FRIDAY JANUARY 5, 2001
Before going to sleep Heidi said she would get up before dawn to try to catch sunrise over the temple, but I was awake when I heard her alarm go off. I had slept naked under my sarong still damp from our swim and now it was barely dry from the heat of my sunburn. I got caught up in my journal in the silence of being the only one here.
When she came back we had our breakfasts. Today I switched to cocoa because the tea tasted so strange with the funny water. Not a bad idea. Also found out I do not need yogurt on my cereal. Heidi also found out that someone else in the world eats cereal without milk. It was a shock to her, that here again, we were alike. It was fairly easy for us to agree that we should head, today for the other side of the island. How to get there seemed more problematic as none of our several maps could agree whether route 19 turned east to the north or the south of its junction with road 270 and the park. We had to turn around in Kawaihae to retrace our steps while Heidi chatted on her cell-phone with someone at home – which only confused me more than ever.
cell phone call
mostly the message is
can you hear me?
Nothing up here looked very interesting to us even though we passed the big Parker Ranch and all its tourist attractions. I forgot the things I had wanted to see in the museum. (The ranch owner had married one of Hawai'i's royals so there were artifacts of that life here) The ads for the World Botanical Gardens and its waterfalls washed away all other thoughts for Heidi. Her morning shots had been disappointing so she was even more determined to capture a magnificent waterfall in a rainforest. We never even made an effort to peek into the Waipo valley (too scared of a narrow turn-around like yesterdays) and simply continued down the Hamakua Coast. We easily found the little wooden shack fronted with banana trees at the head of its dusty parking lot. The brittle blond first gave us litchi nuts, bananas that tasted like apples, and star fruits. Having hooked us in with the gifts of fruit, how could we say that maybe we did not want to spend $7.00 a person to look at her waterfalls? We couldn't. We paid and were given a sheet of copy paper with a hand-drawn map on it with three colors of high-lighter to guide us to the falls. Their budget must have been very local.
We bumped over terrible dirt roads, worse than anything the rental company had forbid us to take by weird fields of wild sugarcane and funny stunted trees.
Finally we arrived in the advertised "big paved" lot which was only big because it was totally empty. The woman had said that this was 300 acres of abandoned sugar cane fields with this great-untamed gulch with a lovely waterfall. Yea. We looked at it. It was too far away for and of Heidi's lens and even I felt my little camera would make it only smaller. We were out of there in minutes. We found the trail to their "rainforest" but it looked so new and shabby, we drove on by without stopping. Within yards we were back in the now-empty parking lot. Determined to salvage something from our $14.00 fee, we decided to see what the botanical gardens offered. Out back of the shack, holding more bananas for more chumps, we passed unfinished work, unfinished plantings, ideas that were groundless, uprooted and still in seed form. Heidi soon found an ordinary cactus she thought worthy of her attention. I wandered around on cement walkways by myself. Criss-crossing the paths were so many spider webs, each one centered at the level of my face, with a huge zebra-striped monster. I stooped to pluck a small jointed weed to use as wand and way clearing tool. It was surprisingly resistant to being picked so I gave it mighty yank which got me no farther. Hot and now angry, I twisted and pulled until it broke. The cleared path showed me no new flowers. The debris lying all around depressed me greatly. There was nothing I wanted to photograph.
Then I looked at the red spots on my brand new white tank top. Blood! My hand was cut deeply enough to have blood dripping all over the cement path and me. Only by sticking my hand and fingers in my mouth could I walk without dripping blood on my white clothes. Heidi was still at her same cactus and barely turned around as I asked for the key to the RV. There I got my hand bandaged, and my shirt washed out. The sun was very hot on the RV and I was feeling rather rocky. I drank some cold water and put the rest on my forehead. The cool collars I had bought for the trip were evidently designed for desert heat, not this humid stuff as they did absolutely no good at all. I tried to write in my journal and just gave up and lay on the couch.
