiff ocean breeze just in time.    I am airborne.

I have been here before , many times. I have seen the earth mother take the sky father into her arms. I have seen the embracing of night and day. I have seen the stars exploding in the belly of her and flowing out into the cooling sea hissing with birth, showering sharp flakes of birth.

I have seen the ohia seeds scattered.   Kamakani singing in the lihilihi. A seedling sprout and shout red new life , Lehua. The birds spreading their digestion.   And building , building , building these mountains in the sea.

And we came from the Pleiades.  Us human beings .   Blessed to live in bounty. And be born again from the Kalo tuber.    Cook me in the fire brought to Maui and  his brothers by the secret code of the red combed duck. The secret of wooden sticks spun to spark. Cook me and pound me.   I will give sustainance.   All you need.  From the water of the rains , falling from rocks and the sun that lives in my eyes and belly.   The soil of shell and ash, and bone and bird digestion.

I am home to seed and greenness sprouts from me forever more giving the air for your song.

I run hard up the muddy trail, through the thin veil of bamboo. One portal. Another dimension.

Past the heads of pohaku. I stop to kiss my papa's forehead.  I give thanks for his vision  and solidness. I stop to bathe. For purification. And enter the next portal. This one is thick with shadows. The pain we are given with birth and the pains we acquire from the unpurified pains and fears of our ancestors. I crawl and climb. push and pull. I am torn and worn. I am lost and then found and lost again.   I am driven to find the bones.  If I can get through the last portal and

reclaim the bones.   The dream of the one song of my heart will echo and reverberate singing

fruit and sweetness on all the tongues of all the beings. The song of the whale, the playful soundings of naia. The flitting and whistle of the honey creepers. The joyful family at the hukilau. Full moon glimmering on the waves of the east.

The smiling of the spirits of Aloha. We breath together once more on the trail to forgiveness, bathed in morning dew. We breath together and awake to the dawn , in love, always in love.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Kauaian Geckopepes

[Congratulations to Ronald Horoshko for his runner-up entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]

Centipedes are known to most as scary, fast, and harmful. I on the other hand am quite beautiful, slow, and harmless.
I am a hapa- centipede; my mother was raised in the jungles of Brazil, my father, a gecko, was a dancer from Dumber Ireland.
 As a young Gecko, my father joined a children's theatre troupe where he learned tap. Years later, his journeys took him far away to America where he studied with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They taught him ballroom, swing, and Latin dances.   He returned to Ireland to learn his country's folk dance: Clog or Clogging. He was the headliner,”The Star”, to most of his fan’s he was “Zap”, short for Zapato.  He brought his vision of purity and style to La Fille mal gardée, mesmerizing his audiences to the point of tears.
My father had a slender build, zero body fat, and chartreuse eyes which sparkled as he took to the stage.  His feet were an instrument in the orchestra as they set the beat, tapping with jet fast speed, setting a counterpoint to the high pitched woodwinds, drum rolls and thin violin sounds. The audiences’ responses ranged from frenzied screaming to awed, stone deaf quiet.  When the show ended forty-some minutes later, Zap would stand at attention, sweat dripping from head to tail, and then bow for each of the multiple standing ovations for his amazing foot work. 
The longest running show in Ireland came to a close after three years of sold-out performances.  Zap and his troupe headed to Hawaii for a tour of the Sandwich Islands.
Mom was the world’s best artistic dancer, known for her classical ballet, tango, rumba and foxtrot. She danced the salsa in Mexico, the Irish jig in Ireland, and the polka in Germany. She traveled to New York to dance at Carnegie Hall before President Truman. The Queen of England damed her at the tender age of 18 for her extraordinary virtuosity as a recitalist and actress. Under the stage name Rond de Jambe, she danced the only one women show in the Follies Bergere. She was known for her rendition of the Can- Can, where each set of legs were dressed in mauve tones, tight fishnet stockings with bold dark red seams strutting upwards towards her pure silky white bloomers. Her spike heels glistened with gold and silver glitter. Her petticoats were handmade by her second cousin, Moni, a silk worm that made her way from France to the jungles of her Brazilian relatives.
Mom’s strikingly long legs would kick far above her head, every other leg lifting in unison, as her petticoats ruffled to the 2/4 time beat and slowly folded back to silence as the music stopped.  After each curtain call, Mom would wow the audiences with her grand ecart: a cartwheel.
The romance, the saga, the fable, the yarn, the parable, call it what you want, started on May 22, 1939, at a chance meeting at the Captain’s table of the S. S. Matsonia during its maiden voyage to the Sandwich Islands.  Mom’s raised her glass of Mumm’s Cordon Bouge, 1929 Champagne, her pinky finger arched to the ceiling, and caught a view of Father on the opposite side of the table toasting with ale from Ireland. Her appetite was piqued by the Cornet of Parma Ham, Fresh Shad –Roe with Dill, Papaya Nectar, Artichokes with Musseline sauce and Imported Sardines in Oil and the enchanting spectacle before her.  
The cigarette smoke and music of Carmen enveloped them as they strolled on deck in the bright moon light, the saltiness in the air clinging to them as Dad chattered about his latest performances.  The evening came to a close as Dad softly stoked Mom’s rouged cheeks and kissed her painted lips.  Her heart felt a twinkle and the expectancy of the music they would perform together.
As the S.S Matsonia docked at Nawiliwili Harbor on the shores of the Garden Island, hula dancers clothed in grass skirts and plumeria leis welcomed their arrival.  Their layover was to last only one month before traveling on to the other islands, but Dad wanted more out of life, as did Mom. They loved the aloha. They loved the culture. They adored Hanapepe Theatre. 
They ended their tour and settled down to a life of marital calm and bliss living in the forest of Kokee and raising me and my three brothers.  The storied romance could have ended there, but more arrivals from other parts of the world, including Brazil and Ireland, made Kauai their home. Soon little colonies popped up from Kokee to Hanalei. Once a year, the clan gathered in Hanapepe to hold a festival in Honor of Zap and Rond De Jambe, who would grace the stage and audiences with their versions of clog and ballet, plus a little hula performed by me, Celine  Zapato.  
Mom and Dad are now proud Grandparents.  I met and married my husband, Fred “Daddy Long Legs.” You can just imagine what our kids look like!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why Menehune Came to Kauai

[Congratulations to J. Arthur Rath III for his runner-up written entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]


Menehune whisper secrets along Kokee trails of flora, fauna--even life itself.  These 1942 scenes, so dear to my childhood, are fond recollections I bring into view.*

From down in the valley I watched wisps of ragged clouds spiraling, rising toward the sun, revealing rainbows within misty cores:  Turning silver and spectral, they cycloned into clouds floating over the range into the interior.

