Day 3: In Which I Begin To Wonder If I Am Wasting My Time

We awoke early to the sound of many roosters trying to outdo one another. I cut up a pineapple (very proud of my expertise in picking a ripe, juicy one, though the juice spilled all over the lanai floor), and had pineapple, Cuban red bananas and yogurt. Plus croissants. Then I began working on my blog, with the usual frustration of trying to use the WordPress app on my iPad. I wound up using Tom’s computer again. I will be taking my Macbook Air on any future trips. It’s just too hard using the half-assed social media apps on the iPad.

We headed out to explore a little. First we went to Keleakakua Bay Park. This is at the end of a one-lane road. There’s a nice area for picnics, but the waterfront is not beach, but lava. The water was rough, and no one was swimming.

As we exited the car, I noticed that a woman was loading things into the car next to ours, which happened to be a Volt. I stopped and asked her how she liked it (loved it) and the conversation ranged very far indeed. Gabriela is from Germany but lives with her husband in the Puna area of the Big Island (lush, with grasslands and rainforest). She firmly believes that 9/11 was planned and executed by a shadow government of the United States and that Muslim extremists had nothing to do with it. I could not agree, largely because I can’t see the motivation. Then she told us about an amazing kahuna (holy person, priest) who had done wonders for her. A kahuna is just the sort of person I would like to meet, so I asked her for her email so I could send her a message and she could give me the contact info for the kahuna. I did this when we got back to Camp Aloha, but I suspect she may not respond. After all, I am just a crazy lady she met at the park.

There is an ancient restored heiau (temple, pronounced hay-ee-ow) right on the water. These are all constructed of rough-cut lava chunks that, amazingly, make nice, straight walls and platforms. There was absolutely no information about why the heiau was there or to which of the 40,000 Hawaiian gods it was dedicated. (No, I am not exaggerating the number of gods.) The only sign said “Kapu” (taboo, or forbidden.) I spotted a smooth, elongated oval stone at the apex of the heiau and tried to find a good place to take a picture without violating kapu. The area was obviously once a larger complex of buildings and platforms, and it is littered with rough boulders and bits and pieces of lava. I tripped over a tree root trying to get closer. I was largely undamaged, bar slight scrapes and bruises–but my iPhone screen was badly scratched by the lava. Grrrrr. But I got my photo.

The Ku stone is that rounded stone at the top. This was considered to be a satisfactory image of the god, and was itself kapu, or sacred.

The Ku stone is that rounded stone at the top. This was considered to be a satisfactory image of the god, and was itself kapu, or sacred.

















Heiau walls and platform from the front.

Heiau walls and platform from the front.

The oval stone, by the by, is probably a Ku stone. Ku was one of the top gods in the Hawaiian pantheon. As the name of the bay has “ku” in it, it’s safe to assume the ehiau was dedicated to Ku. He had a lot of responsibilities, but his major one was war. He was the god to whom most human sacrifices were made. I am not fond of Ku.

Then we went to a bee and honey museum, run by Big Island Bees. They offered a free honey tasting, so why not? They had a nice little hive you could look at through glass, some odd but interesting sculptures made out of beeswax, beekeeping paraphernalia, and of course, an assortment of stuff to purchase. We tried the honeys, and I decided I liked the ohia blossom best. I bought a small jar of ohia blossom honey and an assortment for the folks back home.

Then we set off to find Two-Step Beach, which is a good local snorkeling spot. (I adore snorkeling. I really do.) we didn’t intend to snorkel right away, we just wanted to find it so we could go back in the morning when the water tends to be calmer and clearer.

We knew it was near Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. This is a wonderful place that Tom and I visited many years ago. It means “the place of refuge,” and ancient Hawaiians who had violated kapu could find safety there (the penalty for violating kapu was usually death.) There is a heiau and fishponds, and it is a peaceful and spiritual place. I hope we have time to visit again, but this time I was focused on finding the snorkeling beach.

We drove up into the steep hillside again, then down into Honaunau to ask where Two-Step was. Right next door, as it happens. Having determined this, we headed down the road, not quite knowing where we were going. We drove through rocky, brushy terrain for a while before coming to a residential area that began to look strangely familiar. And then we found ourselves at a dead end. In Keleakakua Bay Park. Okay. At least we now knew where we were.

Heading up the hill again, I asked Tom to take me to the Painted Church. It is on Painted Church Road, which is also the road where our B&B is. Tom declined to go in. As a former Catholic, he is unenthusiastic about churches.

Painted Church is a tiny Catholic church perched high above the bay. It is clearly Victorian, replete with gingerbread exterior. Below the church is an old graveyard, and I couldn’t help thinking it would be a wonderful place to be buried, except that I probably wouldn’t appreciate the gob-stopping view at that point.

