The Kula Botanical Gardens

I have lived in Kula for almost a year and have never taken the time to go to the Kula Botanical Gardens which is only a few miles from my home. But, last Sunday I remedied that particular remiss and decided to drive up. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect–slightly cool, sunny skies with a light tropical breeze–like I said…perfect.

I entered through the gift store where I paid an entrance fee. The cashier Harlan was a delightfully chatty fellow and I received some history, heard some lively stories and was given a great map of the grounds. Right out the back of the store is a path leading directly to a cage with two Jackson Chameleons which look like miniature dinosaurs. For our entertainment, Harlan came out to feed them a couple of mealy worms. The male was particularly interested and from a great distance flung out the longest tongue I’ve ever seen. It curled around the worm and recoiled in a flash. My photos, unfortunately, I took through the screen of the cage and were not in focus so you will have to imagine this scene.

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The garden path winds down to a Koi pond filled with colorful fish. They didn’t appear afraid of strangers and lazily swam past me several times, probably looking for a handout.

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In this same area was a little waterfall which added to the serenity of the ponds.

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Following the path, I discovered a small bird sanctuary with the Hawaiian Native Goose…the Nene. He looked quite complacent and completely ignored my presence, content to enjoy the sun on his back. He was too far away for a good photo but the foliage in the area was spectacular…Image

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Most of the plants were marked with signage though I was more interested in the colors than the names. In my walkabout I came across a large bird-cage with cockateels and love birds. Unfortunately, again, the cage wire…Image

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So many plants–flowers, ferns, trees, bushes. There were covered bridges and seating areas, sun-rooms for plants requiring more humidity.

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More photos of “local flowers”–anthurium-like flowers, bird of paradise, ‘uki’uki grass, protea (for which Maui is renown) and an array of colorful plants introduced to Hawai’i…

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About this time I ran out of memory in my camera and had to switch to my cell which was low on battery, so I hurriedly took the last remaining photos…especially of my beloved Jacaranda tree on which was the last group of blossoms clinging to Spring.

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And, standing guard over all this beauty are the carved ki’i of Ku, Lono and Kanaloa.

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Traversing the Head of Maui

The island of Maui has two distinct land masses…the main body and the head”. Over this past year of living on this beautiful island people told me not to try driving around the head of the island as the roads are narrow, rough and dangerous. However recently friends have assured me that the roads had been worked on and though still narrow are no longer the danger they once were. So, I decided on a Sunday road trip.

It is probably about 40 miles from Kahului to Lahaina but for me road trips are not necessarily about staying on the road, so it took me about five hours. My Hawaiian name, Ki’iheleonamokuhonua, means traveler of the island world but doesn’t say I have to stay on a chosen path and I seldom do. Just past Waiehu, the scenery immediately starts to change from industrial to bucolic, businesses give way to homes tucked away in valleys or perched high on the hillsides…a pastoral life, indeed.
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There is a crossover where one still sees the vestiges of city life. And, along the way businesses flourish…fruit stands, little country cottages selling local crafts, sculpture gardens and stands selling delicious banana bread. This adventure was like a mini-Hana trip.
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Farther up the road, which by this time has narrowed considerably, I had to pull over many times to let oncoming traffic go by. When they graded and paved the road they carved out frequent places where a car can pull off to the side. This makes the traverse so much easier than before. The vegetation becomes more lush and an occasional waterfall can be seen.
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About half way around is the community of Kahakuloa which captures the spirit of ancient Hawai’i. There are taro patches and small farms, houses dotting the valley floor. Since this is Sunday there are groups of children playing. It seems a long distance from either Kahului on the east and Kapalua on the west so I wonder if the community has a school of its own or whether the children have a long bus ride each day.
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Several miles past Kahakuloa there were about 20 cars parked on the side of the road and though there were no signs I surmised this was the “trail” to the blow-hole. I use the term trail loosely as there was no trail. The somewhat steep side of the mountain down to the sea cliff was a series of large rocks, boulders and smaller stones that I picked my way through. Going down was a lot easier than going up as you could see where to go. The hike up was more or less blind. Many times I chose a path that ended and had to go back down and around another way. I was thankful when I saw a couple ahead of me and I could follow their lead.
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Unfortunately, the waters were calm so the blow-hole wasn’t blowing, however, the trip down was worth every minute when I came across a rock formation that nature saved as a reward for the tired travelers.
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To give some dimension, here I am next to this amazing look at the ocean.
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Around the top of the head, the scenery changes once again to a slightly drier west side of the island. Someone, I guess, decided there was a need for decoration and this greenery added to the view.
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Driving toward Kapalua where the Ritz-Carlton built its sumptuous hotel there are bays which offer a shelter for low-drafted boats and for snorkelers. Next time I will be sure and bring snorkel equipment as the bays were calm, shallow, with an abundant of reefs.
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Back to civilization. Due to the wonderfully warm weather on the west side of the island the chosen landscape is that of large, luxurious hotels. I continued my journey with only one stop to the Cannery Mall to see the mid afternoon hula show. Then, home again, home again, jiggity-jog.

