Last month, I visited ke one(pronounced as o-nay) hanau (the sands of my birth) on beautiful Moku o Keawe - also known as Hawaii Island. It has been over two years since I visited this beautiful island of Hawaii. Thanks to a reunion with my college roommates of 44 years ago and to the generosity of one, we stayed in a cottage by the ocean on the western side of the island. The salt air permeated and nourished our bodies and minds. The sound of the ocean was ever in our ears. There were no schedules.
Every morning I was the first to get up - I was so excited to see the beach as the sun rose. I changed quickly - and walked toward the ocean taking a short little path. I stood on the beach in the cool morning air, looking at the ocean and at the dark lava rocks standing like little islands in the sea. Big sea turtles crawled on those rocks and slept there during the day. Small, gentle waves in the distance kept rolling towards the shore rhythmically. The clouds reflecting the sunrise's peach and pink were mirrored in quiet tide pools.
I could see Maui's huge mountain, Haleakala, nestled in a bank of light purple and salmon clouds in the distance. I inhaled and exhaled deeply and felt happiness in my bones.
It got hot later in the morning, but the ocean trade winds always kept us comfortable. At night we took mats to the beach to lie down and look at the many stars. The Big Dipper, Bootes, Arcturus and other constellations twinkled at us. Saturn and Jupiter shone steadily. Shooting stars thrilled us!
My old friends and I reminisced over meals. We sat in the warm ocean tide pool or in the shade of the old kamani tree - appreciating the place and all of it's plants and animals. A family of brown Francolins lived there. Three young ones followed their parents, all in a line, looking for food. They sometimes ran quickly across the yard and blended in with the sand. Every now and then one of the parents would shout out a huge unmistakeable bird song that sounded like part hyena and part cackle. I was amazed.
We took a trip to Hilo one day and drove on the new Saddle Road. It's called the Saddle Road because the road goes right between the great mountains Mauna Kea also called Mauna a Wakea and Mauna Loa. The road is beautiful - open vistas on the western side and gorgeous rain forests on the eastern side.
The turnoff to Hale Pohaku or the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy sits at the top of the saddle. I wanted to visit the mauna (mountain) and offer my gratitude. The drive up to the center began in fog and light drizzle. We drove slowly up the road. As we got higher, the weather started to clear. And then the mamane trees came into sight. Mamane is a beautiful hardwood tree. Its seeds are the only food for the honeycreeper, the palila bird. Its round oval-like leaves and yellow flowers are an important Hawaiian medicinal.
Hale Pohaku sits at 9,000 feet. We parked, and as I walked towards the protectors, who are protesting the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope, I saw a truck with an open bed hosting a beautiful big yellow sign that said "Aloha Aina." This means love of the land. Two Hawaiian flags in the corner of the truck's bed flew in the occasional breeze. I stopped to chat with two women sitting on either side the sign. As often happens on Hawaii Island, one of the women turned out to be my high school classmate from 50 years ago! The young Mauna A Wakea protectors were parked across the street from the center. But before I went to say aloha, I walked behind them and climbed a small hill. The air was dry and clear, the sky blue. There were a number of beautiful mamane trees in bloom. It was open and spacious. The sun was warm and the land sacred. It felt so good to be walking on the 'aina (land). I looked up and saw the summit - 13,796 feet above sea level or 33,000 feet from its base underwater. It looked so very majestic and lofty with white puffy clouds slowing passing by.
Pausing at a small rock ahu (altar) a little way up the path, I offered a pule (prayer) of gratitude for being there and for all the people who are protecting the mountain and those who are not. Then I went to meet the protectors and gave them a warm hug, thanking them for serving there. They returned my hug with warmth, and my heart filled. Tears dropped as I left. Love was there all around me each day. I hope you can feel that love as you read this.