This is pertaining to my hānai son, Jason Poole. I call him Iakona. He's been with me for quite some time now. I've always admired this young man. I invited him to join me. I took him in as a son.
How did Pittsburgh-born, classically trained singer Jason Poole find himself knee-deep in mud, gutting fish on the remote island of Molokai?
Thursday, April 23, 2015
I went to the gym today. And I went with a purpose.
I went to run.
Ok… nothing major. Not a marathon-length run. Just a few easy miles on the treadmill. But it still feels like a big deal.
My body has given me a lot of grief this past year. I’ve been going to see a great physical therapist twice a week for about 5 months. It’s been rough, even painful at times. But I trust her, she knows what she’s doing. And I’m getting better. I’m getting better.
A while back, I asked her if it would be safe for me to start running again. She wasn’t keen on the idea.
Last week, I laced up my running shoes and went to the gym and ran. Twice.
I didn’t fall apart. It didn’t seem to make my body worse than it was. It didn’t undo the work we’d done in therapy.
So I went back to the gym today and got up on the treadmill. I had prepared a playlist of songs, some of my favorite Hawaiian tunes that I knew would make me feel inspired.
But when I pushed PLAY, my fingers must have slipped because instead of hula classics, I heard Bruce Springsteen’s voice booming in my headphones. I like “The Boss” and his music. I’ve got a couple of his CDs loaded into my iPod, but I don’t really know his music. Let’s just say I like what I’m familiar with.
And even though his music wasn’t what I was expecting to hear, I decided to stick with it and settled into my run.
After some time had passed, I found myself wondering about this whole new “beginning to run again” phase in my life. Was I crazy to be doing this? Was I risking doing even more damage to my body?
I did a quick check in: my posture was decent, I wasn’t out of breath, my shoulders were properly aligned, my stride was even. And I wasn’t hurting. Most of all I wasn’t hurting.
And I was enjoying myself. I was smiling.
And just at that moment, his voice rang in my ear: Baby we were born to run!
In Hawaiian traditions, I hear the elders, the kūpuna, talk about learning to look for and read the hōʻailona, the signs.
I think Bruce gave me one today.
Mahalo for that, dude.
*How are YOU doing today? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. Bruce’s music was a perfect running soundtrack. His songs are full of stories and really beautiful (and sometimes funny) poetic imagery. I’ll be listening to him a lot. Right on.
Friday, April 10, 2015
May you immerse yourself in the spirit of hula.
May you find the ability to focus when it’s time to dance.
May you remember that it’s not about the competition.
May you remember it’s about honoring the kūpuna, those that came before.
May you remember that it’s about honoring the words of the haku mele.
May you remember that it’s about honoring your kumu and all of the work they’ve done to prepare you for this time.
May you remember that it’s about honoring yourself and all of the preparation you’ve done to get there.
May your hearts and souls thrill to the sights and sounds of hula.
May you surround yourself with laughter and the company of your hula family.
May you delight in all of the similarities you share.
May you delight in all of the differences that make each hālau and each dancer unique.
And may you remember that it’s about sharing Aloha with the audience–and one another.
Aloha i kekahi i kekahi. Love one another.
My heart is there with you all.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
In honor of the anniversary, I’m reposting this one today. May we always remember the stories.
On April 1, 1946 at approximately 7:15 AM (HST) a tidal wave struck the Hawaiian islands. And in its destructive path was the village of Hālawa on the island of Molokai.
My kumu (teacher)/hānai Pops was only six years old when it happened. A child who watched the wall of water reach 1.6 miles into valley he calls home and wreaked havoc on all that it touched.
This afternoon, I was working on the computer in my apartment in NYC–a zillion miles away from the quiet of Hālawa Valley–when the phone rang.
It was Pops, calling from his cell phone up near Pu’u O Hōkū Ranch where the cell phones sometimes catch service. Our conversation started out friendly as always and then he grew quiet.
“Do you know what today is? Do you know what happened sixty-seven years ago today?”
I could hear him inhale and then his voice seemed to catch in his throat. ”The tsunami came to Hālawa sixty-seven years ago today.”
“This morning, I came up to the lookout to remember. I came up and put a lei on the pōhaku (rock) at mile marker 27–where we ran to when the water came. I sounded the pū (conch shell trumpet) over and over and over and over. It was only me and the spirits of the kūpuna (elders). And I cried.”
Pops tells the story of the tsunami often.
Sometimes to the people of Molokai when he offers a talk-story/cultural presentation. But most often, he shares the story with the visitors he receives in Hālawa Valley–folks coming for the hike to the waterfalls or to learn about the valley and its rich history.
I’ve heard it so many times. And yet every time I hear it, I get chickenskin. Goosebumps.