I stared, seeking figures within clouds shaped to tell a story.  (Aunty Kalei Lyman told friends: “Ten-year-old Arthur has his head in the clouds!”)

Kahu, my menehune guide, whistled shrilly and gestured.  I followed him to a stream.

I drank cool water, lifting my head I became aware of sweet aroma wafting toward us.  Responding to my quizzical look, Kahu murmured:

 “The scent comes from plum blossoms.  Trees ahead are called palama, Hawaiianized version of the English word ‘Plum.’

“General Albert Kuali’i Lyman, your Auntie Kalei’s brother-in-law, headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Civilian Construction Corps.  He had local young CCC men plant over sixteen thousand plum trees now blooming..  This was done during the Great Depression, fruit is for Kauai residents.”

Kahu gestered toward the grassy mound under a large tree.  “That’s the stage,” he said mysteriously.  “We’ll hide behind large ape leaves to watch the performance.”

I heard giggling and chattering sounds in bushes behind “the stage”.
A stately elderly woman strode out dramatically from the underbrush.  Kahu reaches waist-high to me, she was a bit shorter than he.

“That’s Kupuna,” her name means source for knowledge,” Kahu said and then clapped his hands sharply close to my ears.  “Now you’ll understand her.”

He twisted ape leaf stems to each side, allowing us a clear view of happenings below.

Kupuna sat in front of a big tree, the stage backdrop.

Excited children holding musical instruments appeared from the undergrowth.  A boy carrying a gourd drum placed it in front of Kupuna, they exchanged nods.

Kahu whispered, “Kupuna will vary her chanting pace, moving her head up and down for children to follow her beat.  She’ll use her nose flute to make wailing or lighthearted sounds and will strike the ipu to emphasize parts of her chant.”

A boy handed her stones.  She held two in each hand and went “click, click.”  A heavy-set boy, lumbering from the bushes, lugged part of a tree trunk.  Setting it upright, he tapped the top and looked toward Kupuna.  “The drumhead is covered with taut shark skin,” Kahu explained.

Kupuna click-clicked the stones, nodded for drum beats, and moved her chin up and down to set tempo.  She established a singing melody with her nose flute that other flautists reinforced.

Kahu whispered, “This is the prelude to her story of menehunes’ travels to escape giants that led to their discovering Kauai.”

Kupuna lowered her head when the orchestra finished paused and seemingly reflected.  Raising her head, she did marvelous vocal things--creating sweet melodies and trilling, wailing, making hiccup noises, shrieking, dropping to a low register to sound like a man, and then humming in her upper register.

Kupuna’s chanting style varied: A single tone for historical information, it made each word stand out; holding her voice in her throat and creating a rich, round sound; repeating phrasies, thenadding phonetic patterning to emotions she was conveying.  She enunciated carefully, using both short phrases and prolonged vowels.  Sometimes she added a fluctuating trill.  Her strained guttural tones denoted intensity and added dramatic excitement!
From the corner of his eye Kahu saw my emotional responses during the menehune opera.

Walk across Asian Plains
Into Indonesia
Two million years ago...

Lived in Java’s forests:
Dragons and elephants,
Some of them we hunted.
Some of them hunted us.
Using stone tools, we built
Sturdy dugout canoes,

Fish. cultivating food:
Good life for little ones--
Until Big People come!
We hide in the forests,
Put canoes into caves.
They steal our food, and then
They want to dine on us!

Kupuna looked at the boy with a ti-leaf trumpet next to him and dropped her chin. He picked up the ti-leaf and blew a blood-curdling shriek.  Flute players joined in.  When they put instruments down she continued:

Pele passed on the word:
We now must get away!
They paddled night and day,
Reaching the Marquesas,
Landing on Kahiki.
We thought we found safety,
Right for perfect living:
Lush mountains, waterfalls,
Lagoons teeming with fish.
We farmed and were happy,
Life there was very good.

Then, The Big People came,
As in Java, the same:
Steal crops taking sea food!
Chasing us to devour.
Now we had sail canoes,
Large,very seaworthy.
We filled canoes with yams,
Taro and plants we liked,
Other roots, drinking nuts.

Helmswoman was Pele,
Yes, the redhead herself,
Menehune ruler.
It was revenge time!

Jets of lava gushing,
Pele hurls forth lightning,
Vomits of flames pouring;
“Farewell to Kahiki,
To savage Big People--
To our invaders!

Continuing northward,
Until we discovered

Kupuna stressed the words Paradise and Kaua’i.  She stopped at this, “the denouement!”

She stood and stretched.  Young menehune moved around, chattering excitedly, as if experiencing a sugar high!

Kahu said softly , “Let’s go.  When we come next time you’ll learn why a million menehune left Kauai.  Menehune in the hills will be in the audience if they learn how wonderful the children’s orchestra is!”

We trekked to the stream to drink cool, refreshing water,  I washed sticky sap from my arms.

The mountain breeze had died down, palama blossom scent was absent.

Rapidly moving his head back and forth, Kahu sniffed the air then said: “Wait by this stream.” He disappeared within the bushes.

Parts of what I’d heard replayed in my head, especially Pele’s fiery revenge on the Big People invaders who I realized were cannibals!

Relaxing, not thinking of anything, I looked at spiraling clouds.  Sunlight on misty rain was creating kaleidoscopic spectrums--red, yellow, orange, blue, magenta.  These spread into a double rainbow and the sky seemed aglow!

