What is Makua O'o?

Makua o'o in Hawaiian means maturing adult. As a practice it means kupuna, elder, in training. These are the 9 Basic Tools for the Makua O'o as shared with me by my kumu Aunty Betty Kawohiokalani Ellis Jenkins. 
  1. Keep a keen sense of observation NOTICE, PAY ATTENTION 
  2. Listen … with your whole body … LISTEN RESPECTFULLY 
  3. Do your best in all things … LIVE LIFE WITH A PASSION 
  4. Know that wisdom is found in many places … SOFTEN THE GROUND OF YOUR BEING
  5. Question for clarity when making decisions … ASK
  6. Practice patience and endurance … TIMING IS DIVINE
  7. Engage in good health practices … CARE
  8. Feel the heartbeat of the culture … SENSE YOUR PLACE, KNOW YOUR ROOTS
  9. Believe in Ke Akua, for this higher power makes all life possible … WE ARE NEVER ALONE, ALWAYS LOVED
Time and experiences stretch the makua o'o to see how resilient and adaptable she or he has become. As I age I am still challenged to make sense of reality and frame my experiences differently because I have changed and my understand of my culture has changed as well. When "Aunty Betty" shared her mother's description of the practice of makua o'o I was newly returned to Hawaii after living in The Pacific Northwest for 23 years. I had so much to learn and even more to unlearn before any meaning could stick to my na'au where life really takes root. At 65 the basic tools continue to be reliable ones, but when an opportunity for adaptation arises I am learning to release my hold on what is no longer working. Five years ago illness and opportunity said "Choose again." I returned to the Pacific Northwest. There is always something more to learn about myself and everything else. I continue to do that and it amazes me!

October 10, 2016
The nest of a home we built has been moved, transplanted from the wooded surroundings onto the gravel parking lot just a few yards ... just here to there. I am writing about the small and potent move turning the experiences into art, using the tools of the 21st century to explain while almost unconsciously applying the 9 tools Aunty Betty shared with me. Those tools of  kupuna in the making fit anytime, if I pause to recognize that.
  1. Keep a keen sense of observation … NOTICE . Everything starts here. Noticing is not limited to what the eyes see though I am very grateful to be able to see the world with the aid of prescription lens. Sometimes, I don't put on my glasses, or forget where I left them. And then the next tool helps.
  2. Listen … with your whole body … LISTEN RESPECTFULLY This illness I live with (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, or Environmental Illness) has tattooed my body with keen awareness to the over saturation of uber everything: too many young pilots taking off in their planes at the small airport down the road, young parents spraying Roundup on the road's edge, fragrance in product to soften sweatshirts, or a fresh hair style, or armpits ... The things or choices that are done for convenience ultimately harm Earth. It's the same for me, and everyone else but it's just me I can do something about. So I listen, And ... 
  3. Do your best in all things … LIVE LIFE WITH A PASSION At this stage of my life I have little extra energy once I just get through the daily and nightly episodes of attending to listening and responding to what my body is saying. The small and powerful move of a few yards means making adjustments to how the new environment is different: different trees for company, mold in places that were not there before, wind patterns are different; wood smoke travels into our golden wagon and we are caught unawares, our landladies' habits are not more directly affecting ours. We make adjustments, and I make art, write all over the place, pulling up old writings to consider performance, make contact with newly discovered a mentor. And ... appreciate the super hero of a man who has committed to journey with me. Pete.
  4. Know that wisdom is found in many places … SOFTEN THE GROUND OF YOUR BEING My husband is a source of difference and wisdom that is so very different from my way. In the twenty plus years we have been together, it's his divergent style has softened the ground of my being in many ways. This is a man who loves to meddle into others' business with no hesitation; a white knight meant to rescue. Is that a bad thing? Well of course most would say, we are feminists and don't need no stink'n rescue. Ah ha. Yes, mostly that's true. I do most of my own rescues. And yet, the other day I learned another strategy about knights and wounded maidens that plays out in my/our lives. Unexpectedly practical wisdom. It's Elsa who steered me to it. [PAUSE ... there are five other o'o to comment on later]
Monday, November 14, 2016
  1. Question for clarity when making decisions … ASK  The most vivid example of what can happen when you ask for clarity in making decisions came just before Pete and I set up The Safety Pin Cafe for a late September event called "The Power of Story."  My energy was waning after our whirlwind attempts at moving there was hesitation in my commitment to follow-through with doing the storytelling, gratefully I asked for the courage to do what I could and the help came. The energy to pitch the tent and prepare for interaction with the audience who came did happen. What else happened was Aurora Levins Morales. The Puerto Rican Jewish artist activist and writer writes powerful and richly woven essays. We have or are reading two of Morales' books: Kindling her most recent essays about the realities of being a disabled and chronically ill writer and artist and activist, and Medicine Stories Morales' first collect that is ... without doubt one of the most life-changing reads either of us has read in a very long time. 
  2. Practice patience and endurance … TIMING IS DIVINE I am a writer and have been writing as if my life depended upon it for twenty years. Before that I wrote not knowing my life depends upon it. Some might look at the venues for my writing and say, "She's just a blogger" and they would be correct. I am. Since 2009 I have written and published more than twenty and closer to thirty blogspots to describe the conditions, the challenges, the myth and the magic of the art that is my life. Not especially patient, I found a quick version for satisfying my love of words, visual art and publishing through blogs. Environmental Illness can isolate and it has made one-on-one and group contact difficult. To do what I could do, I have written blog after blog after blog. One of those blogs began as a medicine story in the winter of 2012. The Safety Pin Cafe began on a wet and moldy winter day, "It was a day a duck could love" the story began. Inspired by the discovery of a safety pin on the floor of the post office I recognized a visitation from my Ma who had left me a gift of faith and amazing grace. Now, four winters later I have learned of the amazing grace my Ma and all the other mothers on the other side of the veil are dishing out as safety pins are showing up everywhere. I didn't she it that way at first. Until a dear friend pointed it out in an email, "I've been reading about safety pin news. Your mom has been very busy." She was writing to say she might not be able to join us in person later this week had written a beautiful story about solidarity and crossing cultural borders to learn from unexpected teachers. And the comment about my Ma came because she has been reading and listening and remembering what the medicine story and safety pins is all about -- patience, small magic, people leaving gifts, family showing up, having your back, being your rock. The patience thing is divine, and we don't have control on when it might or might not happen. 
  3. Engage in good health practices … CARE [More later ... now for more sleep.]
  4. Feel the heartbeat of the culture … SENSE YOUR PLACE
  5. Believe in Ke Akua, for this higher power makes all life possible … WE ARE NEVER ALONE, ALWAYS LOVED