Heidi came back more hot than I was so she went back to the shack for her 'free fruit drink'— awful stuff in a can with 31 grams of sugar. Because this falls had been such a disappointment, we quickly drove on to Akaka Falls. This parking lot was huge, but already full so we parked out on the road and walked down. At opposite ends of the parking lot were persons selling and weaving baskets. As we came closer to the first man, I had my eye on the baskets but Heidi had her eye on the little animals also woven out of coconut fronds. She asked their price. "I give two with a basket. My father told me never to give an empty basket." So we would have to buy a basket (how to ship this back in out overloaded suitcases?) to get the animals she wanted. Now into comparison shopping, I told Heidi she could go down to the falls, while I checked out the competition – a woman with a small boy almost hidden by the overgrowth along the stone wall. As soon as I saw how she had displayed her baskets on a large, fresh leaf, I knew she was special. While Heidi found out that the falls were not worth 'doing' but some bamboo groves did interest her. Thus, she descended into the green gulch while I got acquainted with this large, warm-brown woman wearing her kinky hair in a braid and a white t-shirt and orange sarong skirt. What a joy she turned out to be!
fingers woven in
I sat down on the low wall on the other side of her basket display. At first I asked questions about how she made the baskets (the sides are woven first and then the bottom is added), how long she had been making them (she had been taught by her grandmother who also taught her lomilomi – a Hawai'ian method of massage) and how long it took to make one (she started the next one and completed it before my very eyes). While she worked I asked if I could take her photograph and she said I could. As we continued our conversation, other people (always women) came up to look at the bowls. For these interruptions we would still the thread of our talks and I would engage the prospective buyer into conversation. I was egotistical enough to think that my patter was a factor in all three of these persons buying a basket. I truly enjoyed the feeling of 'working' the customer to help Eva (as I found out her name was – only later did I discover she spelled in Hawai'ian as Iwa!). Between customers we delighted ourselves by finding out how much we shared in common: she had lived in Concord, California, she had been born in Munich and her German was better than mine, and we both felt that the way Hawai'i had been taken over by whites in the 1890's was totally wrong. Also I learned that she had a degree in sociology, as did her mother, who was now married to a fairly wealthy man. Unlike her mother, Iwa wanted to live the traditional life as much as possible. She was more interested in carving tiki (the wooden representations of Hawai'ian gods) even though these were harder to sell. That was why, when she needed money, she came to the park to sell baskets, even though according to American law it was illegal for her to conduct a private business on park grounds. She told of how she was prepared when the ranger drove in to check up on things, to pull her bin of fronds and baskets under the bushes. Joe, the other basket seller, who had been damaged by his experiences in Viet Nam, had become combative and actually been arrested. Since then, the two of them worked together to keep on the good side of the ranger and out of trouble. Now, I noticed how careful Iwa was as she talked and worked and answered her son's questions (he was trying to make a smaller basket) to keep an eye on the traffic in and out of the parking lot.
I asked her about her carving and she said she had one in her car. When Heidi came back to pick me up I felt I wanted to see it before we left, so I asked, when no one was looking at the baskets if the time was right to look at it. We walked across the lot to her cab-over pickup that seemed to be her whole world and home. I was very impressed with the way she had the image wrapped in a cloth, as if she acknowledged its holiness. I asked her the price and she said I could pay what I wanted for it. When I told her what I thought it was worth to me, she immediately said she would sign it. Then she got out her tools (also each one wrapped in old, soft cloth) to chisel her name on the bottom. She sat on the curb with the stick of wood held between her knees, the chisel in her left hand and a block of hardened wood as hammer in her right.