I heard whistling.  Appearing from bushes near the stream, Kahu walked up and held out a little packet made from ti leaves filled with berries.

“I picked these mokihana for my kuuipo,” he explained.  “She’ll love scenting her clothing with them.  Let’s go. 

“We’ll come back for more Menehune Opera when palama are ripe,” he promised.

And we did.


*My reminiscent phrase about childhood is from “The Old Oaken Bucket,” by William Woodworth (1784-1842), a poem described as “The most beautiful words in the English Language.”

Art credit: Henry Ha'o

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

She Went Walking

[Congratulations to Rocky Riedel for her runner-up written entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]

Once upon a time a child, eyes like the sky and hair rays of sunshine, descended from the clouds on a ladder of pearls. Through the mist she alighted upon the tippy top of a green velvet mountain called Koke’e. Giggling white mushrooms popped up and white furry wishing seeds leapt into the air when her feet touched the ground.

She had never been to this land before. The little girl, lovely and calm, breathed in the beauty all around her. She blinked and winked at a gecko scurrying by. Her eyes twinkled at the chirp of a dove in the sky. A soft warm breeze sprinkled crystal drops of rainbow onto her hair. A blessing for one so blessed.

Oh, how luscious! the little girl thought as she tasted air full of coconut and her toes tickled moist purple earth beneath her feet. She stooped down and scooped some up and put it into her mouth - she couldn’t help herself! The earth was like cake batter made for a queen! Right away she could feel the noble nourishment feed her whole body and burst through her heart.

The little girl was so full of earth kisses that her eyes danced and her arms flew wide open and her smile dazzled even the sun. She was filled with love, with a sweet sense of knowing. She was a conduit between Heaven and Earth.

This land is so holy, so tender, she thought and bowed to the ground.

The little girl started walking on the emerald moss spread out before her like a royal carpet. She went up and went down over hills and dales, between singing trees and flowers painting each other pink. She kept going and going, not knowing where, just walking till she knew she should stop.

And that was when she came upon a frightened pig hiding in a bramble.

Why are you afraid, little piggy? Why are you hiding? Come with me.

And the pig did. He came out of hiding and followed the little girl, not knowing where she would take him.

They walked along until they came upon a goat stranded on the top of a precipice.

Let me help you, said the little girl.

And with that she unfurled a cloth of gold strong enough to hold the goat. He slid down it like on a sliding board, right into her arms.

The piggy and the goat and the little girl started laughing.

See? There is always help nearby. You need not worry. Come. Let’s see who else we can help.

They crossed over a stream and as they did they heard a rock gurgling. Blubbering.

Help me! I’m drowning! it cried.

They stopped and knew exactly what to do. The little girl sang a song that rose through the air and became a balloon. The pig and the goat tied the balloon’s dangling string around the rock. Then they hummed as the little girl’s song raised the rock into the sky. The rock giggled with joy and danced above them and they all continued along their merry way – a happy foursome now – looking for more ways to be of help.

But no one else seemed to need them. The ants were thriving, the mosquitoes were buzzing and people walking by all looked pleased as punch.

It’s almost time for my next stop. Want to come with me? asked the little girl of her new-found friends.

The pig and the goat and the rock huddled and hugged and then decided to stay where they were. They felt there might be more beings needing their help, maybe even the mountain itself.

But the little girl knew she was needed elsewhere. She needed to sniff out and taste the next place to go and find new friends to help and teach how to help others.

She had planted seeds in the hair of the pig and the hoof of the goat and the face of the rock. And the balloon? Well, it was so full of love that it popped! Love burst out and sizzled and drizzled and trumpets soared and wisteria whizzled!

And so,

the little girl went on her way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Auspicious Day

[Congratulations to Julie Wu for her runner-up written entry in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next week as we post other recognized entries.]

Hopena sits up from a cool grass mat on the ground and stretches his back.  It cracks.  He just woke up from a restful sleep.  Although, he wished he stayed out with Ehaka last night.  He gave her a bright red hibiscus flower from in front of his hut and she wore it all night in her hair at the bon fire.  He can still see her radiant smile shimmering in front of him.

All the tribal people were at the bon fire, nobody wanted to miss the festivity.  Some were sitting and chatting in groups.  Some were listening and nodding to the drum beats.  The atmosphere was lively.  There were kids playing catching games.  Laughers were everywhere.  The tall ferocious bon fire was in the middle of their habitat.  Different sized huts enclosed their land from the outside.  The air was warm with cool breeze.

Among the crowd, Hopena and Ehaka stood close next to each other listening to the drum beat, “Daa Daa Da Daa, Daa Daa Da Daa, Daa Daa Da Daa…..” two long, one short, one long.  The drummers continued this rhythm.  It mesmerized Hopena’s whole body and he naturally rocked from side to side like ocean waves flapping to the rough sand.  His heart was beating with excitement.  There were dancers, waving their arms in circular subtle motions while alternating lifting their legs, dancing in joy.  The bon fire, behind the dancers, casted beautiful curvy shadows on the sand, doubled the number of dancers, all in sync with the drum beats.  Hopena took a quick shy look at Ehaka’s face which was basking in the reflection of the bon fire.  He glanced away couldn’t resist a proud smile.

The brilliant white full moon hung on the sky was translucent behind the opaque black clouds.  Not a star in sight.  The full moon although seemed so far away was telling Hopena everything would be all right.  All through the night, the ocean waves murmured as he slept.  He felt so happy and he wakes up with a fulfilled feeling inside of him.

Like a ritual, Hopena looks out the small window with his sparkling brown eyes which sat tightly underneath his bushy dark eyebrows.  He counts there are exactly eight casuarinas.  The sea is calm with soft ripples.  He takes a deep breath inhaling in the sticky salty sea.  Golden sun rays are seeking through behind a giant thick gray cloud above the horizon; and it formed a pinkish orange silk band wrapping around the infinite sky.  Ocean, pinkish orange silk band, giant thick gray cloud and golden sun rays are stacked on top of each other.  It’s like the sky is a canvas with the most amazing painting.  How does it do it every day?  He is astonished that nature can be so miraculous.  Click!  He captures a mental picture of this magnificent view.

