I woke up to an amazingly bright morning here in Paradise Park which is the community where I live outside of Kea’au. It had rained during the night and the drops still remained on the plants which emitted a sparkle like gems tossed on a velvety green carpet. I readied myself for a hula performance at a beach park near Pohoiki. My friend Kapoliokealoha and I were asked to dance at a “Celebration of Life” memorial service for a dear friend who had recently lost her mother. We were happy to do this. We seldom need an excuse to dance. So, I gathered all my things together, ironed my blouse, my hula skirt (pa’u),and my bloomers. I sorted out my lei, my lauhala bracelet, my flowers for my hair. I got together my music and the CD player. As you can tell, this is no easy task readying for a performance. I met my friend in Pahoa so we could travel together and away we go. It is not a long drive to Pohoiki, but it is a very different drive. The road cuts through groves of Albetsia trees which are so tall and full on each side of the road that they touch each other at the top forming a canopy of leaves. It is always 10 degrees cooler. It has always been one of my favorite drives. It is a one lane winding road for both directions so the greatest courtesy is expected. Cars pull to the side to let us come through and as soon as the road widens a bit, we pull over to oncoming cars, taking turns all along the well traveled road. Because of all the twists and turns, cars seldom speed so it becomes a sort of slow dance through the forest.
When the forest ends, the ocean begins. Today is somewhat calm with the waves only three or four feet in height, rolling in with the white foam spreading over the black lava sand. The surfers are bobbing up and down on their boards waiting for one big enough to ride. Little kids are playing in the surf. There are picnickers, campers, jumping castles for a birthday party and at the end of the road is our memorial group. We have already changed into our hula garb and are scheduled at the top of the services, just after the opening prayer. We set up the CD player with brand new batteries, pop in the CD to check it out and it doesn’t come on. Now, I’ve never used my player with batteries. I’m always near an outlet to plug into and I am unable to find any sort of switch to change it from AC to DC. I thought it would be automatic. The daughter for whom we were dancing had a backup player which seemed to work and we took our place in the center of a circle of friends. Our first song we to be a tribute to Cathy’s mother. It is a beautiful prayerful rendition of “How Great Thou Art” sung in Hawaiian and English. We had practiced all week to make sure it was perfect. The first sounds were very low which made it difficult to hear. But, we did our first movements only to have the CD player skip, sputter, skip. We lost our place and stopped. Started over. Got a little further along, then jump, swat the player, go back a few bars, skip forward a few bars, dance a few bars, swat the player again. We managed to laugh it off, continued in a somewhat disconnected manner until the end. It was NOT how we had imagined, certainly not prayerful nor solemn. Our other four songs went just fine. They were fun and fast with a lot of hula swing. I look back now over the day and think maybe He just didn’t want us to be so serious. After all it was a celebration of life. So we celebrated with friends, family and food. I’m sure Cathy’s mom would have wanted it that way.