We hiked up the long trail to Fagan’s cross this morning, taking a chance on the rain. Dark clouds hovered mistily over Haleakala, but patches of blue sky emerged over the sea. We walked between two weather worlds, up through the pastures, grateful the cattle were peacefully distant and not commanding the trail as they sometimes do, their dull forceful eyes challenging you to continue.
The path rises steep and straight at first, dividing the grassy lands, then turns gently to the right, to circle and skirt a promontory emerging from the hillside. You can see the cross there, atop the cliff, its simple lines strong against the mountain and sky, formed from giant lava blocks, a massive creation.
When Paul Fagan from Oakland replaced the sugar fields of Hana with cattle lands and created a working ranch, he slowly revived the failing economy of the area, for Hawaiian sugar could no longer compete with other producers around the world. When he died in 1960 his wife erected this cross in his memory. It stands as a witness to faith and family on the side of the volcano, between the sea and the sky.
We drew near the cross as we followed the path around the hill, then approached the sanctuary, an open porch area before the cross where Easter sunrise is celebrated. Torches line on either side of the massive cross, and I tried to imagine their flame lighting the dark of early dawn, the huge cross in the center, my gaze on the distant horizon over the sea where the sun would slowly appear.
In my novel Hana-lani, Nani-lei comes here to pray for Hana and her people, her family, her children. When I visit Fagan’s cross, I think of old Nani, her wisdom, her sacrificial life. Soon, I hope, Nani’s voice will be heard by others as well, for her story will hopedully be published this year. As I looked over Hana today, standing next to the thick base, and protected by the broad arm of the cross, I prayed for my family too, and this lovely town spread below me, nestled between land and sea. I prayed for those I knew were struggling with life-changing decisions, that they would bravely choose life in the face of a dying and despairing culture. I prayed for our parched world, that our dry bones would be healed, that our culture of life and freedom would be renewed.
And I thanked God for Mrs. Fagan’s cross, it’s witness.
As we descended the steep hillside through the meadows, the rain began to fall, lightly, blown from the sea by a strong warm wind, pushing the clouds back up the mountain. I knew that, in the end, the cross would not be defeated. God would breathe his life into our death.