Maui Nei

Halloween began on a cool green island on the other side of the world. The ancients called it Samhain, the one night a year when they looked beyond this realm. The first residents of our warm green island could do the same every night of the year.

In Ireland, and later in Scotland, the year began on Nov. 1. On the eve of the new year, The Celts did what they could to confound the spirits of those who had died in the previous year. They feared these spirits were looking for living bodies to inhabit. Survive the night and all was well. In Hawaii, it was the same and not the same.

“The people of old sincerely believed and said the ghost gods of the night (akua hele loa) were spirits of the dead,” wrote S.N. Holokahiki, a student at William P. Alexander’s Theological School in Wailuku.

The akua hele loa would visit during the hours of darkness called po. It was a time when the veil between this world and the supernatural parted. The spirits were content with their existence but wanted to enjoy earthly pleasures and sometimes do mischief. There are stories of kane o ka po savoring the delights of living women and wahine o ka po seducing living men. The unions could produce offspring with magical powers. Some might resemble puhi, mo’o, mano or manu – an eel, lizard, shark or bird.

For Hawaiians, the hours of darkness were not feared, but they were careful. It was said that if luau were cooked after dark, it might be eaten or defiled by the touch of foul spirits, the lapu o ka po. Nathaniel B. Emerson, the translator of “Hawaiian Antiquities” by David Malo, noted it was the custom to wave a lighted candle or kukui lamp to keep lapo o ka po away from the food.

The ancient Celts donned ghoulish costumes and made fierce and warlike sounds to frighten away the body snatchers. Children were given candy, just in case one of their number might include a spirit in human form. They carved turnips into human heads and lit them from within. One farmer named Jack captured a spirit with just such a device. When the Celts arrived in the Americas, they found pumpkins much easier to carve into jack-o’-lanterns.

The end of October coincides with the appearance of a tiny group of stars. The Greeks called them the Pleiades, a group of seven stars believed to be the seven daughters of the gods Atlas and Pleione. Five of the today’s six stars form a tiny “dipper” easily seen. The sixth is hard to see and the seventh star is believed to have been swallowed by time.

In the islands, there were many names for the Pleiades, including Makali’i. Malo called them Huhi Hoku in his descriptions of how the year was divided into two seasons marked by the stars. The night Huhi Hoku rose the moment the sun set marked the beginning of the year’s second season. On this particular night, the Earth is directly between the sun and the Pleiades.

When Halloween arrived in the islands hasn’t been noted. The Maui News mentioned a 1901 celebration of the occasion. Scots were early immigrants to Maui. Take yourself away from tonight’s raucous parties and you might hear the chuckling of old Hawaiians amused at the idea of one night being reserved for spirits.

Be wary of an ‘ilio marching down a path. Even today, there are islanders who step aside if they are out during po and see such a dog. It is said dogs often accompany spirits on their earthly travels. There are stories of a woman walking along roads at night, politely accepting a ride and disappearing while the car is underway. And, there are night marchers to be avoided. So say kupuna.

The last lighthouse keeper at Pauwela said he heard and saw warriors marching along the bluff. A haole friend said she had to sell a condo she’d bought. She couldn’t sleep. On successive nights, the new home became crowded. She was convinced the spirits of warriors killed in a battle at the site moved through her apartment.

These days, the ephemeral forms of spirits are bleached to invisibility by artificial lights. Footfalls are masked by the sound of machines and electronic voice of the not-there. Halloween has become a time only for merriment and assuming other personalities.

The old has been lost in the churn of the new. Stories of the other world are subject to laughter. The ancients knew. Ignorance and arrogance may shield moderns from the ancients. It doesn’t have to be. Just believe.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

It’s a fortunate individual who has a passion and the support needed to pursue it. If Darrell Orwig was given to pasting bumper stickers on his truck, there would be three – “I’d rather be sailing,” “I’d rather be riding a horse” and “I’d rather be painting.”

That doesn’t cover all of his interests. His wife, Mary, and a phalanx of friends are equally important. “If I could trade all my friends in for cash, I could pay off the national debt,” he said.

Anyone who has been involved in Maui’s art scene for any length of time knows Darrell, his work and his unflagging sense of whimsy and humor displayed by his “shoe-box” constructions.

The Orwig home-studio-office is behind a brown board fence on the edge of Makawao. The sound of a motorcycle brings out Darrell. He’s moving slowly but has a smile and a warm greeting for the visitor. His unlined face belies his 69 years.

A small front yard is dominated by a life-sized wooden horse with a realistic head. “I throw my saddle on it and practice getting on and off,” he says. “I’m afraid he’s about to lose an ear.” On the porch, an orange cat dozes. He opens his eyes and submits to being petted. “He must like you. Normally, he takes off.”

