Thursday, December 4, 2008

Musings: Back to the Center

I flew yesterday from the brown of Colorado back to the gray of Seattle, where domed and snow-covered Mt. Rainier appeared as the classic baked Alaska dessert, floating on a bed of clouds, with one drifting up to form a halo above the summit. Not too many swimming pools in the backyards of homes in that city, but there is a nice greenbelt that runs through the center.

From the air, and walking through airports, it's easy — and kind of shocking — to see how much land and how many resources are devoted to moving folks around.

Then it was on the emerald balminess of Kauai, treasured both as home and for the gem that she is. A joyous reunion with Koko tempered the sadness I felt at having my Mom and one of my favorite sisters so far away.

We stopped at Opaekaa Falls on the way to my house and listened to the roar of rushing water as the waxing moon somehow interacted with Pleiades and Orion to create light rays shooting up from Nounou.

I recalled the words of the ticket agent in Denver, when he looked at my boarding pass and driver’s license and said, oh, you live there. What a pleasant life that must be, all by yourself in the middle of the Pacific, a separate little world.

And it is, and it’s a marvelous one, despite the flotsam and jetsam — human and otherwise — that regularly washes up on her shores, and then is cast adrift again. Though some who are unevolved, or jealous, may characterize living here as “hiding out,” I see Kauai as being the center of the universe — separate, but very much connected, kind of like the chamber in the bee hive where the queen lives, protected, yet tuned in.

Kauai’s ancient names — Kamawailualanimoku, among them — speak to that standing, though they aren’t used often because it’s so much more convenient, when raping and pillaging the `aina, to pretend that this is just a meaningless chunk of old basalt.

While traveling, I was reading and editing a manuscript on the Alakai and the author made a reference to how Hawaiians considered mountains to be sacred, a connection I explored in a piece I wrote about the mists of Kokee . Other indigenous cultures also revered high places, both because of their proximity to the stars and the most far off distant places, and the role they play in generating water. It seems to make sense to me to cherish the landforms and natural resources that perpetuate life,and when you come right down to it, they all do, for one creature or another.

The question now before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether to perpetuate the status quo in the form of colonialism and appropriation of lands rightfully owned by the indigenous people of this land, or to perpetuate the Hawaiian nation by preserving the land that the state is supposed to be holding in trust until there’s a settlement of the sovereignty issue. The state’s briefs in the case are due today, as Charley Foster noted on Planet Kauai, so it should be interesting to see what kind of arguments they come up with to counter the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling.

Still, can anyone really expect justice from the highest court of the nation that did the taking in the first place? Especially when it's got so many members appointed by an imperialist like Bush.

On the local front, there’s a meeting at 7 tonight at the Lydgate Park main pavilion on the next leg of The Path, which calls for building a boardwalk along the sand and dunes of Wailua Beach. What kind of harebrained idea is that, on a windward coast prone to erosion? Alternatives are going mauka of the highway, fronting the Coco Palms, or following a tree-shaded, one lane road along the Wailua Drainage Canal behind Coco Palms.

If we can't stop the Path, let’s at least put infrastructure along already existing roads and in developed areas, so we can keep our beaches naturally.


Ed Coll said...

Joan wrote: Though some who are unevolved, or jealous, may characterize living here as “hiding out,”

Is that aimed at Tony?

Joan wrote: I see Kauai as being the center of the universe — separate, but very much connected, kind of like the chamber in the bee hive where the queen lives, protected, yet tuned in.

That's exactly what Author Jerry Mander said last night in Hanapepe about how he responded to people saying he was hiding out on Kauai. Mander said quite the opposite and the response to the Superferry puts Kauai at ground zero in resistance to the nexus of global corporations and military adventurism.

Anonymous said...

i would agree that this sup ct will prob not decide in a way that makes polynesians happy (but it is possible, they could have a very narrow ruling that upholds part of the hi sp ct or otherwise leaves open the door for stopping the hi st gov from transferring certain lands). i would also bet that the sp ct ruling opens the eyes for many people as to the legal significance of the analogy bill (again, prob not in a way that will make certain persons happy).

Anonymous said...

To quote: Path work..."which calls for building a boardwalk along the sand and dunes of Wailua Beach. What kind of harebrained idea is that, on a windward coast prone to erosion?"

Erosion is one issue. Burials are another issue I assume. These boardwalks don't just float above the ground :)

Anonymous said...

According to the UH experts Wailua Beach is one of the few beaches that are actually gaining sand. 1' a year.

Boardwalk comes in 20' sections anchored into the sand with SS bolts every 20 feet. Lying on a graded surface about 6" deep. Shouldn't be a problem.

The burials most likely on the Coco Palms grounds or under the highway.

Anonymous said...

New York Times
December 7, 2008
"In an Age-Old Quest for Balance, an Uncertain Shift"

Scattered along the western stretch of the island of Molokai are the deserted structures of a vanquished people. This building with the title-free marquee was once a movie theater. That building, a luxurious lodge with a cow-ranch motif; notice the stop signs that say “Whoa” to nobody.

Farther on, past the swimming pool now filled with sand, are the skeletal frames of what were known as tentalows. People once came from far away, paying handsomely too, for the chance to sleep behind canvas drapes, the Pacific within sight, the night stars almost within reach.

These structures stand as eerie remnants of a years-long battle waged over the future of this island, an oasis of 7,500 with no traffic lights and no buildings taller than a coconut tree; with the state’s highest unemployment and highest percentage of Native Hawaiians; with a sweet way of saying you are welcome to visit as long as you understand its ways.

On one side of the fight were the off-island owners of Molokai Ranch, a sprawl of property covering a third of Molokai’s 260 square miles. They worked for years with some community members on a broad development proposal that included lots of jobs, the reopening of a closed hotel, the unheard-of donation of 26,000 acres for conservation. And this:

The building of 200 luxury homes along a gorgeous oceanfront spot called La’au Point. The development, the owners said, was necessary to help pay for parts of the tantalizing plan.

A 2006 marketing report described how “an unspoiled oceanfront” would attract people of means: “For the ocean-view lots, this would generally require a net worth of at least $1 million, and for the oceanfront properties the market for real estate at La’au Point comes from the premium pentamillionaire ($5 million) market and above.”

Opposing the plan was a majority of the Molokai community, including many who took pride in the island’s long resistance to anything that might somehow make it less Hawaiian. The La’au Point proposal gave breath to their rallying cry of “Keep Molokai Molokai.” The property is sacred, they said, its crabs and limpets vital to their subsistence. It should be shared by the people who live on Molokai, not owned by people who do not.

“We’re just caretakers,” said Walter Ritte, 64, a veteran warrior against anything he thinks might despoil Molokai. “That comes from our culture. The resources come first, and man comes second.”

So began the Battle of Molokai Ranch. At stake: “pono” — the Hawaiian concept for what is honorable, righteous, in balance.

Full text at

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for Mr. Coll:

How high have you built your Ivory Tower? Is it taller than the tallest coconut tree?

Anonymous said...

ohhhhhhhhhhhh nice one!! my compliments