Inside, this little church was painted with murals on the walls and bright patterns on the spindly columns. Some of the murals are depictions of Biblical scenes. But around the altar, the paintings are trompe l’oeil paintings of grand Italianate arches and columns, expanding the visual interior. The arched ceiling was painted in dawn colors with fanciful palm leaves. It was lovely. I was touched to see a stand outside stocked with trinkets, unstaffed, with an “honor system” receptacle for money. This is pretty common for fruit stands here, but not for trinket stands.

Altar at Painted Church. The apparently extended space behind is a mural.

Altar at Painted Church. The apparently extended space behind is a mural.
















The Painted Church ceiling. Wear your love like heaven.

The Painted Church ceiling. Wear your love like heaven.
















Having surveyed the best of the local wine selection when we first arrived (Californians tend to be picky about wine because we have easy access to so many awesome wines. Europeans, please be aware that what you get in Europe from California is generally plonk.), we decided to head to a Costco north of the town of Kona. Indeed, the wine selection was fairly good. On our way to check out, I noticed a refrigerator full of leis (not a normal Costco offering). I have always wanted a maile leaf lei, but they are hard to find. Maile (pronounced like Miley Cyrus) is a vine, and its leaves are sweetly fragrant. When you see Hawaiian dancers or performers with a leafy garland (not a necklace-like circle) draped over the shoulders, that is maile. So I told Tom I’d be right back as he took his place in line. Sure enough, they had maile leis! So I bought one and wore it back to Camp Aloha, enjoying the soft, woodsy perfume. Maile leis are perhaps not as pretty as flower leis, but they smell wonderful.

I should probably explain why we came to Captain Cook in the first place. As in “The Obsidian Mirror,” I will set the sequel in today’s world, but draw upon ancient traditions. I felt I should understand how modern people of Hawaiian ancestry feel about the traditions of their forebears. I had only the barest of story outlines, but thought that talking to real people would get me further than just reading books. (But believe me, I have also been reading a lot of books about Hawaiian history, traditions and mythology.)

I first tried to get in touch with my former chiropractor, Kalani. Kalani and I once had a conversation about eating shark. He said he never ate it, and when I asked why, he told me that his grandmother had once said to him, “You no go eat shark, shark no go eat you.” That stuck with me, and as he is the only ethnic Hawaiian I knew, I thought perhaps he could help. However, Kalani has apparently vanished off the face of the Earth. I searched the Internet for him, but all trails led nowhere.

Then I contacted a former coworker who, though ethnically Japanese, grew up in Honolulu. Alas, he said he wasn’t close to any ethic Hawaiians.

Frustrated, I thought to contact Ken. I knew Ken from my early days working in public relations. He was a reporter who sometimes covered high tech. I had only met him in person once, and that was more than 30 years ago, but we had stayed in touch in a casual way over the years. Many years ago, Ken had bagged reporting, moved to Captain Cook, and started a Kona coffee farm. Then he became ill and couldn’t farm, so he became an expert in sustainable agriculture, working as a teacher and consultant all over, especially in Asia. He is fluent in written and spoken Japanese and just generally an interesting guy.

So I emailed Ken and asked him if he knew any Hawaiians who would be willing to speak with me. He did, and was willing to make introductions, so that is why we came to Captain Cook. However, Ken had just bought a new farm (having overcome his health problems to some extent), and by the time we got here, he was overwhelmed with clearing land, dealing with irrigation problems, and was just generally busy. So I have not met with him or his Hawaiian friends, though we have exchanged phone calls and emails.

I also figured, gee, the guy met me once, 30+ years ago. He may not be at all sure I am a person he wants to expose his friends to–and I don’t blame him. It’s amazing he agreed to do this at all. But I came 5,000 miles to do this. Am I asking too much? Am I even doing something intelligent or marginally sane? Why did I do this? Will Ken see me, or will his busy life and better judgement take precedence? This began to weigh on me, about midday.

Tom and I returned to Camp Aloha in the evening. I greeted Casey and offered some of our trove of wine from Costco, but he said he was doing his GET (general excise tax), and had to work. Normally genial, he sounded grumpy, which was reasonable under the circumstances, but I felt even glummer than before.

Tom cooked the monchong fillets we had bought the previous day. They were scrumptious. We played a couple of rounds of Russian Bank and we each won one round. Then to bed, but I was unhappy. I felt after three days I had accomplished nothing toward my purpose in being here, and time was running out. I was also coughing a lot–I think the “vog” was getting to me. I tossed and turned for quite a while. Tom wanted to know if he could help, but of course there was nothing he could do.

But stay tuned! The fourth day turned out much better!

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