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Have Patience: E Ho‘omanawanui

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I woke up this morning with a phrase ringing inside my head: Have Patience. E Hoʻomanawanui .

I remember sitting with Pops in Hālawa Valley on Molokai. I had been pestering him for a week to teach me how he braids the cords he wears around his neck. They look so simple. So elegant. He uses raffia–and after they’ve been worn against the skin, they no longer look like plant fibers. They look like shiny leather.

It should be easy enough to braid, right? Of course! But he uses a special “loop closure” that I’ve only ever seen him do. A way to only use raffia–no need for other materials.

All week, he’d been telling me, “‘Ae. ‘Ae. I know you want to learn. Let’s do that later.” But every time we pushed it off, I grew more and more worried that I’d be heading back to the mainland WITHOUT every learning how to do it. When I knew I was heading back to Molokai to study for a week, I’d added ” Learn how to make Pops’ necklaces” to the top of my TO-DO list. I had searched the internet for instructions, but I’d come up “empty” every time.

And FINALLY the time had come. We were standing, side by side, under the awning by the house. He’d found some twine for us to practice with. He wrapped his twine loosely around a nail sticking out of a post. I watched as his fingers expertly held and simultaneously twisted it. And before I knew it, he had completed a long length of cording–complete with this signature “loop closure.”

“Ok. Now you try, ” he said and I placed my twine upon the nail. In just a few moments, I managed to botch the whole thing up, tying knots in the twine and making a mess. I was frustrated and sweaty.

“Wait! Wait!” he said. “You’re going too fast. And your hands are shaking! Why are you so nervous?”

I explained that I wanted to learn how to do this. (I didn’t tell him that I’d been mildly OBSESSED with the idea of learning how to di it!) I HAD watched him. Very carefully. I wanted to move my hands the way he did it. But I was clumsy. I was “all thumbs.” And my hands were shaking because I was nervous about screwing it up!

He laughed. “E hoʻomanawanui. Have patience. If you go quickly, you’ll end up making knots. If you go quickly, you’ll end up making a mess. Now take a deep breath and try again. And GO SLOWLY!”

Of course, he was right. As soon as I slowed down, I was able to hold and twist and in a few minutes, I had made one end of the loop closure and was making progress with the length of the cord.

“Stop,” he said.

I was shocked. I was doing well! Why should I stop?

He took the loop off of the nail and looked at it. And then he gave me another piece of twine. “Start again.”

“But Pops,” I started, “I was doing well. Look at the loop!”

“It’s OK, ” he said as he looked at my work more closely. “It’s a start. But you need to practice. Here’s more twine. Do it again. From the beginning.”

And even though I was frustrated, I did what I was told. I’m sure he could tell I wasn’t happy. After I’d gotten a short way in, he told me to stop, again.

And–again–he handed me a fresh piece of twine.

“E hoʻomanawanui.” This time he laughed. “Have patience.”

Was this a lesson in braiding? Maybe.

Was this a lesson in learning how to follow directions? Probably.

Was this a lesson in learning how to slow down and have a little bit of patience (and a little bit of fun,too) Absolutely.

I think about it all the time. I see what I want to do. I make all sorts of plans. I want to jump up and “go get ‘em!”


I know that I need to take things slowly. One step at a time.

Remembering to breathe as I work.

And remembering to laugh.

E hoʻomanawanui.

2 Responses to “Have Patience: E Ho‘omanawanui”

  1. Rose Mattax says:

    He sounds like such a wonderful mentor, Jason! And I love trying to pronounce the Hawaiian words for patience. I actually have a dictionary I bought in Hawaii a few years back. It’s fun to find words and try to practice them. Hopefully I’m not botching them too badly.

    Blessings from Chicago,

  2. Sarah says:

    Ah, patience. Not something I’m known for; I like to have everything now and jump right into everything. My mother used to always accuse me of jumping in over my head when I was younger (and I always just told her I would learn to swim). Enthusiasm can be lots of fun and is great to get you started, but there is something to be said for slowing down and really integrating a process into your consiousness.

    Your Pops sounds a lot like my harp teacher. I had a lesson the other day and the whole lesson was full of variations on “okay, do it again”:

    Did you play that right note (and she has perfect pitch so she really wasn’t asking so much as politely pointing out that I did NOT play the right no)? No? Okay, do it again

    Was that the right rhythm? Were you counting? No? Okay, do it again.

    Did you really mean to play that note? Okay, do it again.

    And, my personal favorite — That was perfect. Now do it again.

    She’s really tried to get me to focus on learning pieces well before I go forward. Last week, I was forbidden to turn the page and go on with the piece until I had “mastered” the first page. Patience, indeed. But, as frustrating as it is, it does force me to slow down and really learn the music. Perhaps patience is a virtue after all.