“Hey lazy head, wake up!” Hopena taps Mahope’s head.

Mahope is his older brother and they are going to the South Shore today.  Hopena has to plant a eucalyptus tree at the end of the tree tunnel and he needs Mahope’s help.

Mahope doesn’t appreciate the morning as much as Hopena.  He grunts, waves his brother away, then turns his body to another side dozes off again.

Hopena shakes his head then walks out.  He has to lower his head in order to exit.  He is too tall, at six feet and three inches, already a heroic height for a young soul.  He gains a quick view around then stretches his arms, relaxed and confidently walks toward the crowd.  His father is already at the communal fire serving breakfast to the tribe.

Hopena’s father, Moholo, is the tribal cook which means he is well respected.  The whole tribe’s welfare relies on him.  He is humming a cheerful tune as he is serving his people.

Today is auspicious.

 “Good morning father.”

“I heard you slept well.”  Even though Moholo is a head shorter than his son, he reaches out his aged left hand and proudly messes up Hopena’s hair like he is still a six-year-old boy.

Hopena shrugs his slouching shoulders weighted by strong muscular biceps as he is getting his breakfast.  He can’t believe his father is still treating him like a child, especially in front of Ehaka.  He sees her sitting on the grass eating with her little sister.

Ehaka has on hala leaves braided haku on her head and ankle leis.  She is wearing a green pau skirt matching the grass.  The pau skirt has sea turtle patterns around the bottom and pineapple pattern around the top.  Her long black hair, full with curls, is hanging loosely around her slim even toned shoulders.  She is wearing ivory seashell necklace and peridot ear-rings.

Her chubby little sister is chatting non-stop with animated expressions seems to recount weeks of events in a millisecond.

“Good morning, Ehaka.”  Hopena’s voice is cheerful.

“Good morning.” Ehaka has a sweet voice.  She looks into Hopena’s fantasy telling eyes.  She loves his angular face and sharp jaw line.  She thinks his prominent nose defines his powerful character.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, did you?” She smiles like an angel.

“Yes, thank you.”

Hopena sits down next to Ehaka as her little sister giggles and mumbles about something that she needs to take care of right away and runs off.

“Would you like to go to the North Shore and watch the sunset with me today?”  Hopena asks.

“I won’t want to miss it; especially today.”

Both of them smile.  They enjoy each other’s company in peace.  They stare out into the sea.  The ocean is tranquil.  Small ripples folding into the sand in serene pace.  Hopena can feel his heart is pumping at the same pace as the ocean ripples.  The dark cloud has dissipated and now the sky is clear, filled with golden tangerine rays and multiple puffy big white clouds shaped like mushrooms.  The magical canvas is producing another amazing painting…

“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” he says as they slowly stroll along the ripples; feeling the ocean embracing him, Hopena recalls his first swimming experience.

“I remember the first time I learned to swim.  While walking into the ocean, I felt waves beating on my body and sand moving beneath my feet, caused such an unbalanced sensation.”

Ehaka looks at Hopena’s beaming face.  She loves looking at his expressions.  Her dark azure eyes are radiating on her tanned face with thick eyebrows angularly curved above them.  Her red pouty lips curve up on the right.  She has distinctive high cheekbones.

“Was it a good feeling?” she asks.

“Oh, yes.  I loved it!  I could still feel the sensation as I laid on the ground days after.  It’s like the earth was moving and I could feel the waves massaging my body.”

They sit side-by-side for a while, listening to the ocean waves and watching it reflecting in the sun’s glisten.

“You know, I can feel the earth in my heart.  I feel the ocean in my heart.  I always know that I belonged to the earth ever since I was a boy.”  Hopena stops then says, “I will come to get you in the afternoon,” taking Ehaka’s left hand into both of his hands, squeezes it lightly, pauses, then finally letting it go.  He feels fuzzy inside and wants to sit with her for a while longer.

Ehaka follows Hopena with her eyes as he walks away.  Her eyebrows twitched unexpectedly and she feels a sudden chill wind glooming her face.

Mahope sluggishly walks out of the hut.  He has no problem getting out of the door.  He is standing straight on the ground with muscular thighs and calves shown that he has been working in the field.

Hopena walks to the Hala tree with its trunk protruding above the ground like multiple tripods and sturdy bi-layer shades of jade leaves like arms.  Yo, beastly solider from heaven, you have been protecting us well.

There are tribal people walking by greeting him.

“Good Morning!”

“Have a good day!”

“Going to the tree tunnel?” Someone asks.

“Yes, I am on my way.”  Hopena replies.

“You will do fine.”

Their warm wishes make Hopena feels joyous.

When they selected this plot of the land as their home, the whole tribe assisted them building their hut.  While Mahope was chopping off trees and putting together the hut with the tribal men, Hopena went to the West Shore to gather volcanic dirt to use as a seal to prevent rain.  It is especially deep rich reddish brown dirt found only on this island.

That day, Hopena arrived early in the morning at the bottom of the canyon; he could see the rich red color on the summit.  He estimated that it was reachable within a day’s trip.  His face glowed caused by sharp pointing lights from the sun.  He followed the natural winding road ascending the canyon.  Even though as a warrior, he’s not good at adjusting to elevation.  He felt sick in his stomach so he took many breaks.  He took these opportunities to enjoy the view.

He could see the canyon has many layers and each layer had its own shade of brown earth mixed with different shades of green moss.  The whole canyon depicted an evolutional time line! As he continued, he started a game.  He searched for any recognizable shapes hidden in the canyon.  He saw a figure of an old man with long beard, reminded him of Uncle Ulu; a rooster with multi-colored tail, a bird with red crown that was indigenous only on the South Shore….  They represented endless unique paintings.  He kept on taking mental images and rewound them in his head.  It made the trip so much more enjoyable.

