Koko and I walked up the mountain trail late yesterday afternoon, where clouds were softening both the golden light and the jagged ridges of Makaleha and a frisky breeze ruffled the leaves of the ohia and caused the ironwood and eucalyptus to moan and sigh, respectively.
In the distance, the ocean stretched smooth and blue until it merged with the sky, where a white moon that is edging its way toward full stood bright and bold directly above the head of the Giant.
Returning — restored, mind calm — in the gathering dusk, I heard the distinctive call of a Newell’s shearwater, perhaps heading in to tend its fluff ball chick in one of the burrows that dot the slopes of Makaleha.
The birds were back in the news yesterday, with The Garden Island publishing a press release — what TGI too often passes off as “news” — from KIUC talking about how it plans to spend $11 million protecting the birds. But only half of that is actually going to be used to change the utility lines that are killing birds. Much of the rest will be spent on studies with one primary purpose: trying to show there are more birds out there than currently estimated, so KIUC can justify its high take.
Speaking of takes, I found it ironic that the St. Regis, whose bright lights kill dozens of endangered seabirds each year, prompting an Earthjustice lawsuit, is the site of today’s Save Our Seas conference.
Over at Civil Beat, reporter Michael Levine had a very thoughtful, thorough article on how efforts to protect the birds are playing out on Kauai. It had Rep. Jimmy Tokioka saying that constituents angry over the end of Friday night football had told him they might now be less inclined to help the birds.
Hmmm. One can only imagine Jimmy’s response: “I understand your frustration, but why blame the birds? After all, their precipitous decline can be directly traced to human activities.”
Nah. Knowing Jimmy, it was more likely along the lines of this: “Yeah, fucking dumb birds. Har-har, yuk- yuk.”
He's such an embarrassment.
When I interviewed Kehau Kekua about Wailua and traditional cultural practices related to the sacred and the profound — you can read the story here— we got to talking a little about the Newell’s shearwaters, or A’o. The traditional name of Wailua includes alio, which is a reference to their cry, since another name for the birds is lio.
She spoke of how Hawaiian burial practices and beliefs parallel the burrowing nesting habits of the birds, which travel the seas, but return each year to make their nests in the same place where they were hatched. So with both the birds and the kupuna, there’s this unending connection. Well, until we disrupt it, anyway:
“It has to do with burying the kupuna strategically along the coastal areas, facing the horizon, so they’re able to continue their own migrations into the spiritual realms, where life continues,” Kekua explained. “The manao [thinking] of politicians and developers is just move the bones, but the mana, the spirit, lives in the bones. It’s not a one-way trip; it’s a cyclical movement, which is why Hawaiians feel obligated to protect the iwi kupuna. When we hala, die, we leave our bodies, but in places like Wailua, that are sacred portals, our ancestors can always come back and we can mingle with our kupuna.”
In other words, as Kehau noted:
“It’s all about movement.”
And the inter-connectedness of everything.
Kehau’s Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipwuai will be performing ancient chants and hula at 4 p.m. today at Church of the Pacific in Princeville. They may still have some tickets at the gate, but it’s too late to get in on the feast that will be prepared by Stacy guys at Waipa. You can check out the halau website for more details.
If you're looking for the real deal, this is it. I know I’ll be there.