Monday morning started with waking from a dream that I was trying to fly. I would run and try to leap into the air but couldn't fly more than a few yards. Then someone in my dream said I needed to focus on my destination before trying to fly. It made perfect sense and it worked in my dream.
I woke to the resident roosters calling to each other and met Alicia at her home. Our excursion was to take us to Umauma Falls and the World Botanical Gardens outside of Hilo. First, we picked up salads and malasadas (hot filled donuts) for our picnic lunch at the Tex Drive-In, then we headed south. We stopped at the head of the road to Waipi'o, one of the sacred sites and home to sustainable agriculture farms growing the traditional crops of the ancestors: taro, breadfruit, sugar, coconut.
The World Botanical Gardens were created over a former sugar cane field and contain many varieties of flowers, shrubs, and trees. The focal point of the Garden is Umauma Falls, a three-tiered waterfall on the Umauma River. About 3000 species are in the Gardens, viewable along a drive through the garden and on trails. Our picnic was on one such trail in the shade of tulip trees, breadfruit, and others I could not identify.
Our excursions took us through Hilo then over the Saddle Road that runs between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea is the location of several astronomical observatories and I had hoped that I would be able to tour one of them while I was there, but that was not in the cards this time. But the drive over the road was reward enough for we went from lush tropical rainforest into temperate forest into nearly barren lava fields. The plant life change was stark and endlessly fascinating, reminding me of the years after Mount St Helens had its eruption in 1980.
The evening was devoted toward attending hula class. Alicia is taking hula and was able to obtain permission for my being able to observe the class. The halau (hula school) is in a former military building near the beach and Kumu is the instructor, a woman in her 60s barely standing 5 feet tall with hair past her hips. I took a seat near a window to stay cool for the room we were in was quite warm. Students filed in and took their places, becoming silent as the classroom filled. At last all were there and there was only silence. Then Kumu began the class, starting with an opening chant, practice with the chant, then warmups. At last the dance practice began and Kumu was watchful and gently persistent, making sure that her students understood without singling out those making mistakes. I started working on some socks I had brought with me, but after a certain point I put them away. The dance was too fascinating and I felt that the work was in some ways violating the sacred space. The knitting itself fascinated a couple of the younger children who were on the side while their mom was practicing. The socks had a cable in them, so they were curious about the cable needle, the knitting needles, and the sock (no socks in Hawaii!!).
After class was finished, I went and paid my respects to Kumu, for it felt like I had been given a gift I will never forget. The class gave me a feeling of the community that the locals have here as well as their ancient culture. It is something that is missing in our world on the mainland. We don't have centuries of culture; only a mixture that is diluted by our desires. What traditions we practice are merely shadows of the traditions we had, changing with each generation as we grow older. So I went to my sleep feeling I had been given a precious gift that no luau at a resort could ever provide and the song of Kumu murmuring in my ears.