(Later Heidi told me that when she saw Iwa and me sitting together on the curb, she asked Ikaikai, her son, what his mother was doing. "She's making god." he said very matter of factly.) With this done, I felt the transaction was finished but I had not counted on Iwa's insistence on telling me the story behind every facet of the sculpture beginning with the kind of wood it was made from – koa or Hawai'ian redwood or mahogany. "It's called "Double Love", " she said. "See, it has the two faces of love of Lono. . ." "The god of fertility." I interrupted. She was so surprised that I knew his name and function for her. She said her husband had called her from Oakland, shortly before Christmas asking if they could get together again, and while thinking on his offer she had begun this carving. From this she launched into a description of every embellishment even giving me a shell that she saw as part of her design. When one of the designs came from the nut of the loa hala or pandanus tree she showed me a picture of the tree in a botanical book as well as one of the nuts. "Oh," I said, "I found one of those yesterday and picked it up." Iwa stared hard at me as she ran her hand over the goose bumps risen on her arms. "Where did you find it?" "We were in the park that is spelled L-a-p-k-a something." "Lapakahi? On the Kohala coast?" "Yes, while I walking around there this nut fell out of the tree at my feet, so I supposed it was for me." With her eyes very large and round, she grasped me in her arms. When she let go of me she was still trying to smooth away the many goose bumps. Then she pulled out one of her coconut woven baskets saying she had to give it to me.
the basket weaver
the story of her life
in my check
"my son is my debt
to my grandparents"
Heidi drove the RV down into the parking lot so I could write Iwa a check (she said it was not important to her whether she had assurance, she knew my check would be good for her) her son saw how we were living. "Oh, Mom, this would be great for us!" So we showed them how the RV was organized and I gave Ikaikai my cold can of fruit juice. When we said good-bye Iwa folded me tightly in her arms saying, "I feel as if I have found one of my sisters." and I nodded my tears in agreement. "You are my best experience of Hawai'i". I felt I could now go home happy that I had found the Hawai'i I sought. Heidi was being patient waiting on me, but the edges were showing. So Iwa and I quickly exchanged addresses and we off into the heat of the afternoon.
basket weaver's blessing
you seem like my sister
in our skins yet hearts
from another lifetime
Now Heidi was in the mood for some shopping for herself. I was spent and needed a cup of coffee, but instead we bought water in a hot, tiny, almost bare Ishigo's General Store in the nearby town of Honomu "Silent Bay". The guidebook had pages telling of marvelous places to see here, but somehow we ended up in a small shop whose name will only appear on a credit card tab. Heidi had picked the store for its display of clothes hoping to find shorts and top for Ashley, but instead found a black velvet dress for herself (totally unseasonable for this hot day) and a cool short, blue cotton dress with a Jamaican print. While she and the heat wiggled in and out of these clothes, I chatted with the male sales clerk who refused to move from his cool place in front of a fan where he sat plucking a strange one-stringed instrument. Here I found out he had lived in Fort Bragg (of all places), had been a salmon fisherman, knew Bill Elmore, and had lived on Maui (the better place to be) until he fell in love with the owner of this shop. As we were totaling up the purchases, I bought the instrument he had been playing, Heidi remarked how much she liked the sarong that was being used as tablecloth for the sales counter. She looked through the rest of them hoping to find another one she liked as much and I joined her as I recognized that she had instinctively picked the best one. When it turned out none of the others were as well done (surely hand-painted in Indochina or Bali), we asked if we could buy the one off the table. "Okay, you can have it for $20 (instead of $40)." he said. Then he noticed that they had gotten some ink spots on it. Heidi lost interest in it at this point, but I asked what its price was now. "$10." and I loved the cloth even more. Out we went, back into the hot sun with our arms full of purchases. There were still more shops to hit, but the buying spree was satisfied. Now, and only now did we see that the top of the RV had missed tearing off the eaves of the store by only inches. We eased out of the parking place slowly and edged through town thankful for so many things.