That day, the gray speedy clouds covered the sky like it was concentrating on an impenetrable task at hand.  Is the Earth moving faster than the clouds or the other way around?  Hopena looked down the steep canyon and saw the infinite bottom.  The higher he climbed the brighter the red dirt became.  Looking at the red dirt, he felt alive and powerful.  The wind was strong propelled him further into the canyon.

The indigo sky appeared and the pure cloud seemed to be underneath his feet.  He ascended into the clouds!  Did I enter into heaven?  He advanced so high that the bottom of the canyon disappeared.  Haze and cloud merged beneath his feet.  It’s misty and the air seemed to sizzle around him.  The air is thin.  He rubbed his eyes, when his vision came into focus; the brightest red dirt was right here!  He started digging.  It popped!

Just then, his spirit separated from his body as he flew up into the sky.  As he was getting exhilarated with the sensation, the next thing he remembered was that he was carrying bags of red dirt as he was descending the canyon following a family of NeeNeee birds swaying their tails in front of him.  They seemed to guide him back to the bottom of the canyon.

I couldn’t wait to return home and tell this to father!

Now, Hopena takes a good look at the reddish color accentuated hut and realized that it stands out from the rest of the other huts around their compound.   Hopena turns his head and waves to Ehaka.

“Hey, why are you still standing out here?”  Mahope taps Hopena’s head and briskly walks to the communal table.

“Wait up!”

Mahope quickly stuffs his mouth like a pig ready to be roasted making his rounded face even rounder.  His large dark brown eyes, with family resemblance bushy eyebrows evenly situated above his eyes, seem to pop out of his face as he is trying to wolf down his breakfast.

“Hey, it’s time to get going.”  Mahope walks and talks at the same time.

They set out to the South Shore.  The friendly sun is mild, a bit breezy with cool wind.  Scattered shower starts to develop.

“I will race you.”  Hopena throws out a challenge.

“Not a chance I will let you beat me.” Mahope shouts.

They start to run.  They gallop through the over grown field with short fern shrubs high to their knees.  Scaring flocks of roosters sending them flying to all different directions.   Some quickly escaped to the top of the fern trees with their black, red and blue long cascading tails.  Both brothers, have sun tanned bodies, are swinging their muscular arms for speed.  Their feet are barely touching the firm ground.  Their long dark hair fluttering away from their faces seem to provide them with wings.  They are flying!

As Hopena turns his head to check on his brother, he notices a visible rainbow appears behind the mountain.  He slows down marveling at the rainbow.

Isn’t this wonderful!

“Don’t you think I will let you win!”  Mahope takes this lucky chance and runs past him.

Hopena doesn’t care.  He stops and enjoys this moment of glory.  He takes in deep breathes of clean air stretches out his lungs and soaks in revitalizing energy.

Mahope stops, realizing his brother doesn’t want to race anymore.  He wonders why his brother is this way.  Rainbow is a common occurrence on this island.  He pulls off a fern shrub, toys it in his hand, and walks toward his brother.

“Hey, it’s not like this is the first time you see a rainbow.”

“I know...”  Hopena smiles broadly and slowly joins his brother continuing on their journey.  He realized that his brother would not understand his love for this land.  The whole field is luminescing in the golden splendor sun.  There are violet and fuchsia flowers blooming everywhere.  In the distance, lanky old fern trees are swaying gently in the breeze.  Far away passed a river is a mastiff waterfall.  There are various shades of stubby emerald shrubs growing on both sides reflecting in the water.  It is spring, lucid clean water gushing out in full force into an aqua river.  They can hear it from where they are and feel the vibration underneath their feet.  Is it calling me?  Hopena?  Is it time to return back to nature?  Is it time?  If it is not because he has a mission today, Hopena would jump into this blessed river and go for a swim.

It is melancholy shaded and pleasantly cool as they travel through the great eucalyptus tree tunnel.  The air is humid.  Every time Hopena walked through this 500 eucalyptus tree tunnel, he is always subdued by the soothing minty scent permeating in this area.  How can anyone not love his island as much as he does?

After Hopena plants his tree, both brothers take a break as they eat morsels of tender dry meat and fresh vegetables their father prepared for them; feeling the blue tropical breeze as they savor in silence.  Hopena reflects on that day after he returned from the West Shore.

After Hopena returned with red volcanic dirt, he told his father about his experience right away.  Hopena’s experience spread out the whole tribe and they started to treat him like he was a God.

“Let’s talk, son.” Moholo came to Hopena one afternoon.

After they walked a while along the beach, “You know I am proud of you,” Moholo spoke in an even toned voice, “I think it’s time.”

They arrived at a sacrificial sacred ground on a cliff which is formed with black volcanic rocks in a circular shape.  Some tribal people recently visited this place and left fresh flowers on these rocks.  They sat down in the middle of this union, Moholo started to chant.  Intense wailing sounds echoed throughout the area.  Hopena joined his father.  After a while, they stopped.

“You know about our people.  We believe in the power of gods and we want to become like them.  It’s this consumption that allowed our survival.  Your story at the West Shore got our people exhilarated.  We are all very proud of your experience.  It’s time that we proceed with the sacrifice.  Our chief has appointed me to following our ritual and the day after the next full moon, you will become a part of us forever.”  Moholo recited slowly in a mono-toned deep voice of what he had contemplated for days.

“I see, father.  I am proud to have been chosen.”  Hopena replied.

Afterward, Hopena came to this sprouting horn to pray to the island gods.  That day, he listened in peace to the calling of the spouting horn just like right now.

Legend has it that the island gods arrived here at this exact spot.  They taught the tribal people about all the treasures that nature was able to produce on this island.  Unfortunately, there was no edible flesh so the gods sacrificed themselves.  This was the only way that the tribal people would never need to cry out of hunger and pain like the sprouting horn.  Hopenao opened his eyes after he prayed to the island gods.

“Do you think the eucalyptus tree I planted will remain on this island forever?”  Hopena asks out loud but not really looking for an answer.

