Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I never can fully relate to traditional celebrations of New Year’s Eve – the noise, the various intoxications, the loud celebration of . . . what? Chasing away the demons, I suppose.

I prefer to invoke the angels. Time passing, something new dawning. It’s a profound time, replete with opportunity for reflection best performed in quiet.

The first self-help book I ever read was “The Road Less Traveled,” M. Scott Peck’s 1978 classic on how we humans tend to avoid our problems and the pain inherent in them.

Instead of facing the “legitimate suffering” needed to go through them, we rationalize, we deny, we build elaborate fantasies, we become addicted, anything but delay gratification, accept responsibility and commit to the truth at all costs.

Then, our suffering becomes all about neurosis, infinitely more troubling than the original wound. We become stuck.

“Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life,” Peck says. Some people stop updating their inner maps in adolescence, he says, and their view of the world remains narrow. Most cease by middle age. Rare are those who lead “a life of continuous and never-ending self-examination” and willingness to be personally challenged, those who keep remaking their maps until the final hour.

I hope to be one of the latter. I find myself now accepting new reality, facing higher responsibilities, and acknowledging that typing with carpal tunnel syndrome is killing me. (New Year’s resolution: master voice recognition software.) I am redoing my own inner map.

As part of that process, I am leaving behind the delightful opportunity to write for you every week in The Maui News. This is the last “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column for this newspaper, although I may be moved to post occasional new ones or other reflections on my blog at with the aim of collecting them into a book. Stay tuned.

So thank you to the editors of the paper who gave me the great opportunity to share Maui’s history and my own sensibilities with you for two years. And especially to you, the readers, who embraced me, informed me, insulted me and enlightened me.

I appreciate your plaudits and your protests, and all the ways you shared yourselves. Let’s find another way to stay in touch.

New Year’s Eve is the time for blessings, so I asked some Maui sages to extend theirs.

From Father Gary Colton, retired pastor of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina: “Our planet Earth is such an infinitesimal part of the universe. Yet, we have so many heartfelt problems with wars, natural disasters, personal conflicts, etc., etc. So, may the New Year bring us less tensions and so much more peace and justice.”

From Episcopal priest the Rev. Amy Crowe: “May the spirit of peace, love and joy help us to relinquish the past and step forward embracing hope in the new year.”

From Rabbi David E. Glickman of the Jewish Congregation of Maui: “Treat others as you yourself want to be treated.”

From John A. Hau’oli Tomoso, Kahuna Pule o Kahekili of the Royal Order of Kamehameha: “E ho’onani ‘ia ke Akua ma na lani ki’eki’e loa! Glory to God in the highest! As glory shows all around, let us rejoice in all that we see, know, think and say. Let God’s glory shine through us, in the new year and always.”

From John Hara, minister of Wailuku Jodo Mission: “Let us welcome the New Year with appreciation and gratitude. Let us reflect with thoughts of love for our loved ones and ancestors. Let this be a year for mindful practice of being present, compassionate and understanding. May the compassionate light of Amida Buddha shine with you always. Namu Amida Butsu.”

Now here are mine.

May we always see trucks loaded with farm produce trundling down Haleakala Highway. May the reservoirs be full and the trades blow. May the coffers of the Salvation Army and the Maui Food Bank swell. May the sharks retreat. May our leaders be just. May we always malama our precious ‘aina.

May quarrels and wars be ended. May the the wicked come to their senses and the righteous prevail. May our health be good, may our hearts be glad, and may we know the divine essence within. May our deepest wishes come true.

And as the old Irish blessing goes, may the wind be always at our backs.

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

So it’s finally Christmas Eve. Pies are being made, gifts wrapped, stores thronged with people looking for that last-minute something.

If it’s the perfect gift you want, I know of two holiday shops where one can find a careful selection of intriguing gifts, artfully arrayed in a lovely, hassle-free environment with lots of parking.


One is at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. (Did you know the gallery has its own entrance at the beginning of the parking lot, where you can amble through a coconut grove to the front door?)

There, curator Neida Bangerter and Judy Bruder, owner of Duck Soup, the Indonesian import store, have teamed up to place a clever assortment of beautiful things in one place. (It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and before MACC events, through the end of the month).

Bangerter asked a group of artists to come up with original, compact works (no more than 24 inches, less than $500) that would make thoughtful gifts. “Tiny is good,” she said. “We all have enough stuff.”

For starters, she gave the artists wooden cutouts of houses to decorate for sale at $25 each – a deal. (Brian Miller burned his and put the ashes back in a bottle as a collage. Bangerter bought that one.)

There are colorful Norwegian wool caps by Nancy Skrimstad, artistic reversible men’s vests by the outrageous Juicy, and tiny handmade vases by Lisa Louise Adams that hold a flower or a feather. There is (or was) an Eddie Flotte painting for $200 (“That was really nice of him”).