'Ole Kukahi, July 6, 2015
Our home is hot. The sky above is shrouded with the smoke from fires burning in Canada. Nearer there have been brush fires. The winds? They are in other places. On the one hand that is a blessing for the burn would spread with dry wind. And yet, if there was wind where the fires are not, the movement of Lono would ease our discomfort. Where is the balance, is it too late for us to correct the imbalance?

The 'ole phases of Grandmother Moon's walk across the sky, in tandem with our Island Earth pulls undeniably on the waters. The Moon connects with all Earth water as if her light were a myriad of umbilici, channels for life-giving. As if is insufficient for in fact, the moon's connection is life-giving. Because of the symbiotic relationship our Island Earth has with the Grandmother, the Goddess, Mahina the tides of our oceans respond to her position. The tides have been extreme, as they are after the Solstice, and the start of Summer. What is changing though is the temperature of the oceans as they warm up. As in the depths so as in the shallows. In the light as is in the shade. I ka nana no a 'ike. By observing, one learns. 

Later this week, after the 'Ole phases have had their influence, and the Kaloa phases give us time to plant anew we will make a space to gather and share the teachings of Makua o'o and Kaulana Mahina (the Hawaiian Moon Calendar). This time, the slow and steady building of relationships with the community of South Whidbey TILTH grows into a face-to-face space where we can spread more seeds. Makua o'o as a practice is a compass for navigation. An elder-in-training will learn differently, no two experiencing life exactly the same.

We (my husband and I) were led to this good island five years ago, and with slow and committed practice, we are making island or HO'OMOKU. Foundations that last take time and maintenance. Noticing how well your relationships are are best marked with ceremony; the deliberate attending makes one remember to remember. The connection with the moon's cycle and her effects call attention to what is growing; how it grows; and when it might be better to weed rather than plant ...

Today at mid-morning on the start of the 'Ole moons, I consider the readjustments, and readaptation that must be done as we near the opening of our new gathering place. As I write, the small and constant tiny ramblings of mice who have found their way into the insulation in our Quonset ceiling reminds me we are not alone. We only share the woods and the mice they believe there is more freedom now that the Huntress is gone.

