Monday, September 24, 2012

Ke ala a ke ku'uku'u: "path of the spider"

"A tradition of the sun's north-south track of the cosmic spider, Ke ala a ke ku'uku'u 'path of the spider," is an ancient Hawaiian analog for the sun's motion between solstices and equinoxes in the tropics. The cosmic spider, great Lanalana or Ku'uku'u, spins a web as a grid across the sky in which stars course east to west in fixed tracks, spaces along the horizon being azimuths (lua) 'pit' positions of rising/setting stars, moon, sun, and planets."
"The Hawaiian Understanding of the Universe," Rubellite Kawena Johnson, 2008
The heavens have changed their gowns several times today. Early in the morning while the stars dazzled in a still-dark sky the air was clear and the presence of the wildfires burning in Chelan, a city about 170 miles from Whidbey Island is less persistent. My eyes don't blink to moisten them against the fine soot. Oh how thirsty is Papahonua(Earth). Now, late in the afternoon, kolonahe, a makani olu'olu (a pleasant wind) has moved patches of white clouds into place and the muted blue matches the first days of Autumn. The Equinox has come. From our vantage point here on the island in the middle of the Salish Sea, I sought the shape of Mahina last night and saw her in her finely drawn half-half illumination. In the counting of nights, we are in the 'Ole moons. Today is 'Ole Pau, the fourth and final time of the month when weeding and fixing nets or raking up the yard are perfect activities.

In between the many heavenly changes I made a call to a very special lady. It has been many years since last we spoke, and it seems like a life time ago when first I met her. But when on the third ring I heard her familiar voice as she answered, "Aunty Betty" time closed its arms around us and we were on the same page at the same time. Aunty Betty Kawohiokalani Jenkins is kumu, teacher and mentor. It is she who introduced me to the practice of Makua O'o a practice described and shared with her by her Mama.

Now 84, "Aunty" is as involved as I remember her to be. Her raspy and inimitable voice was alive and interested in sharing her life and her newest  projects. It was interesting for me to hear how she continues to travel and takes her style and her kuleana to Hawaiian communities and communities of First People beyond the shores of the Hawaii. Supported and loved by her family and friends, this woman has been a web-maker and grand spider for many people. I spoke with my neighbor and friend about Aunty Betty, and said the thing that inspires me still is her willingness to continue to be teachable. While she is sought as a speaker and leader for decades now, it is her inclusiveness that models the tool, the o'o (the digging stick) of asking for your input that slays me every time. As skillful as a spider, she creates a grid. Link after link, the grid, the conversation grew into a net of such substance. We caught up on the general and specifics of woman-time: I knew Uncle Jack had passed last year, she knows I cannot go home to Hawaii but also knows I am home where I am. I called Aunty Betty because I needed to tell her how Makua O'o is my foundation, a solid and flexible root. With the value of humility and power elegantly in place I heard Aunty thank me over and again for making this call. She needed to hear something today, and by golly, our conversation was just the thing.

The practice of Makua O'o is purposely one that lays out a set of flexible yet sustaining tools for evolution. Inseparable from all of creation, the maturing adult is in process and progressing just as the heavens and the grid of Ku'uku'u form pathways for huli (turning and movement). The practice is ongoing and there is no graduation. The road to becoming kupuna is the way. You get there when you get there, again and again and in the meantime every day if the sun rises and you are awake E ALA E. Aunty once told me that there weren't many others interested in the ideas and practice of the Makua O'o. When I said, "I am." She said, "Well, you must be the one then." Pela, perhaps. Or paha, maybe it was Aunty's way of making me feel I had made a good choice to step onto that path.

Spider webs appear to be fragile and indeed they are easily swept from ceilings, pulled free unconsciously as one moves through an open gate. But as any child will tell you, they'll be back. And, that's the truth.

These are the original tools (words adapted a bit over time) for the Makua O'o

  • Notice
  • Listen respectfully
  • Believe your best is enough
  • Soften the ground of your being
  • Ask
  • Timing is divine
  • Care
  • Sense your place
  • We are never alone and always loved
As we were about to end our conversation Aunty asked, "Was I talking about the 4-B's when we were last together?" I said no. She said she is always talking about them now and kidded about being an elementary school teacher so keeping things simple was key. Aunty left me with this.

Aunty Betty's 4-B's

  1. Believe
  2. Behave
  3. Become
  4. Belong

Aunty Betty, I love you. Mahalo for your webs. We continue to spin them and that is good.


  1. lovely entry...mahalo for your manao and for sharing your Aunty Betty experience with us!

    aloha from the slopes of Hualalai,

  2. Aloha Kala,
    What a delightful comment you leave with me.To know you are reading from the slopes of Hualalai makes my heart swell. Yes, Aunty's kuleana is far-reaching.
    Mahalo for visiting my blog,


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