Friday, November 28, 2014

Pele and Lohiau told by Kamokila Campbell

When I was a young girl growing up in Kuli'ou'ou Valley in the 1950's and '60's, I listened to the radio. One of the voices that captivated my young and imaginative Scorpion nature was that of Kamokila Campbell. Her voice and her stories were a sound that embraced me when confused about my place and my nature, inspiring me to learn and be fed by listening to the power of voice.

In those days, and only until much later in life, I did not know of the great contradictions Alice Kamokila Campbell would represent. The daughter of James Campbell, and heiress to the grand fortune of sugar  "... In the late 1930s and early 1940s, ‘Ewa was a sugar plantation with miles of swaying cane baking on the dry, flat plain. Kamokila Campbell’s father, James Campbell, pioneered the area years before, finding water and making the land prosper." Finding water really meant diverting fresh water from the Windward O'ahu wetlands of Waiahole and Waikane while spraying and applying chemical fertilizer and herbicides creating great strain on the natural environment and health of the people of the Island. Also included in the article Lessons of a Hawaiian Grandmother written by Kaui Goring, "Even though she was an heiress, whose family mingled with nobility of the time—Mary remembers her grandmother noting that King Kalakaua would play “poka” with her father at his Honouliuli ranch—Kamokila lived among the kiawe trees much of the time wearing a simple mu‘umu‘u made up of two pieces of fabric sewn together. She would even go into the water in the dress. At other times, done up in an elegant black holoku (that Mary still owns) wearing strands of lei reaching down to her knees, she would duck into her limousine, driven by her private driver, to an upscale function in town...For Judy, the youngest of the sisters, Lanikuhonua was a happy and spiritual place. She suffered from allergies at her Nu‘uanu Valley home and the dry climate of ‘Ewa suited her. From the very beginning of her time there, Judy felt the sacredness of the land. She suspects that the spot was a place her grandmother reconnected with the Hawaiian part of herself. For the most part, she threw off the lavish lifestyle she had enjoyed when she was younger and found peace and simplicity. Judy, too, remembers the simple mu‘umu‘u and her grandmother sitting at a picnic table just gazing at the ocean. She even drank her coffee made with brackish water, because fresh water had to be brought in large bottles. “I think the land grounded her,” says Judy, who sees the honor of her grandmother living between two worlds—yet in the end, tried to hone in on her Hawaiian nature."

The nature of being human is a balancing act that is not easily maintained. It is instead a daily and routine act that changes over time. Growing, changing, adapting. Listening, gathering, acting. I juggle the changes and ability to adapt with various degrees of agility. Age changes the speed at which I digest change. Softening the ground of my nature means distracting myself from being obsessed with perfection -- static, fixed perspective. Play a hand of cards, and laugh at how the game plays through. Notice how the wind makes the solid disappear. Today the wind brings rain. Tomorrow the weather man says 'expect snow.' If I were still a girl in Kuli'ou'ou I would not know how to expect snow. But. Now I am an old woman who lives with a man who was a boy who knew. He says "Today I'll wrap heat tape around the pipes." Contradiction. Complementary. Juggling. My taste for listening to voices continues to soothe and inspire. I give thanks for my large ears that can hear external voices, and listen, to the quieter, yet most powerful voice that is within. In hearing the stories from Kamokila Campbell's granddaughters I hear "e ho mai I ka maopopo pono" ... grant us understanding, e ho mai I ka 'ike papalua ... grant us insight still honing in on my Hawaiian nature.

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