Finally, my ship has come in. Well, not a ship exactly. A wa’a. A wa’a kaulua. A Hawaiian ocean-going canoe. Her name is derived from a celestial light, Arcturis, which Hawaiians call Hokule’a, the Star of Gladness. When a Hawaiian voyager sees this star, she knows she is almost home, and as we all learned from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home. Continue reading “Finally, My Ship Has Come In”
Hokule‘a is in the water now, sailing up the coast from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. to New York City. She is a Hawaiian wa‘a kaulua (ocean canoe), the guiding light of a nation, the Hawaiian nation, called the people of the wa‘a. Continue reading “The King and The Navigator”
My grandmother, Abigail McMillen, “Auntie Abbie” to almost everyone who knew her, was a big woman. Big heart. Big soul. Big body. She came to me from Hawaii the year of Statehood and became a fixture at every gathering of local Hawaiians in the Washington, D.C. area. If there was a meal, she would pray the Benediction. If there was hula, she would strum her guitar or tenor ukulele. If there was a luau – that meant one thing – get out the Black Holoku.
As a teen, my asthma would often send me to the TV room in the middle of the night, where I would sit in a chair with two or three pillows piled onto my lap to support my hunched shoulders as I willed myself to breathe. Reruns of McHale’s Navy and Combat and the late night movie provided some companionship as I bargained my way through an attack, begging God to make it stop and finally cursing God for the lungs that have failed me my entire life.
Waiting on a subway platform was part of my daily commute for almost 10 years. Expressing down to 14th Street from Times Square to pick up the local to Canal and Varick. Waiting on the platform, listening to the number 2 wiz by on its way to Brooklyn. The sound of train connecting with track. A New York City rhythm beckoning a more primal rhythm. The slap, tap, tap of the ipu beating out the footsteps of the first hula I ever learned – Kawika. Continue reading “Ipu (Gourd/Percussion Instrument)”
When my maternal grandparents left Wahiawa, Oahu in 1959 to come and live with their eldest daughter’s family in Maryland, our house became a multi-generational home. As I think back on the first home we shared, I can’t for the life of me figure out how we all fit into that little split-level: Mom, Dad, me and two brothers plus Gramps, Nana, and my mom’s youngest sister. I think people needed less space back in the 60’s. Somehow we made it work. My grandfather passed away a few years later and my grandmother stayed with us through another four re-locations. During this time, the three packs of cigarettes a day my dad smoked during his Navy career caught up with him and chronic lung and heart disease sidelined him from attending social events, so it became my job to step in as my mom’s escort. And thus, it became the three of us – Mom, known as Lani; Nana – who was called Auntie Abbie by the Hawaiian community; and me.Continue reading “Ekolu Makou (We Three)”