My Love Affair with Baseball…

When I was in the fifth grade my teacher, Louie Poluzzi, loved the N.Y. Giants. On game day he would go into the office and rewire the intercom to broadcast the game over our loud-speaker. I always looked forward to game days as we seldom did any work and we had an excuse to cheer and jump around which made the day go by so much faster. I never followed the players, their stats, etc. and even to this day about 60 years later, I still don’t. But, I love the games. I love watching the pitchers change from a fast ball to a change-up and then all of a sudden throw in a slider or a curve ball and watch the batter swing off his feet only to swish air. Because I was born in San Diego I listened to Padre games and occasionally went to a game. When I moved to Hawaii after high school there were no major league teams, no minor league teams, but there was a triple A team called the Hawaiian Islanders. I lived in the neighborhood so went to a lot of the games. They were held in the “Termite Palace”. I’ve never learned its real name but I certainly understood where the name came from! It’s warm in Honolulu. Termites love the weather and swarms of them hovered over the field like so many little ‘copters waiting for the seats to empty so they could get back to work eating what was left of the poor stadium. But, the games were such fun. Hawai’i loves its sports.

Years later I moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i and discovered that the entire island was in love with the San Francisco Giants. All the games were broadcast on the radio and when the internet was born one could follow the games on comcast. I gradually became addicted to the games and would hook up my computer at work to earphones so I could occasionally catch an inning or two between patients. It was all I could do to keep from cheering aloud at a good hit, home run or a pitch that caught an opponent off guard.

I was lucky enough to have two boys. I don’t think they loved baseball as much as their Mom did but they did enjoy playing in Little League. My work schedule was perfect as I could take them to practices on my two short days during the week and go to the games on the weekend. Toward the middle of the season we had “The Tournaments”– 17 of them in a row, week after week, and I was in heaven. I’m pretty sure I was the only parent that looked forward to the games every weekend. My boys were never the stars of their teams, but I think they enjoyed playing. However, times change and they were on to other sports…soccer, aikido. I still had my Giants.

Then, years later, the boys gone to college, I was able to cheer again when Winter Ball teams formed throughout the islands. We had a nice stadium in Hilo and though the crowds were never huge, we were large enough to generate noise. I was probably the most enthusiastic. One evening as I stood yelling and cheering a man game up and asked if I would like to play in an on-field contest during the seventh inning stretch so, of course, I said sure. In my shorts and sandals I went on to the field and was given a little minnow net and told to try to catch three balls as someone tossed each from the top of the stands. The first one was lobbed rather gently and I had no problem catching it, so the next one was made a little more difficult. Thrown a lot harder, I had to run to the side but managed to net the second ball as well. By this time I had the people in the stands cheering me on. The last ball was thrown way up, way back and I had to back-peddle as fast as possible. Just as I reached the area of the ball my sandals caught on the grass and I went down, heels over my head, but my eyes still on the ball and, lo and behold, caught the third ball in my little net. I felt like a major league outfielder warding off a winning home run! No game, no points, but I did win $75 in gift certificates and had memories to last a lifetime. And, I had a ball signed by Ichiro Suzuki who was playing on a Japanese Winter Ball Team.

