Archive for April, 2014
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Totally excited! Why?
I’m heading back to Molokai for some time in Hālawa Valley with Pops and the ʻohana.
Nānā i ke kumu. Look to the source.
Now… where’d I put my headlamp? Is that a wild boar?
(Stay tuned. Pics and stories to come!)
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Springtime in NYC means we get a lot of rain.
And we all know what April showers bring, right? Well…
Earlier this week, I was sitting in a coffeehouse in Chelsea, one of my favorite places to do a little writing. Their coffee is strong and their music is groovy. The place and its vibe boost to my creativity. I wanted to stay there all day.
Especially because it was a one of those dreary, rainy days. Not a torrential downpour, but just enough rain to make one’s clothes damp–and STAY damp for hours.
But there were appointments to keep, so off I went.
And you know what happened?
While I walked, a snippet of a new melody started to play in my mind. How can I describe it? It’s like when I get something stuck between my teeth–I couldn’t leave it alone. It demanded my attention.
As this new little song began to take shape in my mind, I played with lyrics, writing (and rewriting) them to match the tone/color and rhythm of tune.
And by the time I’d reached my next destination, I had the chorus of the new song!
(And my clothes were totally soaked from the rainy drizzle.)
Why is it that some of my most creative moments happen in or near the water?
I often do some of my best brainstorming while taking a shower. Or while walking over a bridge. (Surprisingly, I do this quite a bit in order to visit a favorite not-too-far-away-but-still-across-the-water store. Ah… life on this concrete isle.) Or while walking in the rain.
I’ve heard that I’m not alone in my “watery inspiration.” I’ve read loads of stories about writers and composers who fled to the seashore in order to create. Or painters who needed to sit by the water to feel inspired.
There must be some connection, right?
What is about the water that inspires some folks?
The fluidity? The feeling of wanting to turn inward? The rhythm?
What do YOU think?
Oh! And yes… I’ll be sharing this new song as soon as she’s finished. It looks like we’ve got a run of (at least partly) sunny days here, so I won’t be inspired by the rain. I guess I’ll need to go and sit by the river for a while.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I haven’t written a lot on the blog lately.
But I’ve been writing my face off! In coffeehouses all over NYC, I’ve been working away, writing down some of the stories and working on new songs to share with you all.
Today I’ve had the music of Uncle Pete Seeger playing in the background while I work. He didn’t have Hawaiian blood. Neither do I. But as a Hawaiian musician, I am learning so much from him.
He knew how to tell a story with a song.
And he did it with such grace.
Right on, Uncle Pete. Mahalo for that.
*What have YOU been listening to today?
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
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.