Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ed Lindsey, Rest In Peace

When I was on Maui recently, I expressed an interest in meeting Ed Lindsey. I had heard about his work restoring the Honokowai Valley, which is just mauka (upland) from Ka'anapali Beach Resort, where I was staying. I thought I might be able to write an article about him and the transformation of the valley, once overrun with invasive species, to a showcase of ancient Hawaiian ingenuity in agriculture and irrigation.

I learned that Ed was ill. But in spite of his illness, he agreed to meet me and be interviewed. Lani Moala, a Ka'anapali Beach Hotel employee, drove me to Ed's home in Lahaina and graciously stayed for the duration of the interview (which ended up lasting two hours) so she could drive me back to the hotel.

Almost immediately after we first met, Ed told me that he had prostate cancer and had been given only a few months to live. But, in spite of some apparent discomfort, he showed great vitality, humor, curiosity and passion during my visit.

So I was stunned on Thursday to learn that Ed had died the previous morning. It had been barely three weeks since I interviewed him.

During my time with him, I really felt that this opportunity given to me was special, even magical. It was amazing to me how it had all come about.

I first learned about Ed when I took an online course from Kamehameha Schools about efforts to restore old taro fields and fish ponds in Hawaii. The course materials included a video about Ed and his organization, Maui Cultural Lands. I was intrigued and made note that his project was near Ka'anapali. Fast forward a few months when I received an invitation from the Ka'anapali Beach Resort to attend Wa'a Kiakahi, an annual sailing canoe race.

As it turned out, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, where I was staying, had a long relationship with Ed and his wife, Puanani, and before them with Ed's parents. Both generations of Lindseys were kupuna (elders) in every sense of the word, in that they considered it their mission to pass on the old values and skills that had always served the Hawaiian community. The Lindseys and the hotel had a longstanding partnership, with many guests volunteering to help pull out the non-native trees and plants that had cluttered and clogged the valley.

Lori Sablas of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel kindly arranged for me to meet Ed. Later, she set up a field trip to the Honokowai Valley for me. Pictured here, Puanani Lindsey (r.) and Lani Moala (l.) took me up the rugged roads into the valley so I could see for myself the results of the Lindseys' 10-year project.

The contrast between the untouched jungle and the lovingly restored habitation of ancient Hawaiians was stark and dramatic. It was like walking out from under a dark and menacing cloud into brilliant and warm sunshine. Puanani walked me through the area, naming the native plants that beautified what had once been a streamside village. She knew when each one had been planted, by whom, and the plant's traditional purpose.

Before we sat down to our lunch that day, Lani said a grace, expressing thanks that I had come to Ka'anapali to help share Ed and Puanani's story. As for me, I am thankful for all the generous people and the amazing circumstances that allowed me to meet Ed and to walk the beautiful Honokowai Valley with Puanani and Lani.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Wa'a Kiakahi

Here's more on the sailing canoe race I attended on Maui at the end of last month. I was invited by the Ka'anapali Beach Resort to ride on an escort boat along the 30-mile route from Kahului Harbor west and then south to Ka'anapali in West Maui.

There were nine sailing canoes, known in Hawaiian as wa'a kiakahi, which means single-mast canoe.

Another type of Hawaiian sailing canoe is called a wa'a kaulua, which means double-hulled canoe. That's the same kind as the Hokule'a, the famous Polynesian voyaging canoe that has been retracing ancient routes that the early Hawaiians followed. In February 2011 it will embark on a two-year, round-the-world voyage.

The smaller wa'a kiakahi has spaces for six paddlers. Most of the teams had chosen lighter people, assuming that the wind would fill the sail and they'd just ride the waves in relative ease. But there was hardly any wind on May 29. The team from Kaua'i that won the race gambled and won by choosing heavier, more powerful paddlers for the nearly four-hour race. In fact, six out of the nine boats had to be towed by the escort boats in order to finish the race before dark.

The next day was devoted to educating the public about the canoes. Except for the fact that the hulls and arms are fiberglass , everything else about them is traditional. The parts are all lashed together with cotton cord, with knots that have been used for millennia by Polynesian sailors. In the old days, however, the sailors made their own cord.