Over in the Duck Soup section, people snapped up the hand-carved deer heads mounted on a wall, all with different personalities. “And it’s not taxidermy.” There are vintage ikats, affordable bronzes, shiburi-dyed scarves, Christmas-themed screen-printed potholders, and that’s just the beginning.

I got my edgy teenaged niece a bracelet made in Indonesia of recycled tires.

My other favorite place this year for shopping is “Hui Holidays,” the gift shop arrayed throughout the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao, open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Today is the last day.)

Executive Director Caroline Killhour and sales coordinator Keri Mayer hunted all year to select discriminating gifts, many of them whimsical, that appeal to a wide range of folks. “We think about it all the time,” Killhour said. “Our customers are very discerning – they’ve been all over the world. So the things we show have to be unique and meaningful.”

Can’t you see your friend with a black and gold Chanel-style purse ($11) in which to stash her iPhone on special evenings? (“Protegez votre telephone avec elegance.”) For him, what about the Swiss-made “Seven Year Pen” ($8), a ballpoint with a jumbo ink supply able to write 1.7 meters a day for seven years? (“Worldwide, 100 million pens are discarded every day. Yikes.”)

There are key chains made from objets d’art collected in Asia, amazing toys, a make-your-own music box kit, and bamboo-paper straws printed with food-safe soy-based ink (“a stylish alternative to plastic straws”).

The centerpiece of the show is a labor of love, four gorgeous white snow queen gowns and marvelous hats, fashioned from a $100 roll of white butcher paper and a hot glue gun. Designer/choreographer Andre Morisette and Killhour are the guiding lights behind this imaginative “holiday window” installation, assisted by a dozen able volunteers.

“It’s a little nod to the homemade holidays,” Killhour said. “You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money. With a little time and creativity you can make an object beautiful.”

Ethel S. Baldwin, for 36 years mistress of Kaluanui, the great home where the Hui is situated, and her daughter Frances B. Cameron would have loved them. Both were artists and they adored the Christmas holidays. Frances decorated Makawao Union Church one year entirely with Christmas trees, and annually gave dozens and dozens of gifts to practically everyone she knew, carefully recording them in a ledger to avoid duplication.

During World War II Ethel invited Army generals headquartered in Makawao over for Christmas dinner and a horseback ride, something they looked back on for years with fondness. She also produced a lavish Christmas Eve entertainment for hundreds of lonely servicemen at the Crossroads USO in Makawao that she created in the old Tam Chow Store.

Store-bought or homemade or both, may your Christmas be merry.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at laurelmurphymauinews@

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

It was a quiet morning. The air hung thickly around us, hot, as we wandered the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The 243-acre refuge is just minutes from downtown Kahului and we could see ‘Iao in the distance, but in the mesmerizing calm, it felt far away.

Before us lay one of nature’s miracles.

In only three weeks, the November rains had birthed a new pond, and the endangered Hawaiian stilts, the ae’o (pronounced eye-oh), were making fine use of it. “It’s been dry for over a year,” said our guide, the avid birder Sonny Gamponia. “That’s all it took to bring it back. The shore birds discovered it.”

White-bellied with black backs and long pink legs, the stilts stepped about elegantly in the clean, shallow water, sometimes skimming the surface, uttering their ungraceful warning calls – ack ack ack ack ack.

Ruddy Turnstones (akekeke) picked at food in the water nearby. They are regular travelers on the Pacific flyway from the Alaskan tundra, “world-class fliers” who veered from their normal route and decided to spend winter with us. Mottled black and brown with a chestnut breast, they blend in with the mud.

At an adjacent pond, the endangered Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke’ok’eo), black with a white head shield, splashed clumsily into the water, then sailed serenely away, leaving a chevron of ripples in her wake.

They’re nesting now, the coots, unusual. It normally happens in the spring, but the rains brought the spiked makaloa sedge back to life, from which the birds fashion floating nests.

There was the web of life, playing out before us. “It’s amazing how productive this pond is for just being around a month,” Gamponia said.

People don’t realize how rare and valuable this “little secret” of a pond is, and how much history is associated with it. Kanaha is one of only three large sea-level lakes in Hawaii, the others being Waikea Pond in Hilo and Halulu Lake on Ni’ihau.

Rainwater flows down from the Wailuku basalt basis of the West Maui Mountains and the Honumanu basalt of Haleakala, running in small rivulets in the lava, eventually creating springs.

Thanks to Kanaha and its sister refuge, Kealia, on Mokulele Highway, Maui is home to the highest number of endangered Hawaiian stilts and coots in the state. The wetland itself, besides being a habitat for endangered birds and native plants, provides a tsunami buffer, filters sediment and neutralizes chemicals.