“Of course, it will.  Your soul will be with us always.  The other 500 souls are still here, aren’t they?”  Mahope says.

Hopena thinks about his life so far.  “I am fortunate that I am able to enjoy all the nature has provided us.”

“Of course, brother.  We are fortunate.”

Now the sky is silver blue with patches of mellow primrose clouds shaped like scattered paw prints.  It’s getting hot.  There is a pair of enormous turtle frolicking in the current.

“I have to get back to pick-up Ehaka.”

“Ya, I have to get back to the field.  Come on let’s go.”  Mahope pats on Hopena’s shoulder.

Ehaka is waiting for Hopena in front of his hut.  She has on a purple sarong with hazel mountain and khaki fish patterns.  In her hair is the hibiscus flower still fresh from last night.  Her face is emitting a charming smile.  Hopena’s heart skips a beat.

“This is for you.” Hopena presents her a chopped coconut ready for consumption.

“You should have it.”

“I want you to have it.”

Ehaka plucks two stems from a shrub and makes them into straws.  They share the coconut.

They hold hands strolling along the beach heading to the North Shore, known for its intense colored sunset.  There are ancient lush fern trees heavily planted along the way provided ample of shade.  In the meadow, soft grass filled the whole area and wild hogs are roaming freely.  In front of their eyes, bountiful tiny buds are blossoming instantaneously into flowers.  Far away, there is a mountain top shaped like a giant sleeping with his nose pointing above.  Looks like, he is drinking raindrops falling from the sky.

Their eyes follow the ocean into the abyss, they can see the ocean with hues of sage and turquoise, and darker the hue the deeper is the ocean.  Serendipity, they spot a colossal whale.

“Look, it’s blowing water into the air!”  Ehaka says as she points to the horizon.

“Look, there is another whale next to it.  It’s arching its back.  Oh, it reaches so high! Did you see it splashes into the ocean?  Wow, what a sight!” Hopena says as he wraps his arms around Ehaka’s waist.  “I can be here always.”  He takes a deep breath soaking in Ehaka’s scented hair.

Ocean waves become rough further up north.  Hopena walks closer to the current.

“Don’t go too far!” Ehaka warns, “The rip currents are higher than you!”

Hopena picks up a seashell and puts it next to his ear.  The hollow sounds extending deep dark secrets of nature.

“Listen to this.” He walks back to Ehaka and puts the white seashell next to Ehaka’s ear.

She smiles and starts dancing with the seashell.  Her hair is blowing in the wind and the amber sun is gleaming right behind her.  “I love to listen to this.”

They join hands.  Sounds of ocean waves are their only companion.  They stop, look into each other’s eyes and kissed.  Beside their feet, two small red crabs sliding pass in awkwardly funny horizontal steps.

“Let’s go to our secret spot.”  Hopena takes Ehaks’s hand and they head to a location where they could see the most intense red and orange hues of the sunset only known to them.  A flock of seagulls are flying above their heads.  Another flock of brown birds with yellow peaks just took off into the horizon.  It’s paradise!

Hopena takes out sliced pineapple and they picnic as they wait for the sun to set.  The yellow pineapples are sweet, melt in their mouths.  They feel warmth on their faces as they watch the sun slowly dipping into the abyss; gold, pink, red, yellow and so many more colors captivating their feelings for each other.

“I want you to have a good day.” Ehaka says.

“I am having a good day with you.” Hopena speaks softly.  “I want you to be happy always.”

“I will.”

“What can I do for you?”

“Just hold me.”

They snuggle in front of the sunset.  Time lapses and it is now dark.  It starts to drizzle gently.

“It’s time to head back.”  Hopena breaks the silence.

The rain persists when they return back to the tribe.  The whole tribe is patiently waiting for them in front of their colony.  Moholo’s short and stocky body is standing in the middle of the crowd looking proudly at Hopena.  Mahope is standing next to him.  Moholo, walks to Hopena, paternal affectionately holding a gourd with both of his hands.

“Drink this.  It will help you sleep well tonight.”

Soon, Hopena falls asleep in Ehaka’s arms.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Winners Announced

KauaiBackstory is pleased to invite you to an evening of recognition and readings by the winners of the 2012 Creative Competition.

The top three winners, in no particular order, for the 2012 Creative Competition, with a theme of “Fairy Tales, Fables & Myth” are:

Brian Doyle
Margaret Guiler
Dawn Fraser Kawahara

First, second and third place will be announced at a special reception on Monday, November 19, 2012, at Small Town Coffee, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Due to the length of submissions, only the three winners will be invited to read at this reception, although we would like to recognize the following runners-up for their entries, which will also be published on

Steve Backinoff
Ronald Horoshko
J. Arthur Rath III
Rocky Riedel
Julie Wu

There was no award given for the visual category.

Publication of the contest winners and runners up will begin posting on the day after the public reading.

We’d like to extend a big mahalo to Darien Gee, our guest judge this year, the Garden Island Arts Council for sponsoring the prize money, and Small Town Coffee for being our gracious host. is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. We delight in words and images that shift thinking and open minds. Much like a blog, encourages interactive dialogue with the hopes that the time-honored tradition of kama'ilio, talk story, will build community and understanding.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Fairy Tales. Fables. Myth.

We are happy to announce our seventh annual writing competition. This year’s theme, “Fairy tales. Fables. Myth" is again sponsored by the Garden Island Arts Council. Our guest judge is author Darien Gee.

Cash prizes will be awarded in the following manner. Written: First place, $100; second place, $75; third place, $50. Visual: One $100 award. Winners and other noteworthy contributors will be posted on and invited to read on a special night in November. (Date and place to be determined.)

Writing form does not matter—essay, story (imagined or real), memoir or poems are all welcome. Visual entries must be submitted in jpg format.

As in previous years, entries must be relevant to Kauai, in some manner. is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. We look for writing that builds understanding, not walls. We encourage writing and imagery that engenders respectful dialogue for we believe one way to build community is through conversation. values the expression of all voices and delights in words and images that shift thinking and open minds threading us ever closer together in this calabash of a world in which we live. Entries will be judged on whether they achieve this vision or not.