Anyone who wanted could give paddling a try. Thanks to ace photographer Susan Seubert, I am immortalized in her photo, above. I had a blast -- for the first 10 minutes or so. How those paddlers can keep up that grueling pace for hours on end, I don't know. One guy told me that the longest his team had paddled in a race was almost 12 hours straight. And his team was the winner, so that was the fastest time!

The next morning, the nine teams were off again, on the next leg of the race, this time from Ka'anapali, Maui, to the island of Moloka'i, a trip slightly longer than the voyage from Kahului to Ka'anapali. Before they departed, all the paddlers gathered in a circle and held hands as the beautiful Makalapua Kanuha, pictured at right, performed a blessing and oli (chant) to speed them on their way.

And then they were off again. The teams expected to reach Moloka'i by lunchtime, earlier if the wind ever picked up. After resting, partying or whatever, the paddlers would return to their own homes and then return to Moloka'i in time for the next leg of the race, July 11, from Moloka'i to Kailua, O'ahu. The entire race, which began May 9 with a race from the Big Island to Maui, will not be complete until August 15. That's when the teams will race from Haleiwa, O'ahu, to Poipu, Kaua'i. And then finally, they'll hang up their paddles -- until the next race.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Kamehameha Day!

Today, June 11, is Kamehameha Day, a public holiday in Hawaii. The day was first established as a holiday in 1871 by royal decree of Kamehameha V. Since the following year, 1872, it's been celebrated on the islands with floral parades.

Today in Honolulu, long leis were draped around the arms and neck of the statue of Kamehameha the Great that stands across the street from 'Iolani Palace. The parade went from the palace to Kapi'olani Park.

When I was in Maui recently, the ladies at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel were busy talking about preparations for the parade in Lahaina. They were trying to find enough lokelani, a type of rose, to make a lei for the parade princess. The other women, who, like the princess, would be on horseback in the pä'ü parade (so-called for the 19th-century ladies' riding garb that is customary), would be wearing leis, as well. But because lokelani, the traditional lei flower for Maui, was in short supply, their leis were to be made from another, similar flower.

To illustrate this post, I've chosen a photo from my trip to 'Iao Valley at Wailuku. I visited there en route to the airport to fly home to Portland from Maui. It's the site of the great battle in 1790 between Kamehameha the Great and the Maui chief, Kalaniküpule.

Kamehameha had the advantage, thanks to modern firepower in the form of cannon from ships that had stopped (or sunk) at the Big Island of Hawaii. Kamehameha had two former English sailors in his employ and they operated the cannons. The resulting rout in the 'Iao Valley was known as the Battle of Kepaniwai, the damming of the waters. It was all the bodies of the fallen Maui warriors that clogged the streams.

The smaller rock in the photo, a landmark of the 'Iao Valley, is what is called the 'Iao Needle. It was thought to be the phallus of Kanaloa, the god of the ocean.
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Maui Wowie

I have been missing in action. Haven't posted to my blog for a while, but I have a good excuse. I was on Maui. I was staying at Kä'anapali in West Maui, mostly at the wonderful Kä'anapali Beach Hotel. I was there to attend the annual Wa'a Kiakahi, races of Hawaiian sailing canoes.

There were nine canoes in the race, which went from Kahului (near the airport) to the beach of Kä'anapali. With very little wind, the winner made it in about four hours. But because of the absence of wind, six of the canoes had to be towed because the two escort boats couldn't leave anybody too far behind the front runners.

This photo was taken at the Sheraton Maui at sunset from the poolside bar. The view is of Black Rock, which in ancient times was believed to be where spirits were taken up into the netherworld. This is where a famous Maui chief defied death by diving from the rock into the ocean but coming up for air with his spirit intact. "Inconceivable!" (to quote from The Princess Bride)

Every night the glorious incident is reenacted when a young man climbs the rock and leaps into the ocean, to great applause from all the people gathered at the bar.

Since my return I've been preoccupied with my hula halau's performance tomorrow morning at the Portland Rose Festival Waterfront Village. Once we've got that under our belts, I'll write more about the sailing canoe races and other amazing things I saw on Maui.
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