Inside, Mary emerges from her office where she works as a certified public accountant. A friendly greeting is followed by “You can sit over there,” motioning toward a table. Her smile matches Darrell’s. She heads back to her job.

The place is a homey art gallery. Every wall is covered with Darrell’s paintings. Each warrants close examination. Each includes subtle surprises and hints at something more than can be seen. While grinding up a pot of coffee, Darrell talks about how various paintings came to be. In a hallway is a portrait of a high school friend. The face reflects friendship and a decades-long struggle with the aftermath of Vietnam combat. He’s the one who introduced Darrell to horseback riding.

Darrell began painting as a kid. “I’ve been into realism from the get-go,” he says. That includes a tour as a combat artist for the Coast Guard during Operation Desert Storm. He says he’s “gone beyond decorative art” and is avoiding “the pressure to sell.” He’s had numerous shows and has work hanging in Oahu galleries. Mostly, he sells via word of mouth.

Eight years ago, Darrell was told he has Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. “I’m dealing with it head-on.” Medications are “on the low range of dosage. I don’t know what it will be like in 10 years.”

He’s turned the disease into motivation. “I don’t want to end up in a basket with nothing done.” No self-pity. His art, horses and sailing his 16-foot, sloop-rigged pocket cruiser named “Annie” are part of “my therapy. You have to be up and alert.” He grins while talking about riding a horse at full gallop or “sailing on a screaming reach. They are freeing experiences.”

Recent adventures have included pack trips with an Apache guide. “I dreamed of riding across the Great Plains. Then I discovered it was chopped up by fences.” He’s been back to the Gila Mountains in New Mexico several times. That sort of thing “is what keeps me going. I’ll continue until I can’t do it anymore.”

Darrell has ridden on service trips into the crater with his son, a National Park ranger who was born while the Orwigs lived at Kaluanui. As a caretaker and artist in residence, Darrell did what was needed to make the weed-choked, neglected place home for Hui No’eau. The son, Stephen, daughter-in-law, Piper, and grandson, Graeme, live nearby.

Darrell leads the way down a flight of stairs to his two-room studio. The first has a fleet of airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Some are radio-controlled. There are work-littered benches on three sides. Later, he would flip through his working sketchbook, pointing out trail-ride images.

The next room is dominated by a large biplane Darrell built from scratch, right down to shaping shiny metal details on the engine and creating people in the cabin. It’s red and appears in several landscapes hanging on the wall. “The first time it flies is thrilling. After that, you worry about it crashing.”

There’s a long painting of a midnight locomotive. The speed and power of the massive machine is obvious – an apt representation of passion, the driving force in Darrell Orwig’s life. He didn’t say.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

It’s Saturday. The midday sun is shrouded by gray clouds threatening rain. Inside “Sadie’s Place” above Makawao, there seems to be nothing but sunshine.

In a garden outside the entrance marked by a polite reminder to keep the gate closed to keep pupils inside there is a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th-century patron saint of animals. Small groups of individuals go through the gate to take a tour of the 3-acre facility at the uphill end of Kealaloa Avenue.

This is home for Hawaii Canines for Independence, which does business as Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, a nonprofit, internationally known training organization founded by Will and Maureen “Mo” Maurer. In 2000, the two Mauians realized how difficult it was for Hawaii residents to obtain guide dogs. Their first stop on a 13-year journey was the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind to learn how to train dogs. Or, as they put it, “unleashing abilities,” the mission-statement motto at the state-of-the-art facility built with more than $100,000 in grants and donations.

The visitors crowd the reception area. The walls are covered with portraits of the more than 30 service dogs that have successfully gone through up to two years of training. Mo Maurer, a one-time CPA, is proud of the graduates. She sketches the work being done and asks if there are any questions.

The knee-high son of Pam and Pat Sakamoto is the first to stick up his hand. “Where are the doggies?” Mo smiles. “We’ll see them in a few minutes.”

She and an intern from Argentina lead the group into a courtyard carpeted with Astro Turf. On one side of the courtyard is a big training room. On the other, there are two kennels holding four big, happy-looking dogs well into their training.

“They’re in kennels only because we have visitors. Most of the time, they are free to run around,” Mo explains. Behind the kennels is an outdoor training field littered with various kinds of obstacles the dogs learn to negotiate.

Off to the side stands a volunteer wearing the organization’s blue “uniform” T-shirt. Mo introduces Elaine Randall, “our star puppy raiser. She takes them everywhere with her, even to her job at Dick’s Fumigation.” The idea is to get the dogs used to people and different situations before they get down to their specialized training. Every dog is also very familiar with the Maurer home.