A student category will be created pending interest and writing quality.

Contest participants may submit one entry per category. That is, participants may submit one written entry and one visual entry; however, you may not submit more than one written entry or more than one visual entry. This also means you get once chance per category to get it right, so please double-check spelling and grammar before hitting send. Please do not submit revised entries. We recommend using 12 pt. Times New Roman font on written entries. Please do not use a stylized typeface; do not use colored type fonts; do not use a variety of different type sizes. Entries must be pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) and sent to Images must be sent as a jpg attachment. On images, please do not include a name superimposed or embedded into the jpg in any way.

Visit to view the quality of works posted and the blog’s mission statement.

The deadline for submitting entries is midnight HST September 30, 2012. Entries must be pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) and sent to Images must be sent as a jpg attachment. is intended to serve as a timely, interactive forum. Readers are encouraged to visit often and post comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fairy Tales. Fables. Myth.

Wednesday, May 16. 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Small Town Coffee, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii.

Grimm. Once Upon A Time. Mirror Mirror. Notice how popular fairy tales are in movies and on television? Novelists have long turned to mythology to tell their stories. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Eowyn Ivey’s Snow Child.

Nationally best-selling author Darien Gee joins us to introduce the new anthology, Don’t Look Back: Hawaiian Myths Made New. We’ll spend an hour talking about how mythic construction, the hero’s journey and archetypes infuse writing of all types.

In the second half of our night, we’ll read. Darien will kick us off. Then, Kauai writers are invited to share their work. As usual, writers will be given up to five minutes to read on a first-come, sign-up basis. Please arrive on time to sign up.

Darien Gee resides with her family in Kamuela on Big Island. Her most recent novel, Friendship Bread, was released in 2011. Previous novels, Sweet Life and Table Manners were published under pen name, Mia King.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I "Heart" Animals

[Congratulations to Pam Woolway for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition.]

He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Later that day I would call him Kenny, named for the friend who helped coax him from beneath our truck, but I get ahead of myself.

My husband Wes is a paddler. His relationship with water is why we moved to Kauai 10 years ago. Wes, a paddle buddy named Kenny and I, were on our return drive from the boys having done a “run.” A “run” for a paddler is a trip by sea along the coast of the island. I had dropped them off with their boats in Poi’pu a few hours earlier and we were driving north on the highway from Ele’ele.

That’s when we saw him. The goat, soon to be christened Kenny, was on a thin strip of asphalt running along the highway. Accelerating up the steep incline with a parade of other weekend drivers, Wes spotted him first.

“Whoa, check out that dog? No. Wait. That’s a goat,” he said as he slowed to approach the running goat from behind.

Fearing the worst, a panicked b-line into traffic, Wes realized his mistake and pulled back on to the highway to cruise a few hundred yards ahead of this little gray goat no larger than my 25-pound terrier.

Our friend Kenny jumped from the truck on the passenger’s side while Wes and I climbed out next to the 50-mile per hour traffic racing past. As soon as I knelt next to the rear bumper of the truck, the goat began to bleat and run faster toward us. Thankfully he recognized us for the saviors we were intended to be.

He slid past me to seek shelter beneath the truck. Kenny and I drew him out and I rode the remaining miles home to Kapaa in the bed of the truck with this goat nesting in my lap.

At home he immediately fit into our little family of three juvenile sibling cats and three curious dogs. Our terrier, Flip, was the one most endeared to him, and the little goat now named Kenny, sparred with her ruthlessly for the rest of the afternoon.

“I want to keep him,” I said, stating the obvious.

My marriage is one of mutual support. I shuttle Wes when he wants to do a “run” with his buddies, no questions asked. In exchange I get to bring home any wayward animal in need of a pillow and a warm meal. It’s a very nice arrangement.

The next morning I sat drinking coffee on a bench beneath our Kari tree in the backyard idly scratching Kenny between his two nubby horns. In Flip’s exuberance to greet him, he startled and leapt straight up in the air to land lightly on my lap I didn’t even spill a drop of coffee -- he was that nimble. That’s when I realized how very small he was: the points of his hooves didn’t even dig into my thighs. He was definitely lighter than Flip.

Kenny followed me around the yard as I watered and when I’d disappear into the house he’d stand on the back patio bleating.

“He is obviously someone’s pet,” Wes said with a warning in his voice.

I didn’t want to hear that. “I want him,” I whined.

To further enforce my case I drove fence posts into the ground and wrapped five-foot high
chicken wire around them to create a 15 by 15 foot corral for Kenny.

Wes returned from work that Wednesday quite impressed. Twelve years of marriage and I’d never displayed any handywoman prowess.

I was motivated.

Then my conscience got the best of me and I told Wes I’d list him as a found pet in the paper. I offered to even make a phone call to one of the only people I knew on the West Side.

“Hey Shan, it’s Pam,” I said into the phone. Shan works for my brother-in-law in Ele’ele and is a
native of these islands. “You don’t happen to know of anybody missing a goat?”

She said she didn’t. Whew.

But then she added, “I know a lady who raises goats and can call her.”

Shucks. “Um, okay. Call me back.”

A few minutes later she calls to describe my goat and say this friend has a son who lost a goat over the weekend.

“And it’s not a baby goat Pam,” she chides. “It’s a pigmy goat.”

Damn that coconut wireless. “Why did I make that call?” I scolded myself.

The following day Kenny accompanied me to my job at the Kauai Humane Society where his “real” owner met me.

As we walked Kenny on a leash to his truck I asked what the goat’s real name was.

He looked at me quizzically and said, “Gabe.”

For some reason I found this funny coming from a big, handsome Hawaiian guy named Kawika.

He sort of blushed and smiled.

“My daughter named him.”

