I don't want to spend too much time on here talking about how wonderful Hawaii was, for I would hate to make everyone stuck in real life jealous. :)
But I would like to share about what turned out to be the most amazing day we spent while on the island of Lana'i, and the day had very little to do with white beaches or fresh pinapple or sunsets over the ocean or any of those other wonderfully hawaiian things.
It is a story about gardening.
My aunt is a horticulturist. She's been on the islands over 30 years and last year took a job on Lana'i, a small island owned almost entirely by a man named Murdock to whom almost everyone else on the island is either endebted or employed.
Because my aunt works with plants, she met Jimmy. How or what Jimmy does in his regular life, I know not, but he and Glo had become acquainted, so he invited her (and us) down into the Gulch.
This word is intimidating. The land is intimidating. We were to go into a valley surrounded by tall cliffs and steep hills, go into a valley and "see it." I don't think any of us knew what "see it" meant. My mom probably thought we'd get to go on a hike. My dad probably thought there would be some lovely scenery and, I just kept thinking, what is a gulch? A cross between a gorge and a grinch?
What we discovered however, was a people, and a garden, and archeological remains of Hawaiian villages. These were civilizations killed either by falling rocks and land slides, or by King Kamaeamea when he conquored the Hawaiian islands. (This is the man they worship with statues all over every island, a man who wiped out entire people groups like the one living in the gulch).
We met a group of people who will be called the following: Jimmy, Mama and Dad, Gladys and her husband, Kawika, and the teenager, each of whom has a vision, a dream. And after some grant writng and plant-buying and hard labor in the hot sun, they are beginning to see their vision take form.
In some cases, literally. But more on that in a minute.
They gather in the gulch at the house where the people who (50 years ago) ran the "water house" lived. At one time, Donkeys would make their way down these steep cliffs to the gulch where the people living at the water house would load them up with water and then (again without a rider or guide) the donkeys would make their way back up to the top, or the ridge, to deliver the water.
Next to this currently decreped old house are huge lush gardens of pua, a native Hawaiian plant. And there are banana trees and all sorts of other green, leafy vegetables growing. Scattered throughout the garden are the workers mentioned above, whose names I don't even remember, but whose spirits I will never forget. They have planted all these things.
They spend their free time on Saturdays working, laboring over this garden, planting native Hawaiian crops that the ancient Hawaiians who once lived there in the gulch would have grown. They work there not only to restore the land, a integral character in the Hawaiian narrative, but also to help the native Hawaiians living on Lana'i reclaim their culture, take pride in their history and in who they are.
II Stay tuned for section two: hiking into the gulch; and section three: the ancient spirits...