Kanaha was once twin fishponds, built in the 1760s by the Oahu/Molokai chief Kapi’ioho, with laborers who passed stones from hand to hand along a line extending from Makawela, the sea fishery in Wailuku. The ponds were named Kanaha for his son, Kanahaokalani, and Mau’oni, the incognito name of his daughter.

The “big lagoon” used to be a place to picnic and swim, but dredging of Kahului Harbor in the 1920s cut off the drainage channel to the ocean. By the ’40s and ’50s, the pond was a place to be avoided. Even the stilts left. But they migrated back, and that’s when the sanctuary was established in 1959, “Home of the Ae’o.”

Last year, Kanaha Pond was a noxious green after years of drought. Avian botulism broke out, killing 95 birds. Survivors were trapped and removed to Kealia. Amazingly, when conditions improved at Kanaha, the birds returned. The stilts are good fliers, but the coots? “I don’t know how they got back,” Sonny said. “They can swim all day, but fly 100 yards and they get tired. I think they hitched a ride.”

The main gate to the sanctuary is on the beach road, where volunteer Mike Perry has created a native coastal strand at water’s edge. Here, the “lovers” pohue’hue and kauna’oa lie intertwined, blue beach morning glory with thin strands of orange lichen, covered that day with tiny, fragrant white flowers.

It’s a treasure, Kanaha, a laboratory of natural history, right in our backyard.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the Maui Planning Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, against the concerns of the Planning Department and others, approved permits for a six-story office building and 350 parking stalls to be constructed at the brink of Kanaha.

According to Gamponia, who has read the environmental assessment, over a third, or 0.94 acres of the proposed project’s 2.49-acre site, is a wetland. Given the gem we have there, and unforeseeable problems inherent in disrupting such a fragile place, to me it makes no sense.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

The holiday spirit dawned early for me this year at the festive party the Makawao Community Association held on a cool, rain-sprinkled evening before Thanksgiving. The event was to open the new museum of the county-funded Community History Project, on display through February at the old Randy Jay Braun gallery on Makawao Avenue.

People trooped outside to watch the annual lighting (since 2000) of the star atop the town’s Christmas tree, a tall, old Norfolk pine on the grounds of the former Crook estate in the heart of town.

“The tree looks a bit frazzled,” I commented to Glenda Berry, one of the project’s board members, before Peter Baldwin and Rose Freitas flipped the switch. “It is,” she said. “It was hit by lightning in the storm last summer.”

Judy and Bill Mertens of Anuhea Flowers saw to it that “a crazy person,” as MCA President Mike Foley joked (that would be arborist James Franzen), climbed to the top of the tree, not once, not twice, but five times before the damaged wiring was finally fixed.

Outside the museum on the sidewalk stood a “volunteer” pine tree from Maluhia donated by Jeremy Baldwin, on which people affixed paper stars stating what they like about Makawao. That nice small-town party set the Christmas tone for me.

(By the way, Theresa Thompson and I are conducting videotaped oral histories for the project. Please let me know if you or anyone you know grew up in Makawao and has stories to tell.)

For me, the holiday spirit begins with the decorations. Poinsettia arrived in the stores and we bought two for the house and a big fluffy one for a friend, a tradition. Holiday bells sprouted above the porch swing of a neighbor not usually given to such displays.

One evening in Kihei, I heard Bruddah Iz singing “on a white sandy beach, in Hawaii . . . ” as a guy and his girl strung lights on their hedge, another little act of happiness.

I braced for our annual trip out to Kula Botanical Garden to purchase a Christmas tree. I can’t remember a Christmas when this act didn’t result in a fight, either in agreeing on it, struggling to put it up, or both.

“You just ran over a dove,” he said last year as we started out in my station wagon, an inauspicious beginning to that excursion. Mood darkened, I retraced the route on the way back and felt absolved when no carcass lay on the road. But the damage was done. (“It could have been cleaned up,” he said.)

Once again our kind neighbor, a former nuclear submarine mechanic, helped us put up the tree, averting further friction, but we barely got it decorated before the 25th. I vowed to do it differently this year.

“Let him pick the tree!” I wrote on my calendar, referring to the other half of the tangle. But could I live with that sacrifice? Would Miss Perfectionist really be able to get out of the way? Things were looking good for the Christmas spirit. Foodland had cranberries for the popcorn chain this year. I bought two boxes of yummy iced Christmas cookies at Whole Foods and ate them while he tolerated me watching sappy Hallmark Christmas movies. (Girl meets boy, underdog wins out, and the decorations are beautiful.)