When I moved to Maui there was no baseball broadcast. No one cheered for the Giants. No longer any Winter Ball. I have withdrawals between Oct. and April. However today was opening night of baseball. I have discovered that ESPN broadcasts games, not necessarily the Giants, but today I was able to watch the Padres beat the LA Dodgers and that was almost as much fun. I don’t recognize many of the names. The teams change every season so it’s hard to hold on to names and numbers and for me it has always just been about the game.

Kealia Pond Bird Sanctuary

The 22nd was my birthday, so I took a day off from work and from my sewing and just devoted the day to ME. I took a drive to Ma’alaea Harbor just to see the boats, the ocean and to see if any whales were visible…they weren’t. On the way back into town, I took the wrong turn and instead of heading to Kahului, I found myself heading for Kihei. I didn’t even realize this until a saw the boardwalk through the Kealia Ponds. I had this point of interest on my Maui “bucket list” for a while so I figured this was a perfect day for the walk. And, I’m so glad I did. The boardwalk goes along the ocean and has super informative signage where I not only learned about the birds that winter there, but about their sounds, what they eat, the critters at the bottom of the bird food chain. It was a fascinating journey. The area is well maintained, apparently a good place to throw net for fish as I saw several men walking along the sand carrying Hawaiian throw nets. However, I never did see any birds. Maybe the day was a little too cool and they were all cuddled by somewhere warm. Or maybe they stay mostly across the highway in the large ponds. But, the walk was still worth the time.

A place to sit when one gets tired.

A place to sit when one gets tired.


You are here...

You are here…


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Pu'uhonua...place of refuge.

Pu’uhonua…place of refuge.


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And the walk goes on

And the walk goes on


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The stream from the ponds to the ocean

The stream from the ponds to the ocean


The sand "plug" which separates the ponds from the ocean

The sand “plug” which separates the ponds from the ocean


The Ae'o one of the most plentiful of the ponds residents.

The Ae’o– one of the most plentiful of the ponds residents.


The puzzle of Kealia, how it all fits together

The puzzle of Kealia, how it all fits together


Leaving Kealia I turned around in a parking lot of the halau wa'a...canoe "landing"

Leaving Kealia I turned around in a parking lot of the halau wa’a…canoe “landing”

The ponds have a calming effect. It tells you to slow down, keep a watchful eye out for wildlife, remain quiet and listen to the sounds of the birds, the ocean, the breezes blowing through the trees. It commands respect. It is thought provoking, and says Malama ka ‘aina…protect and care for the land.

Maui with my son

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve had the time to post. Working full time and keeping up with my online shop has thwarted my efforts to keep up with my blog. But, I was able to carve some time away from work when my son Jaron and his girlfriend Alexa came to visit for 10 days. Time flew, but I was able to spend some wonderful moments with them.

Checking out the beaches in Kihei

Checking out the beaches in Kihei

The first night they stayed in my tiny studio with an airbed wedged in against the back door. Then, they moved into a sweet cottage in the Haiku jungle which they loved. I’m not sure how they ever found it as the cottage was quite a drive through the hills and valleys, but worth the drive.
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We decided on a trip to Hana, a drive of 54 miles, 617 curves and 56 one-way bridges. But, oh what a drive. This is the Hawai’i you see on postcards! The day started out sunny and warm, but it had rained the day before so the waterfalls were plentiful, the fruit stands were open for business selling everything from passion fruit/ginger smoothies to banana bread. Many of the stands hire college students or young adults with a kind of “work for your room and board” contract. Many are reluctant to return to life on the Mainland after their experience living on the Hana Hwy. We made several stops on our way to Hana. The drive is sooooo scenic. The 54 miles took us 3 1/2 hours to make. When we reached Hana it was pouring rain. We had packed a picnic lunch but had to eat it under the roof of the Hana Beach Park pavilion with the wind whipping through our packages, napkins…flipping chips off the table. Still, the beach had children playing in the water and sand without a second thought as to the rainy weather. Wet is wet!

