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Honaunau, Hawaii - 9 April 2013
Another Slow Day
Napo'opo'o was meant to be quiet: recovery from Merrie Monarch and the intensity of a festival city. And we got another day of it.
The beach at Napo'opo'o has basketball sized grains of sandand a fierce shore break, so we went around the corner to Manini beach park. Kona winds had stirred up the surf, and I didn't feel like fighting the break to get outside and snorkel. Rochelle got in the sandy-bottomed little cove up to her knees.
The 3/11/11 Tohoku Earthquake off the coast of Japan sent a tsunami that was 19 feet high at Manini, ripping a 2-storey house that was behind the wall off its pins and sailing it out to sea.
Manini Beach: Rochelle in the water
The Auntie who cares for the beach (and who told me how to get outside if I wanted: "If you don't time it right, can get all bust up on the rocks dere.") said that tourists had come to Manini before the "all clear" siren, and one was rescued floating around the bay in her car. The others climbed a little hill behind the beach. There used to be lots more trees, but the locals are glad for the gardening, she said.
The "stack" at Two Step; "City of Refuge" in the background
So we rolled on down Honaunau Road to the harbor there, famous for its turtles and calm waters. I had heard that it's been "discovered." My family probably remembers it when you might be one of two or three cars there, but now "Two Step" as it's known is one of the favorite snorkel spots on the island.
Swimmers line up to step down. The beginners get on the step before they get their gear ready. Old timers like me flop into the water with gear in hand and fin and mask up while bobbing about in the water. Sometimes the tired newbys are like beached whales as they roll out helplessly finned and masked.
Once I was in, I was back in my element. Fish fish fish!
Back out of the water, I had to take a picture of the "beach" at Two Step. Times have changed in Hawaii!
Honaunau Harbor also happens to adjoin one of Hawaii's High Holy Places, and the people who live here -- what?!? People actually live here? -- are the proud descendents of the keepers of , the principal of several places of refuge the existed during the time of the . You can't see it in the picture at right, but one of the houses has a flagpole, and from it flies the Hawaiian flag ... upside down. In distress? Sinking? It must feel like that to those who live here and care about this place. I cannot (as an interloper myself) begrudge the their days in the sun and their paddles with fishes; it's magical. But I can easily see how those who remember peace and solitude here begrudge it.
In the foreground, a papamu rock for playing konane.
According to Wikipedia, Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge (puʻuhonua). The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the puʻuhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs.
Wikipedia fails to recount that getting inside the great wall wasn't easy, or that the ali'i were retired and sitting around playing konane (the game in the foregound at left.) First, you had to get past the ali'i and their minions. You couldn't climb the wall (the black presence beside the hale in the distance -- that was kapu, too. Swimming was the best way, and the landing on wave battered lava after a long swim wasn't for sissies.
But then you were in. Sometimes the kapuna would keep you around to do odd jobs while meditating on the kapu you broke. There is no doubt that there was negotiation between the ali'i and kapuna about your disposition. In some cases, your only option was to become a permanent servant, or, if you were of the right class, a kapuna. Whatever happened, coming to the place of refuge was a life-changer.
The resonances persist. This is one of those places on the earth that I feel a deep connection with the past and the earth.
The wood carvings scattered around the site are modern, the work of one artist, and probably more reflective of Maori and Tahitian forms than of Hawaiian ones. Their flavor is Polynesian, and so not far wrong. The Hawaiian forms were suppressed by the missionaries before they were properly recorded.
The ones at left face the bay (and Two Step) while the tall abstract ones are all within the palings that enclose the priest's hale at the end of the wall. Beyond this point, the pu'uhonua begins -- a stark, rocky, windswept flat with nothing to eat but and coconuts.
I imagine the well-fed sitting here, watching the turtles in the bay, and turning back supplicants trying to return to their lives before their penance is done.
totems inside the pale at the kahuna hale
Kale told us a story about going to school where he was introduced to the idea that the earth is a big ball of many colors floating on an ocean of space ... just like the canoe that Kale's distant ancestors traveled on to get to Hawaii from the South Pacific.
"Where is Hawaii?" he wanted to know, and the teacher showed him on the globe the little cluster of eight tiny rocks in the middle of the great blue ocean.
"We live on canoes, too, floating in a smaller ocean. Our canoes are stronger and bigger than the canoes we take fishing or travel in between rocks, but still canoes. People who live on canoes have to take care of each other, and the things that sustain them, because we don't know how long this trip we are on will last. Maybe, forever."
"What if you have trouble on your canoe?"
"You bettah know how to swim. If not, you ! You bettah know how to swim a long time, or you mako kaukau!"
Kale looks searchingly at his audience -- are they getting the point? Mostly not. So he draws the conclusion, "It didn't take me long to understand that we Hawaiians have an advantage over many people, because we have been taking care of our resources -- what we have in our canoe -- for a long time. And we know how to get along, to live aloha. I don't care how big your canoe, or how strong, if you don't take care of your resources, you going to be in plenty trouble ."
Kale (Charlie) making octopus lures
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