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.
I studied hula for three years in Aloha, Oregon, and along the way developed a passion for all things Hawaiian. I also studied 'ukulele and the Hawaiian language.
When I'm not hula'ing, 'uking or practicing 'olelo Hawai'i, I am a professional writer with years of experience writing for local, regional and national publications. Most notably, I was a regular for The Wall Street Journal for 17 years.
Someday I hope to write a book about my obsession with Hawaiian culture.