Keanae Peninsula

Keanae Peninsula


many, many waterfalls on the drive to Hana

many, many waterfalls on the drive to Hana

Hana is a small town and since it was raining we decided not to take the back road home in my low to the ground car and it was a little too cold for taking in the ‘Oheo Ponds or Seven Sacred Pools, but NEXT TRIP! Before leaving Hana we, of course, had to stop by Hasegawa General Store which has served Hana for generations. It is truly a general store with anything you could possible name…diapers, PVC piping for plumbing, electrical outlets, conduits and wiring, canned goods and fishing supplies, vegetables and rubber boots. It’s an amazing store. Fun just walking up and down the aisles and aisles of surprises.

On the way back from Hana the rain had stopped, the sun was again shining, but the waterfalls had increased in size and number ten-fold.

Torrential waterfall

Torrential waterfall

Following the trip to Hana we took a shorter trip to ‘Iao Valley. The rivers were quite a bit larger than my first trip after the rains.

Looks like a perfect place for 'ili'ili !

Looks like a perfect place for ‘ili’ili !

There is a lot of history surrounding ‘Iao Valley. This was the place of one of the bloodiest battles fought by Kamehameha I in his efforts to unite the islands. It is a pristine valley, lush with tropical foliage and protected by the country and state. However, as a halau member, I can get permission to pick ferns, ti leaves, etc. for making lei. I do, however, always say an ‘oli or chant before doing so.

Another night, since Alexa had never been to the islands, we decided to go to a luau in Lahaina. I did some research and all pointed to the Old Lahaina Luau as the most Hawaiian. So, with reservations in hand, off we went. Lahaina, which in Hawaiian means scorching sun, was warm, dry and packed with tourists. We arrived early enough to walk through the town where Alexa found a very cute local style dress, perfect for the luau. We stopped at Banyan Tree Park where the Banyan tree was planted many years ago and has since dropped roots forming new trunks and now covers an acre. It is still considered one tree as all the “trunks” are from the original planting.

Banyan Tree Park in Lahaina

The luau was FUN! even for a kama’aina. We were greeted with a flower lei and a maitai…doesn’t get much better than that! The food was Hawaiian from lau lau to kalua pig, lomi salmon to haupia. Tropical drinks were included, the entertainment was excellent telling the story of hula. There were demonstrations of Hawaiian games and crafts and beautiful weather. What a fun perfect evening.
Maitai, anyone?

A pig in an imu (underground dirt oven) covered with banana leaves for that special luau flavor of kalua pig.

Taking the pig from he imu

The end of a perfect day

I was sad to see the two of them leave, but I think they are already planning a return trip. Maybe next time, a ferry to the island of Lana’i or Moloka’i.

Hanohano O Maui

When I lived on Maui about 40 years ago I was working full-time and became a new wife so I spent most of the time at work or at home and did little traveling or exploring. Years later my perception of Maui was that of small cities like Kahului, Kihei and Lahaina, tourists stops with little for the local population. Now that I’m living on Maui again I’m trying to imagine how I ever had that perception. For some reason I was never aware of how rural Maui really is. It does have its little cities, but most of the island is agriculture, pastureland and forest. It is incredibly verdant. It is a country girls dream.

Today was another of those perfect days that I’ve experienced on Maui this time around. I got up and decided to treat myself to breakfast. So, off I went to a friend-recommended place in upper Kula called Grandma’s Coffee House or Grandma’s Maui Cafe as they have now expanded to menu. What a treat! I had a superior omelet made with fresh basil, fresh Kula tomatoes and feta cheese. So ono! The little place had a continuous stream of people, young moms with babies, families, upcountry cowboys. They had an array of yummy looking pastries, but I refrained for once.