That’s when my goat envy vanished. There was a little girl at home waiting for my Kenny.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Taro Nagashi 

[Congratulations to Jean Rhude for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

I live on an Island in the Pacific Ocean. It is located half way between North America and Asia. They say that an ancient chant still sung by New Zealanders about celestial navigational routes, will lead you across this great expanse of ocean to the Wailua River on the island of Kauai. Kauai is a gentle place where the cultures of the East and those of the West blend beautifully with what are left of the Polynesian culture. I moved here seven years ago drawn by a silent chant, the coconut wireless, as modern locals refer to it. I make my home near the Wailua River. I came here to heal.

. . . .

The child's blue eyes sparkle as he watches from atop his fathers' shoulders. At about five years of age he is aware of the solemnity of the event. Even the lights strung along the park, at the river, seem to know better than to appear festive on this night. Even the ringing of the bells and clanging of the symbols carry a resonance of seriousness. This is not like when he and his father launch their kayak or picnic here on the bank of the Wailua River.

There is no program, just a quiet surrender to the unfolding of the event. Undoubtedly the coconut wireless has sent her silent message and I am captive to the ancient unfolding. I am here by her invitation, an invitation that nourishes like the milk from her cavity. I am both a participant and an observer.

The mostly Japanese participants welcome the other Asians, Caucasians, Hawaiians and Portuguese that make up the crowd of 150 or so. A portable altar is faced so that Sensei can look out to the river as he chants and lights a candle. A line forms and members of the Jodo Buddhist Temple bow before the altar as they pass in single file, bowing and dipping their fingers into a bowl of water. It reminds me of taking communion.

Several go to the hundred or so lanterns attached to a series of five barges and begin to light each individual one. Each lantern is inscribed with the name of someone who has died and for whom it has been purchased. This ceremony symbolizes their spirits returning. It is believed that the family members come down from the mountains/afterlife to help with the planting and harvest during the Bon season and now they return as the lanterns are floated out toward the sea, lighting their way. The boat that will pull them is lighted by a large lantern and an offering of fruit is placed inside. The barges, each containing twenty or so lighted lanterns, attached to the barge with a decorative lotus blossom, are gently placed in the water. Immediately their illumination is intensified by their reflection. The full moon shows through the swaying palm tress.

Slowly the series of barges are taken up the river and then brought back down where they pass the crowd of people on the shore. We are mostly holding hands or hugging. Young children sit on the sea wall and their Tutu's, (Grandmothers), have brought them couchin, paper lanterns, attached to sticks, with candles inside. They sit and watch in silence, dangling their feet just above the water.

There is the fragrance of incense. I stand holding the hand of my sister and we silently contemplate the lantern we have purchased for our mother and also one for my son. We do not know the precise lantern that floats their names but this is not important in the collective glow of their light. I consider the healing represented by grieving in this way, with strangers, whose shared experience is stronger than our separateness.

We share in the glow of that mingled light in a celebration of our collective love of our ancestors. It feels good to create ceremony here in this land that has become my home.

The young father leans low to explain to his son, the sweet boy with blond curls and blue eyes, "The candles are for peoples’ family members who have died. The candles light their way."

“Their way to where daddy,” the boy asks.

I listen closely to what the young man will say. His gentle reply, ". . . on their way to eternity."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicken Little Calling

[Congratulations to Hob Osterlund for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

On a windy day in January, 2011, dense clouds body-slammed Kaua`i’s north shore with torrential rain. Within an hour of the deluge, dozens of waterfalls gouged vertical valleys of the Na Pali coast, canyons more typically draped by gentle green shadows. The Hanalei River ran milk chocolate and flooded its banks. A robocall went out to every home on the island.

“This is your Kauai Civil Defense Agency,” the flat Voice said, then issued a four-word declaration. “The sky is falling.” Click, buzz.

I did not alert Ducky Lucky. I did not run to tell the king. I did not follow Foxy Loxy to his lair. I did squeal like Piggy Wiggy. I did play the message several times before the power went. I did scratch my head and try to figure which of my friends could be so crazy good at faking a robocall. Ultimately I decided the call was authentic and began a new line of questioning. Why would any civil defense agency have a sky-is-falling option? Is there a pre-recorded stable of messages for every possible catastrophic event, or is each an original? If the latter, did the Voice emanate from an unwitting man whose parents failed to read him fairy tales when he was, er, little?

Perhaps it was recorded by a well-meaning government employee eager to make light of heavy rain. The humor would not have been altogether inappropriate, since it was not truly a disaster ----unless you count decades of saving (Henny) Pennies for a sunny Hawai`i vacation. No homes or livelihoods were truly threatened. No lives were lost except possibly a few dozen roosters too high on their own relentless crowing to notice their feathers floating. Of course, there was bad news elsewhere in the world. There were disastrous explosions and horrible diseases and shocking betrayals; there was the ongoing international epidemic of spiritual blindness. But there was also some better news: that day Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took breath unassisted by a ventilator and wiggled her toes on command. A Cooper’s hawk took shelter inside the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Zsa Zsa Gabor took courage and smiled, her leg just amputated. Nothing was reported about whether she wiggled her remaining toes.

Back on Kauai, electricity was restored and another robocall went out. “This is your Kauai Civil Defense Agency.” On the edge of my seat, I was eager for the next sentiment. A confession of comic relief? A comforting quote from Drakey Lakey? Or would words gush like a geyser from a lower realm of human response, soaking the terminal paycheck of a suddenly-unemployed worker?

“The message you received earlier was a test message sent by mistake,” declared Mr. Nasal Voice, then repeated all four guilty words. “The sky is falling.” The sentence dangled in space like a once-omniscient, now-decommissioned satellite. “Please disregard and we’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

What? Disregard a falling sky? Forgive the inconvenience of a panicked stampede of Turkey Lurkeys and Cockey Lockeys tumbling hell-bent toward the palace, scaring the poor king? Forget about Foxy-Loxy’s hungry intentions toward a vulnerable, plump-breasted Gander Lander?

Then, a final robosentence. “Please do not call the police.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think I heard a subtle plea in the Voice. Perhaps the repentant tone Chicken Little used, acorn squirreled under his wing.