What now? Go to the campground so early? It was only 3:30. I wanted to go to the next botanical garden, hoping for a positive experience to compensate for the morning's disappointment. I was still looking for the names of so many of the strange plants and trees lining the roads. Back on Route 19 we found that the turn-off to the Hawai'ian Botanical Garden was on a 'scenic route', i.e., a tiny winding residential street balanced on the edge of a cliff with houses edging the street, overgrown with low-hanging wires and vegetation. After we crossed a one-way wooden bridge marked "load limit – one ton" Heidi looked at me with fear in her eyes, as if we had not made a successful crossing and said, "I think this rig weighs more than a ton!" Two scary miles, late in a tired afternoon brought us to the huge and nearly bare paved parking lot. This was what I had expected in the morning. We went into the extravagant gift shop where we determined it was too late in the day to pay $20. for the trip no matter how interesting it looked. We decided that since our campground was so close by, we could stop here in the morning when the world and we were fresh again. Being in a gift shop gave us the idea to continue shopping – which we did. I was very glad to get an excellent book on the flowers of Hawai'i and some more postcards, even some printed on tapa cloth.
As we inched our way back to the highway at 5 miles an hour, and just after we recrossed the one ton limited bridge Heidi said she didn't know if she had the courage to think of driving this again in the morning. Whatever. I was tired and very hot. She was driving and very tired and hot. I was sure, the campground which was under a huge bridge we had crossed earlier would be a no starter. Yet, how very glad we both were that the campground of Kolekole was so easy to find, had such a huge empty parking lot. The park was situated at the mouth of the river (that came from Akaka Falls) where it entered the sea with a small waterfalls on its side. Here, deep in the gulch was a perfect rainforest of palms, split-leaf philodendrons climbing to the top, air roots hanging down as thick as veils, ferns and fern trees. As I stepped from the cab of the RV I felt instantly refreshed and renewed and ready for anything. Naturally, Heidi was not happy with this parking place, so we had to get back in while she reversed and backed and beeped here way into the last parking place beside the river. Never mind the sign saying "Falling coconuts danger here", this was the best slot in the whole park.
The smooth lawn of green grass invited us to join the others picnicking along the edge of the river. We walked up to the stones where the seashore began. There was no way I was going to let my tiredness twist my ankle on that wobbly surface so I sat on a lava rock overlooking the waterfall. I thought it would be perfect with the morning light shining on it. As I sat and stared at the darkness growing around its edges, Heidi sat down beside me, saying only. "Yep, that's the morning shot isn't it?" Heidi went off to do her evening photo (the sunset was on the other side of the island from here) so I sat by the river with some of the haiku that came to be with me.
rushing to the sea
hanging in the forest
a reaching out
the mute cry
of air roots
walls for a river
cool and moist
among the palms
over the sky river
above the rainforest
visiting the rainforest
in the moon
the moist glow as
someone else sweats too
visiting the rainforest
the lava rocks still hot
of a waterfall
ready to sleep
all of the light
in the waterfalls
why do these tears
trickle down my cheeks?
As the picnickers left the park to a beginning darkness and us we quickly made our old stand-by of chicken Alfredo pasta. While we ate a Hawai'ian woman parked beside us in the driveway (a no parking slot) to our right. It seemed she lived out of her car, from the amount and kind of stuff in it, so we kept an eye on her wondering if she would be our roommate for the night. At dark, she pulled out leaving us alone with one couple that was in a tent at the far end (closest to the ocean beach).
Now at 8:30 two carloads of teen-age boys just drove into the parking lot with both cars facing us so there is no way we can drive away. We turned out our lights expecting to get ambushed. After stealing up front to get the cell phone out and all our heavy flashlights and waiting and waiting and sweating and sweating, one car left, a big white van came down with the guys running between the cars whispering and turning off the interior lights whenever the door opened. We were so alert yet they surprised us greatly when they all left together. We are now breathing more easily but are still alert and very nervous about being the only people down here except for the young couple in the tent.
Heidi is already asleep but the orange security light shows the row of coconut palms along and above us keeping the river in its own bed.
Next day -SATURDAY January 6.
Hawai'i with Heidi Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001.