Aloha from Hana!
We arrived in the small eight-seater plane, flying low along the coast. It was a gray day, the skies heavy, but even so the flanks of the mountain Haleakala were a rich green, falling into the blue sea. The coastline here is rugged, with red-earth and black-rock cliffs pounded by the surf. The white foam races to the land, crashes, spills and spouts and spews, then recedes to gather momentum for another run.
Soon we taxied down the short strip of asphalt, turned and found ourselves in front of the one-room Hana Airport. The young pilot unloaded our bags and we stood watching the palms waving, then stepped inside to phone for a ride.
It’s been a great blessing to be back in Hana, the setting of Hana-lani, and as I walk through the grass my characters walk with me, now born, now on their own. Meredith is here, along with Henry, and of course Nani-lei and little Lucy. The dogs run at my side, Eli and Alabar. Dr. Sammy meets us at the top of the slope, with his calm and steady manner. Even Maria haunts this place, her home.
We noticed changes from earlier times, and noticed those things that had not changed. The people are as friendly as ever, welcoming us with their charm and family spirit. We feel part of the ohana here, and although we shall always really be outsiders, visitors, transgressors into this seeming paradise, it is lovely of them to treat us as family. We are grateful.
We look out to the sea from our cottage and hear the ocean roar and pound the cliffs at the foot of rolling green grass. One day we will hike the trail through the pastures to Hamoa Beach, the curved bay Michener called perfect. It’s about forty-five minutes away by foot, ten minutes by shuttle. We shall walk down to Hana Bay, on the other side of Kauiki Head. We shall climb the mountain to Fagan’s cross. We shall watch the surf and the white foam from our deck, and allow the sounds of ebb and flow to massage our senses through the day and into the night. We sleep with the windows open to feel the moist air and the sea and float on its gentle tide.
The sky changes, the clouds scudding over the silvery sea up to the mountainside, pushed by the winds. They gather and open suddenly, sending heavy rains upon the earth. It poured the first night here and we woke to a drenched and sparkling land. Hana.
Yesterday I watched a skillful tree trimmer shinny up a palm trunk outside our window. The knife he wielded looked like a machete. Held by a belt at a forty-five degree angle, hanging away from the tree and high up beneath the lower palms, with hefty arms he smoothly hacked at the boughs, using two swift strokes above and two swift strokes underneath, and a last one on top. The palm branch flew off and to the ground. He worked his way around the trunk hacking swiftly, his feet braced. Within minutes the job was done, the coconuts in their clustered nest released as well, and he climbed down, his boots finding footholds I could not see, and once on terra firma, he released the chain and belt that held him. He wore loose clothing and a bandana, and moved to pick up the leafy debris with his fellow workers, shouting back and forth, chatting and conferring. Their voices came through the window light and soft and full of good humor. They loaded the white pick up and moved on to the next tree.
“Don’t take my trash can,” one man said, laughing. “Without my trash can I am nothing. Without me, my trash can is nothing.” They all laugh.
They moved on down the grass toward the sea, pruning the palms, and I heard the light chopping sound, the hack of the machete high in the branches.
There is no television in the hotel, no cell phone service, and Internet only in the lobby and then sporadic. We don’t mind, but as these connections are pruned from my day, I consider it a good thing, to be pulled into a slower pace, to hack off some of the gluttons of my time and perhaps sway with the palms in the air, closer to heaven. The simple things loom with great importance – the men working, the horses grazing in the nearby pasture, the changing skies, the passage of the sun and moon, mealtimes, saying my prayers. We walk half a mile to breakfast and dinner where we sit on a verandah overlooking the sea. We swim and we read and we write. Folks talk about Hana being a spiritual place, and it is true, that when we prune our lives, we can pay attention. We can hear God.
God is good. I’m so grateful, this Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, in this season of manifestations, for the blessing of returning to Hana, the setting of Hana-lani, and to have the chance to share my little novel with those folks who inspired its creation. Mahalo to each of you, to all of you.