Grandma's Coffee House in Kula, Maui

Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula, Maui

On my way down the mountain I came across a delightful fruit and vegetable stand and made a stop since veggies were on my grocery list. I’m so thankful I did. Not only did I discover Kula strawberries and amazing cucumbers, zucchini, dicon and asparagus, but the proprietor was listening to the country-western station and I now have it programmed on my radio dial! The farm stand was gearing up for Halloween with a soon to be opened pumpkin patch for the keiki. The place was a veritable playground for families with bunnies, bee hives, a Sesame Street garden, picnic tables and sunflowers. When I went to pay for my veggies, I had a $20 and aside that I had almost the exact change less $.20, but the owner just said to catch it on a future run. How great was that?

Kula Farm stand

Kula Farm stand


Sesame Street Garden

Sesame Street Garden


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The last part of my perfect day was spent at Iao Valley. This is in the West Maui Mountains which gets 400+ inches of rain a year and supplies most of Maui with its water. Kamehameha I fought for supremacy at this very place in his quest to unite the islands under one rule. It is absolutely stunning in its greenery.
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Iao Needle is right in the middle of the valley and is a sight to see.
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I finally got someone to snap a photo of me so I had proof that was actually here.
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I can’t seem to get away from inclines, but this one I just jogged up without a problem.
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There were huge kalo plants, thick laua’e and lau ki in abundance. At one time the valley was planted in kalo, but after the islands were developed by foreigners sugar cane was planted instead.
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Lau ki for wrapping laulau, making lei, flower arrangement, etc.

Lau ki for wrapping laulau, making lei, flower arrangement, etc.


Iao Valley, Maui

Iao Valley, Maui

All is all it was a perfect day and now I get to go to hula and learn how to make a lei po’o of laua’e and ti.

Discovering Olinda

I’m still exploring my new island and decided on my day off to take a late afternoon hike through the State Reforestation Project which is open to the public. It is in the beautiful and rural upcountry of Olinda, Maui. The weather was cool and while I usually don’t like the idea of hiking alone, the trail was wide and flat and inviting. So, off I went.

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When I got to a junction of intersecting trails, I decided to take the Spring Trail. I saw the word Loop Trail below, but in my mind I connected the two. The Spring trail is .8 miles and was relatively easy.

The Spring Trail

The Spring Trail

However after about .3 mild all of a sudden it started going precipitously downward at a fairly steep angle. The trail narrowed to just a path with angles that traversed across a rather steep cliff. After about 10 bends I was going at a good pace when I looked down and noticed my camera was hanging by its strap, but the case with my car keys and ID were no longer attached. Oh no, I would have to go up the trail to find it which I did about three traverses up. At this point I thanked God I wouldn’t have to go up this again as, yes, this is a loop trail. So, I retraced my steps and continued on my way down.

Developing a bit of a challenge

Developing a bit of a challenge

I was not wearing hiking boots. I had on my walking shoes which have a flat sole and it started to get a little slippery and every time I saw the “Hazardous Cliff” sign, I gave pause, but it was such a lovely day and I would be coming to the loop soon enough and would wend my way back to the beginning.

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No sooner had I thought this I reached the bottom which led me to a rock bowl and a sign that said “End of the Trail”. It was then I realized the Loop Trail was entirely separate and I would have to climb upwards across all those traversing angles and steep cliffs. After about 5 or 6 diagonal treks I was out of breath and wondering if I could possibly suffer a heart attack alone on the trail. It has been a while since my heart beat was up in the high range and it felt like my shirt was lifting off my skin with each beat. But, with occasional rests, I made it back to the junction and was never so happy in my life to see flat ground again!

The reforestation apparently is going well. The pines are about 80-100 ft. tall and straight as an arrow. And, they have planted a few native Koa trees as well.
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On my way back home I stopped to take a couple of pictures of upcountry rural Maui…
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I am trying to take the time between working full time and trying to keep my business afloat to document my newest adventure. I think the next time I take a hike, I will do so with a partner!

