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


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.

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

Every beginning, an end…Every ending, a beginning

My three-year relationship has come to an end. I still haven’t wrapped my mind around why but I’m looking for that window to open now that the door has closed. So, I’ve penned a few of my thoughts. Odd that I usually write in a prose style, but for this I chose to rhyme.

When unplanned and unexpected
Great love fades from sight
The world becomes just memories
Of all the days and nights

I could, before, reach out
For loving arms opened wide
Now, there’s only chasms
You, and me on the other side

No longer a voice singing with joy
My words are tempered with rife
For now, contentment has passed
Leaving a space in my life

Alone again, yet hopeful
I throw caution to the wind
Forging a new life’s adventure
Faith that the future will mend

A heart once broken by pain
Grows back big and strong
So, I go forward on my new path
Hoping to write a new song

God is always within me
Forever guiding the way
I will no longer fear tomorrow
Beginning with today

Small town Americana, Small town Hawaiiana


We are always being bombarded by invasive species, but these two are a nemesis that have become a terrible problems for our fragile environment.
We are always being bombarded by invasive species, but these two are a nemesis that have become a terrible problems for our fragile environment.
"Floating By"Dancin' to the African beat
What says American more than a Jeep!
What says American more than a Jeep!
Our 4th of July was this weekend. It began with a parade that can only be seen in a small town. Hundreds of people line the street, most dressed in boots and hats because upcountry Makawao, Maui is cowboy country. Our floats are not the Rose Parade type. Our floats showcase people rather than flowers and are much smaller. There are no big bands, but there are groups of Cub Scouts, cheerleaders jumping high off the ground. There are mascots like Big Bird and there are reminders that we are an island and susceptible to introduced species such as the Little Fire Ant and the Coqui frog. We have African dancers, and many, many horses. One horse sported a woman who has ridden in every single Makawao parade. I remember riding in the parade back is 1971 so I know she has ridden in quite a few. This year she dressed as a Spanish senorita. There are, of course, politicians hoping to gain name recognition and princesses from various pageants. We are Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Samoan, Haole, Marshallese. But, we all come together to cheer for our small town. We decorate the building with flags and bunting. We put red and blue stars on the rumps of our steeds. On Sunday we all cheeredDSCN0760 at the annual rodeo. We celebrate that though we are of all nationalities, we live in the melting pot of the U.S. under the hope that the rest of the world can also live with aloha.
Fancy-dressed steed