The dogs come from around the world. One is a fourth-generation service dog from New Zealand. Each candidate for training is “carefully screened” and some don’t make it through the course. “People’s lives depend on the dogs,” Mo says. There’s a list of families ready to take the animals who don’t make the grade.

There aren’t many who flunk out. “We have a graduation rate of 70 percent. The national average is 30 percent,” Mo tells the visitors.

From inside the kennels, the dogs watch Mo intently and respond enthusiastically when she says their name. The visitors are given a look at the outdoor training area. The group moves to a large room with mock doors, light switches that work and padded benches simulating furniture.

While Mo heads back to the reception area for the next group of visitors, the intern takes over. Marina is a young veterinary student in Buenos Aires and came to Maui after hearing about the experience from a previous intern.

A video presentation stars Emma, Zeus and Tucker. Emma was matched with an ocean-loving paraplegic. She rides with him on a kayak, can pull him into shore if necessary and routinely drags a wheelchair up from the water line. Zeus goes to school with a quadriplegic university instructor who speaks via computer. “I had to learn hand signals for 90 commands,” he says. “Zeus learned them more quickly than I did.” Tucker wears a badge that says “Chief Canine Officer” at Kapiolani Medical Center. His job is comforting children five days a week. One of his commands is “snuggle.”

A new program involves dogs who can detect seizures and alert caregivers. You’d be surprised at how many different ways the dogs can make a person’s life livable. See

Marina is asked if she’s sad when a dog graduates. Her face lights up. “No. I’m so happy they can help someone.”

After refreshments and playing with one of the canine students, the tour is over. There is sunshine all around.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

In 1960, a young haole couple from Denver traveled to Maui. He had a job teaching music at Baldwin High School. They drove to the West Coast where they boarded a ship for the trip to the islands. Along the way, they studied Hawaiian. Surely that was the dominant language. They were surprised and relieved to find everyone spoke English.

Eight years later, a newsman landed on Oahu. From what he heard on the street, it seemed pidgin was the language to be learned. A local-born haole colleague set him straight. There are many kinds of pidgin, each incorporating words from Hawaii’s many ethnic groups. In the most simple terms, pidgin is a mix of English and other languages, most of them using a corrupted Hawaiian syntax. Besides, locals expected haole to sound haole.

Much later on Maui, the newsman learned pidgin had to be absorbed, not learned. There were no textbooks if you ignore the surfer-influenced “Pidgin to the Max” and “More Pidgin to the Max.” The magazine-styled books are sort of illustrated dictionaries with an emphasis on humor.

Speaking it was one thing. Understanding it, particularly when rendered with a thick accent, was another. The newsman finally settled on saying, “I’m sorry but I’ve got haole ears” when being nonplussed by what he heard.

In 1973, the newsman moved to Maui. The Hawaiian renaissance was just beginning to take hold. There was no need to learn the language but the newsman thought he could at least correctly pronounce the island’s many Hawaiian place names.

It wasn’t that hard. Vowels are pronounced as they are in Latin or any of the other Romance Languages such as Spanish or Italian. No diphthongs, each vowel was said separately, he’d been told. That isn’t always true, but “the rule” served well for the most part.

There was one small problem. Some of the island’s place names were commonly mispronounced. Hali’imaile (literally, “maile vines strewn”) came out as high-lee-migh-lee. Pu’unene (goose hill) had become poo-nay-nay. Ma’alaea was said to be mah-ligh-ah. There is more than one definition of Ma’alaea, depending on pronunciation. Separating all the vowels makes it a place of wind. Saying mah-ah-ligh-yah, one of the exceptions to the diphthong rule, makes it the place where medicinal red ocher is found. The latter is preferred by Hawaiian speakers.

The two other inhabited islands in Maui County were pronounced lah-nigh and mo-lo-kigh. “Place Names of Hawaii,” the accepted primary source for Hawaiian place names, says it should be Lana’i (“perhaps literally, day of conquest”). According to the book written by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Ebert and Esther T. Mookini, it should be Moloka’i (moh-loh-kah-ee). There’s no literal translation, although it might be a reference to a kind of sweet potato. There are some island kupuna there who say it should be mo-lo-kigh, which might be translate as twisted sea.

It all gets complicated, but there is no excuse for imposing English pronunciation on Hawaiian words. An irony is that Hawaiian is a generic adjective devised by the missionaries who turned olelo o Hawaii into a written language. Not so incidentally, some say Hawaii should be pronounced hah-vigh-ee.

Live here any length of time and you’ll hear a tourist say he wants to go to lah-hay-nah. The old pronunciation of Lahaina is lah-high-nah with the emphasis on the first syllable (“literally, cruel sun”).

