An island encircled by an ocean which embraces the world
My home does not belong to me. It first belonged to the ocean, sleeping deep in the fathoms before it was woken by the movement of tectonic plates and the lovemaking of Wakea and Papahanaumoku. Up rose the land, bubbling forth over the eons, layer upon layer of lava rising up from the center of the earth, pulled forth by the strength of Maui’s fishhook, until someone in his canoe looked back, and the line snapped.
This land became a shore where coral grew and fish and octopus found shelter after being swept a great distance by ocean currents. Rising above the watery embrace of the sea, this land was discovered by wayward seeds and windswept birds carrying snails and bugs; they landed and never left. The first people were born of Papahanaumoku; younger siblings of Haloa, the kalo; all rooted and green, their bones growing like the ribs of leaves, sprouting forth from this land; children of this place, kama’aina. The Marquesan people sailed to join them, became them; guided by stars and ocean currents, birds and cloud formations, accompanied by the ancestors they left behind and the ones their children would become. Pele arrived from Kahiki, and was greated by these people as she dug great craters in all of the islands, continuing south until she arrived on Kilauea and found fire still simmering beneath the earth and laid claim to it, creating new land all her own.
This is a place found and created by those voyaging toward a destination, by all the small things lost and drifting and landing ashore, and by the hands of Gods and Goddesses. And I would like to know how long they all stayed before they called this place home. When did they knew they were of this place, those plants and animals, these people and deities, from here and not there?
And how did I come to be here with them, arriving as a child, emerging from of the womb of a plane into the heavy darkness of morning? And for what purpose?
I was borne here long ago by ancestors sailing across a different ocean, the cold Atlantic currents bringing them from places far north: Norway, Sweden, Germany, Scotland. A roll call of pale skin and cold winters, they came from cities on the sea to a new land: America. A place full of possibilities and indigenous people being relocated to make room for their dreams.
The only uniting history of white people is one of leaving, then claiming the land upon arrival with guns and farmhouses which grow into cities and armies. And so my people left again, and again, moving further west, until I drifted here on the currents of luck and dreams: Tourist advertisements which reached Minnesota in the middle of a winter piled high with snow, my mother saving money and sending off for a Sears ukulele and a dream of a tropical paradise; my father’s acceptance to the Coast Guard Academy, when he had never seen the ocean; their chance meeting in a Honolulu bar. All these events leading to my brother and I being born, but back in the continental United States. Staying put for only a few years until we all returned again; I grew up in Maunawili, then our family left again. Our story is of slingshotting back and forth, pulled in two directions by competing demands of the “American dream” and a deep love of these islands.
Now we have returned again to Kailua, leaving my brother behind. My only child was born on this land, tumbling forth into mountain air after nine months spent dancing hula in my womb. She asks me if I am Hawaiian since that is the language I am learning to speak, she asks if she is Hawaiian since she was born in Hawaii. I try tell her about her ancestors, show their journey on a map of the world, all those scattered points of origin, the names so foreign to her. When we meet new people, they ask us where are we from, our blonde hair giving away our outsider status. So I ask, how long before a relation of mine can honestly answer that they are from here? Or will they leave before then, a restless bloodline, flying and sailing and running forever away, forever onward, forever disconnected and always from a land somewhere else?
My home first belonged to the ocean, and even now returns, proud mountains succumbing slowly to the steady wash of rain. So, too, I will someday leave, swept from the Ko’olau mountains back across the sea, my bones turned to ashes, drifting on currents and wind. Maybe some speck of me, carried the belly of a fish, will find some long forgotten place that only my soul remembers, landing in the net of a distant blood relation. Will I at last find peace, or will my soul stir once more, and begin the journey again: inspiring a new generation to set forth, to seek again this distant shore?
Last night I dreamt I was returning
and my heart called out to you
To please accept me as you’ll find me
Me ke aloha ku’u home o Kahalu’u