My Life in Hula–continues

Most hula dancers start at the age of about 4 or 5 and many will stay with the same halau (hula class) throughout their entire lives. Dancers, in Hawai’i have a hula lineage that can date back decades. Many are lucky enough to have a hula master that has gone before a panel of kumu hula, tested rigorously and then given the blessing to teach. Many inherit their skills from their parent and progress through their supervision. Some are alaka’i (leaders) in a halau and become the kumu due to an unforeseen accident or death. Some just love to teach. With my kumu hula I not only learned the dances, but I learned to make all of my own implements…the ipu heke or ipu heke ‘ole, gourd percussion implements; the pahu, a drum made from a coconut tree; ‘uli’uli, a small gourd of la’amea with seeds inside, topped with a platform of colored feathers shaken like a rattle; pu’ili, bamboo that has been slit into 11 or more strips sounding much like a rattle when struck together; ‘ili’ili, stones collected from the beach which are held two in each hand and are clicked together (a little like castanets); ka la’au or sticks that are struck together and the ‘ohe hano ihu or nose flute. There are some more uncommon implements that I have yet to make.

My ipu heke made from two gourds sewn together

My ipu heke made from two gourds sewn together

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The pahu is considered the most sacred of the implements. The steps of the hula are different when done to pahu. The beat has a haunting echo from the past. My pattern of my carving came to me in a dream…whales dancing above the waves, then diving below the surface with only their tales left to see. The pahu took me weeks to carve…with chisel and a mallet.
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My kala’au were left on the big island so I will have to make another set. However, I’ve always made them of strawberry guava wood and I’ve as yet to see a tree here on Maui. Auwe!

My Life Through Hula

I have always loved the hula, but it wasn’t until I was in my forties before I stumbled into a class and developed a passion for the dance. I was at the laundromat when I saw a sign in the window for hula classes manuahi or free. I thought, wow I could use some exercise so I signed up for the class. Somehow it seemed so natural for me. Even the kumu hula was surprised that I had never had hula before. I just took to it. Before long I was taking a couple of times a week. After a few months I was asked to join the ‘olapa class. This is a class the trains you to actually become a dancer. The ‘Olapa is a tree with silvery leaves that move with even the tiniest of breezes so we were to learn to move properly. It was hard. There are hundreds of hula steps and we barely scratched the surface, but keeping them all straight was a challenge. After several months the class was done and in order to be called ‘olapa we had to take a test that lasted almost four hours! We had to demonstrate all our learned steps, we had to know an entrance chant, in Hawaiian of course, we had to know our mele, or dance chant and be able to write it and its translation. Then we had to prepare for our final stage by dancing on the Pa Hula platform on the crater rim of Halema’uma’u. The day arrived, we fasted, we were silent, we dressed with the utmost care in the traditional pa’u which we had fabric painted ourselves and we entered the stage with nervousness, pride, and a feeling of accomplishment. We had an audience of friends, supporters and tourists who happened along and were able to witness a truly Hawaiian event.

We did the ‘oli (chant) all together. Our kumu hula told the story of our mele and we all danced in unison. It was a splendid day. When the hula was over we excitedly received lei from onlookers, we we could talk and cheer and we sang all the way down the mountain to kumu’s house for our graduation party.

By now, I had begun making pa’u (skirts) for many of the new students and now I started making dresses, skirts, blouses, etc. for our performances. I loved being able to give back for all I had received through hula.

Hula is so much more than a dance. It becomes a way of life. Everything you do has a connection to hula. As you learn the ancient protocols, learn about the lives of the past kupuna or elders and gain knowledge of the kings, queens, warriors of the past, you learn respect, gratitude, love, and humbleness. Many of these attributes are carried into your daily life.

Hula has always been the cornerstone of my adult life. It is steadfast, always there to support me through all my trials. I can say my entrance ‘oli at the door and drop my troubles there on the doorstep. I feel safe.

I will continue with my hula story in the near future. Keep tuned in.

getting ready for a kahiko (ancient hula) performance

getting ready for a kahiko (ancient hula) performance

2008--in yellow

2008–in yellow

Feb. 2009

Feb. 2009

every year halau participate in the lei draping of the statue of King Kamehamaha I

every year halau participate in the lei draping of the statue of King Kamehamaha I