The big day came. He’d gotten into a bad car accident and had a broken rib but gamely eased into the passenger seat for the trip to Warren and Helen McCord’s tree farm. What does a tree matter? He’s alive and OK, and the other driver is too. Dear reader, I admit it. I sulked on the sidelines.

In record time, he chose a perfect tree, trimmer than usual. It fit gracefully in the space, with a trunk small enough to maneuver in the stand. We carried it easily, and put it up readily ourselves.

We even remembered to score the bottom of the trunk to break the seal of sap accumulated on the drive home so the tree could imbibe its preservative-laden water freely. We importuned our neighbor to help only with the final straightening.

There the tree stood, green and fragrant, born in the mists of upper Kula. I put on a CD of classical Christmas masterpieces and we sat in the twilight admiring it over cups of gingerbread spiced tea.

“You picked a beauty,” our neighbor said. “You guys did a good job this year.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I was in Honolulu for Thanksgiving, and I always enjoy looking at the statue of Kamehameha in front of Ali’iolani Hale (backdrop for “Hawaii 5-0”!) whenever I’m downtown.

Gleaming gold, resplendent in gilded ‘ahu’ula (feather cloak) and mahiole (feather helmet), right hand extended in welcome, left holding a spear, it’s an iconic image of Oahu, if not the state.

Nearby, at the pond in front of the arena at Honolulu International Center, is a statue of another defining figure in the life of Hawaii: Elvis. In bell-bottoms and a jacket strewn with stars, crooning into the microphone, slim as could be, he’s captured in a moment of triumph at “Aloha From Hawaii,” the world’s first satellite television concert, on Jan. 14, 1973.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” says the plaque.

People love posing with Elvis, as they do with the statue of the legendary swimmer and goodwill ambassador Duke Kahanamoku at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki.

I started to contemplate Maui equivalents.

I used to love seeing Shige Yamada’s cast bronze of “Maui Releasing the Sun,” installed at the Kahului Airport in 1992, the year I arrived here. It’s the perfect symbol of our island, depicting the moment of triumph after the demigod Maui captured the sun and wrested an agreement from it to traverse the sky more slowly for the benefit of humanity.

TSA had not taken over our lives then and the work was quite visible, standing in its own little courtyard, as you walked into the terminal proper. Now the Wailuku-born Yamada’s shining tribute to man’s mastery over destiny is occluded by the scanners, frantic lines and new construction that have overtaken the lobby.

People love to visit the bronze Great Buddha in the garden of the Lahaina Jodo Mission, peacefully abiding on a two-tiered stone and concrete platform against the lovely backdrop of the West Maui Mountains. Established in 1912 by sugar and pineapple plantation workers, the mission burned down in 1968 and was rebuilt in the traditional Japanese style with modern adaptations of methods and materials.

The 12-foot-tall, 3.5-ton seated Amida Buddha echoing the famous Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan, was dedicated that year, along with a 3,000-pound bell commemorating the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

A bodhi tree grows to the left of the platform, the type under which Buddha, the man, became enlightened after years of arduous spiritual effort. Exhausted from fasting and austerity, the story goes, he surrendered and accepted a bowl of rice. Then, when he sat to meditate, the universe opened up to him and the middle path was born.

These two works are abstractions from the land of myth and religion. To me, the best sculpture on Maui is the cast bronze of the late Masaru “Pundy” Yokouchi, the driving force behind the creation of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Pundy, the youngest child of immigrant parents, grew up working in his family’s Wailuku bakery, where his nickname was for “pao duce,” a sweet bread he liked. He made his fortune in real estate investments, became a key organizer for the Democratic Party and a patron of the arts, believing that they made people more sensitive and aware human beings.

Following the lead of the late Colin and Margaret Cameron, Yokouchi helped raise $32 million to build the MACC, and he did so with wisdom, compassion and sensitivity. Said center President and CEO Art Vento, “Around Pundy’s table, everybody fit.”

In 2008, a group of donors sought to honor him with a lifelike sculpture, so he submitted to live sittings with Sean Lee Loy Browne of Oahu, a Native Hawaiian, Fulbright scholar and student of Isamu Noguchi, who fashioned the bronzes of Prince Kuhio and Kalakaua in Waikiki.

Pundy wanted to be shown as a younger man in his 60s, casually dressed, in an aloha shirt and slip-on shoes, and that is precisely what you see at the entrance to Castle Theater.

There he is, sitting on a bench near the front door, welcoming one and all to have a rest and enjoy his company. “People love that sculpture, even people who don’t know him,” said Neida Bangerter, director of the Schaefer Gallery.

The statue feels so lifelike and friendly, she said, that “touch points” are starting to show up.

The beings commemorated in these statues all have one thing in common, worth remembering as we enter the season of giving: generosity.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at