He tells the story best. And to REALLY hear it, you should hear it from him. Live and in person.
But I’ll do my best to tell you what I remember from his story:
The story begins on March 31, 1946. Back in those days, Hālawa Valley had a telephone–kind of like a “party line” where every family had their own ring. At at about 8:00 PM, the phone rang. It was the police informing them that a tsunami would be hitting the Hawaiian islands the following morning.
“We didn’t know what a tsunami was,” Pops says. ”That was a Japanese word. But we knew it meant something important was going to happen. So we waited.”
“At about two o’clock in the morning, all of the animals in the valley started making noise. The old folks came and woke up all of the children, saying, ‘Makaʻala! Makaʻala!’ Be alert!’”
He says that Tūtū Kāne (Grandpa) led the family in prayer, asking for guidance through whatever was about to happen. The younger children went back to sleep and the older folks stayed awake.
“In the morning, it was the custom for the women to go down to the beach to kūkākūkā. Tūtū Kāne used to call that ‘women’s talk.’”
And when they were on the beach, they were horrified to see that ocean had receded a huge distance.
“They could just see coral mountains and big splashes coming from the fish flopping in the holes.”
He could hear them scream as they raced back into the valley. ”KAI EʻE! KAI EʻE! KAI EʻE!” Tidal wave! Tidal wave! Tidal wave!
Someone had run to the church in the valley and rang the bell frantically to signal an emergency.
“Tūtū Kāne had the children go and loosen all of the animals we had tied up in the valley. We grabbed up important documents, pictures and the black book (the Bible). Then the whole family ran up the mountain to the place where mile marker 27 stands today.” (Note: the Bible was important to the family not only because of its religious significance, but also because it contained the family’s genealogy in its front pages.)
Tears usually fill Pops’ eyes as he talks about watching the wave reach the valley. ”It’s not the kind of wave you can surf. It was a wall of water that came in and and went all the way through here,” he says with a sweep of his hand that seems to cover the entire valley, from the ocean to the mountain.
“And it was the most frightening sound you can imagine. Houses being moved from their foundations, nails ripping from boards and rocks and boulders rolling and tumbling down.”
He talks about watching a family jump from their home as it was being sucked out into the ocean by the receding waters.
“The wave just kept coming–in and out, in and out.”
When the waters finally withdrew from the valley, the families were afraid to return to their homes. ”We weren’t sure what was going to happen. We didn’t know if it was safe. We waited and prayed.”
Eventually, they did return later in the day. And they were horrified by what they saw and smelled. The valley had been devastated by the water. And the ground was covered with dead fish and other sea life. ”The fish were white–the blood had been sucked out of them by the pressure.”
Pops is always quick to add that the reports of over 200 people dying in the tidal wave are completely untrue. ”No one died that day in Hālawa. Folks get that mixed up with what happened on Hawaiʻi Island.”
He also makes sure he points out that while the tidal wave had severely damaged the valley and its plentiful loʻi (taro patches)–it did not destroy them. The loʻi had, indeed, been filled with sand. But the people were able to dig out the sand and flush the taro terraces with fresh water.
“The kalo (taro) flourished, again, after that,” he says. ”And we rebuilt.”
Another historical inaccuracy is that folks were forced to leave the valley after the tsunami. But that, too, is false. According to Pops, many folks had already left when Word War II began.
“Many of our boys and men went to war. Many didn’t return. Those who did return were offered jobs on military bases around the world. For a lot of folks, that was an opportunity to leave the farmer’s life behind.”
As the oldest living descendant still residing in the valley, Pops feels it’s important to share the story of what happened the day the tidal wave struck.
“It’s important to keep the memory alive,” he reminds me.
And I will, Pops. I promise.6 Comments
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of being in Chicago and spending a weekend of creative play with Hālau i Ka Pono and the Zen Life and Meditation Center of Chicago. I facilitated workshops on Zen Writing and Zentangle® and participated in a concert event with Kumu June Kaʻililani Tanoue and her … Click here to read more…2 Comments
Monday, March 2, 2015
Aloha, gang! I’m excited to tell you all about an upcoming event, a Weekend of Song, that I’m participating in here in NYC. The Folk Music Society of New York, Inc. is presenting a jam-packed mini-festival of music and lectures this coming weekend, March 6-8th. Fantastically talented musicians representing diverse styles of folk music traditions. … Click here to read more…0 Comments
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Writer’s Sketchbook – a peek inside my notebook of timed writings 10 minutes August, 2008. I am in Hālawa Valley with ‘Anakala Pillipo. Here! Me! With him! Amazing. I want to learn music. To really immerse myself in the sounds of Hawaiʻi. No… more than that. To immerse myself IN HAWAIʻI, herself. The songs … Click here to read more…6 Comments