One of the most egregious examples of mangling Hawaiian was in a Ho’okipa surf report on the radio. The guy said waves were good at hoo-kee-pah. No, no. It’s ho-o-kee-pah, a word that means hospitality. His version doesn’t mean anything.

Times change and even the most local of locals are shifting away from the old corruptions. You can thank Hawaiian immersion school classes and the resurgence of respect for the indigenous culture.

Still . . .

Listen to any radio or television based on Oahu and you’ll hear examples of “commonly accepted” but wrong pronunciations. A good example is Wahiawa (“literally, place of noise”). Usually, you’ll hear wah-hee-wah, not wah-hee-ah-vah.

There’s no excuse for mispronouncing one place name, Honolulu (“literally, protected bay”). It’s ho-no-loo-loo, not hah-nah-loo-loo. Saying it the wrong way is really lolo (“feeble-minded”).

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

The run across upper Kula was a little eerie. Intractable jerks in Washington, D.C., had shut down all but essential federal services across the country. On Maui, in Kula, that meant closing down Haleakala National Park.

After an early-morning errand to Pukalani, Baby Dancer was pointed back toward Waiakoa. Cruising up to the Five Trees intersection, a playful thought popped up. Two choices: Straight across the face of Haleakala on the Kula Highway or up the hill.

It was a beautiful morning. Not much wind. Bright sunshine. A clear sky. Baby Dancer hadn’t been put through her paces for a week or so. Basic transportation is basically boring. The section of Haleakala Highway from King Kekaulike High School to Kimo Road is one of the most delightful motorcycle rides on the island – never humdrum.

Sitting at the intersection decorated by a pocket park at the base of jacaranda trees, slip the bike into neutral, wondering if the light will change. Pressure plates telling the lights there’s waiting vehicles don’t always respond to motorcycles. When they don’t, riders can sit until a car comes up behind or jump the red light.

OK. The light changed quickly. Green is go. Accelerate. Lights weren’t flashing on the school zone signs. No need to keep the bike under 25 mph. Even so, twist the go-grip gently. There are two traffic minefields up ahead.

Swing around the gentle curves. Ease off while approaching the one-lane bridge just this side of the Manduke Baldwin cowboy polo field. There’s plenty of room on the bridge for a bike and a car, but there’s no telling what an oncoming driver will do. It’s always a good idea to mind the “yield” sign. Nothing on the other side. Slip across and get ready for the intersection Kealaloa Avenue leading down to Makawao. No one there. Let loose Baby Dancer.

A staccato string of exhaust notes trail the bike into the first of many turns. There’s one car coming down. Pass each other in the curve. A short straight encourages a little more throttle and shifting to a higher gear. Baby Dancer’s small engine requires a considerable amount of left-foot tap dancing to compensate for the lack of horsepower. What she has is ponypower.

Two uphill cars keep the speed down on the long straightaway bordered on one side by a eucalyptus forest and a Haleakala Ranch horse pasture on the other. The trees shroud concrete ammunition bunkers built during World War II. Two of the handsome cowboy mounts are near the roadside fence. A tourist car is parked on the shoulder. He looks upward. She has her camera aimed at the horses. Maybe they are making the most of a disappointing drive to the summit.

The straight ends with a high-speed turn to the right and another, shorter straightaway. Of the two cars ahead, the lead one appears to be driven by a flatland tourist. His brake lights wink at every turn. Oh, well, settle in for a sightseeing run.

Down into a gulch cutting through more eucalyptus trees. This is the start of a series of entertaining curves. Close up on the convoy in each curve, back off on the straights. There’s a couple of places where passing a single car is possible. State law forbids strafing two or more cars at a time. Think about pulling off to the side, to let the slower folks get far enough ahead to make cornering more entertaining.

There are two notable curves. One leads sharply into a bridge. The other is a hairpin, shift-down-two-gears curve into an uphill grade. When the jacarandas carpet the asphalt with blossoms, the turn can result in an unsettling slither. Close up on car No. 2. Back off.

So far, there has been just one car heading down. Normally, at this time of day, there are strings of tourist cars, punctuated by lines of cyclists coming down from a visit to the summit. There were two uphill cyclists pumping their way to cramped thighs, sweat and lean physiques – part of the Upcountry riders addicted to pedal power.

On the other side of Kula Lodge there are four tourist bicycle riders coasting downhill. They are independents. No van follows them. They could have started at the park entrance. The parking lots at the lodge and Kula Market are emptier than usual.

At the intersection with Crater Road there’s a white-on-brown sign that says “Haleakala National Park.” The arrow pointing the way up Crater Road is covered with a notice: “Park Is Closed.” There’s a car making a U-turn.

Hey, Congressional obstructionists, thanks, eh.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is