I was driving through Anahola yesterday morning, heading south, looking at the mountains, the pastures, aware of how parched the island feels, but it's not just drought. She's drained, depleted, and I thought of a kahuna who told me almost no one is tending Kauai anymore, saying the ancient prayers, leaving the customary offerings that foster a connection, reinforce the appreciation for water, land, air, the essential ingredients of life. And I wonder what we lost when we turned away from those rituals of earth acknowledgement — not just here, but all over the world.
Later, at the Pow-Wow, drums pounding, I smiled at a Native American man from Minnesota, a man who carves stone pipes in the traditional way, and right off the bat he started telling me about the places you can just feel, even if you're not a tribesman, and they touch you somehow and you know it, because you get teary-eyed, or the gooseflesh. And those are the sacred places, he said. Not everyone feels it, but those who do know they have to be protected, because they are the special places.
Yes, I replied, there are places like that on Kauai, too, the wahi pana, and you can feel them, even if you're not Hawaiian, if you just pay attention.
That's exactly it, he said, you gotta pay attention. You gotta stop and get quiet. And it's not just feeling special places. Maybe you have dreams, or you hear voices. Maybe you can just read people, know all about them the moment you meet them, or read messages in the clouds. You'll always get people telling you, oh, there's nothing to it, it's all superstition, crazy talk. But you know it's real, because you've experienced it. So it doesn't matter what people say.
I nodded, teary-eyed, flesh puckered into chicken skin, thinking of how just two days earlier a friend had spoken to me of a Kealia sunrise made spectacular by the cloud formations, and how clouds had something to say, if we just look, and the Hawaiians knew it, and did look, which is exactly what the kahuna had told me, years ago.
Home from the Pow-Wow, the man's words in my head, the phone rings, and it's a friend who has pulled over near the bell stone in Wailua, because he suddenly felt a need to talk to me, from the quiet of a sacred place, and he tells me of how he was driving along the highway, one recent morning and saw not just one rainbow, or a double, but 10, stacked on top of one another above the heiau, and he was so stunned that he had to pull over and get out of his car, but all around him, everyone kept going. “I'm standing there, going, wow, this is so unreal, so special, and it was like they never even saw it.”
I thought of the man at the Pow-Wow, and his admonishment: you gotta pay attention.
Then I thought of a video I'd happened upon that morning, where John Trudell was talking about the “great lie of civilization, the predator energy that feeds upon the essence of the spirit,” the process of “mining our minds,” the spread of the mind disease that has allowed us to "accept the unacceptable."
And I know some will say this is all crazy talk, superstition, there's nothing to it. But others of you know, because you've felt it too, and you understand.