Makua o'o live the journey as responsibility and gift. What are my responsibilities, and my gifts? When I am sure of the answer I come to balance. Can I laugh at the scratching patter of mice travels above my head? Is that MouseWoman's family, or Celeste from the French tale of friendship between a mouse and bear? Oh so many possibilities.

These are morning rambles, a place to pour off some of the newest ideas and observations needing someone to go. I am grateful to have the time to consider how to respond to the little feet above my head. That is all.

'Ole Kukahi, April 9, 2015
"At home, in the woods, the sky had cleared to the bright-eyes of blue. A time to give thanks for all, on the first po of 'ole. Relaxing and soaking in life as I find it now, here on Tscha-kole-chy (Whidbey Island). Ka La the sun radiant. Blessing the sacred place. The gift of soft and companionable breezes teased the tips of the Tall Ones, and the wind chimes dangling from the edge of the vardo." (CLICK on the link 'Ole Kukahi)
The 'Ole Po the 'Ole Moon Phases of Kaulana Mahina are the times to reflect, rest, prepare, weed and repair (your nets, your tools, your body, your mind). Reflecting and relaxing today I am lit with the insight that the practice of Makua O'o as it was shared with me originally begins with 'Keep a keen sense of observation.' Those were Aunty's exact words. There is life in the word. There is meaning there. After all these years of study and practice, and learning to live with the Hawaiian Moon Calendar, I notice, today that THE word-phrase in English was 'keen sense of observation'. Observation. Kilo. A practitioner of observation was a kilo. A practitioner keen to the sky was a Kilolani.  Ahhh...I see.
November 12, 2014
Makua o'o is a spiritual practice, the day to day discipline, tedious sometimes, like growing any habit or muscle. The practice is my kuleana ... my responsibility. I took it on and recognize that when I become impatient looking for particular outcomes NOW, I have forgotten: when my life becomes a ceremony (an act done with intention)  I'm doing my work. Inspired to keep at it I listened to this interview with Sandra Ingerman about "Medicine for the Earth."
I began the study of elderhood through the work of Angeles Arrien, and her teachings found in The Second Half of Life The Eight Gates of Wisdom. It began as a way to understand and amend my relationship with death. My brother David passed suddenly in late Spring and with his passing my mortality and my appreciation for life was made vividly clear. I felt the need to dig deeper, and was guided to Angeles Arrien by a friend just weeks about the Basque cultural anthropologist passed. The canoe of ancestors and teachers on the other side was filling up. I made a pact with myself to learn from them more intimately. My study has rewarded me greatly. My kupuna, my aumakua are happy I call on them.

They guide me and I follow more quickly. I have begun to share the stories in interactive face-to-face summertime programs. The Makua O'o has shard the value of the o'o ... the stick. That double sided meaning of the word with and without accentuation on the "o's" multiples the potentiality. In the maturation process the use of the stick to dig with, the turn things over (metaphorically and literally) only adds to the character of a maturing elder. When I listen to the stories people who were in the audience and under our storytelling tent ... how the stick AUNAKI (one of the two fire-starting sticks in the story of Pelehonuamea's initiation) is making a difference in their journey.*It makes me say UMMM.

I am happy to see the journey continues with satisfying depth, humor and connectivity nearly twenty years later. A Saturn ruled Scorpio like me needs to know the work is worthy.

If you would like to hear the story of Lono and Pele, I have recorded that mo'olelo along with two other stories. They are available on MP3 files. Cost: $5.00. All sales benefit our local food bank in South Whidbey Island. EMAIL me if you're interested, mokihanacalizarATgmailDOTcom.

    Earlier this week I was invited to talkstory with WhidbeyAIR's (Whidbey Island's all internet public radio) Co-host Annie Zeller Horton on a program called "Isle of the Arts". We chatted about my medicine story The Safety Pin Cafe and spent time describing the practice of Makua O'o and covered the 9 basic tools of an elder in training. It was a good time. LINK HERE to the podcast of the program.


      Today I choose again and renew this space after hiatus. Dr. Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele says it so well enjoy her TEDx presentation, 2012. She ends her presentation with a call to live passionately, and with her connection to Pele, Pua asks, "Remember that song 'Light my fire'? I'm using that inspiration to do just that. Mahalo Pua.

      LINK HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PDipPnD2d8

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