Rarely have poetry and political activism produced such a fertile literary marriage as they do in Dana Naone Hall’s “Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer.” Her soulful language and heartfelt passions bring new dimensions to all things labeled “Hawaiian.”
The elegantly laid-out volume, illustrated with photos of native species and panoramic vistas by Masako Cordray and others, chronicles decades of recent political history in Maui County and beyond.
While transcripts of the author’s testimony before commissions and other governmental bodies wouldn’t seem to be the stuff of great literature, they are laced with personal anecdotes and interspersed with glimmering poems, reminding us that political action springs from matters of the heart.
The author has described her tireless political advocacy as “99 percent trench work” — a subtle allusion to the fact that her greatest victories stemmed from literally digging into the earth, ultimately securing safe final resting places for ancient ancestors.
The public testimony chapters present memories, like old family movies of a Maui that once was but exists no longer, since large, upscale resort and condo development replaced a simpler way of life along south- and west-side beaches, and in the ocean that fed them.
The book chronicles fighting the good fight for decades — from preserving the King’s Trail at Makena to protecting the iwi kupuna, the bones of thousands of ancestors, buried at Honokahua in Kapalua.
Her poetry is lyrical yet sinewy and strong like kalo, bursting with candor and insight. Her heartbeat pulses with the rhythms of nature. Hall’s life, as much as her work, illustrates Kamehameha III’s words, adopted as the state motto: “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono” — “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
In Hawaii, native activism is a balance of preservation in some cases, opposition at others.
Hall provides chapter and verse to illustrate Joni Mitchell’s immortal line, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” We don’t so much see as feel, and hear, the silent cry of the young sprouts smothered by the asphalt.
Working with her husband, attorney Isaac Hall, Dana’s ability to build a case, or navigate the rabbit holes of bureaucracy and statewide politics made her an effective, articulate advocate, whether tracing the origins of the Bishop Estate or opposing Kahului Airport runway expansion.
But unlike “not in my backyard” opposition to development elsewhere, those feelings in Hawaii are more complex, springing from profound cultural, natural and spiritual roots.
“We are continually imagining the past, what it was like for our ancestors fifty years, ninety years ago, more than a thousand years ago,” she wrote in a 1988 Maui News letter to the editor. “Sometimes the past is made visible, as in the presence of the old road, and our use of the road is a way of preserving a link to an older part of ourselves and keeping open a way of being in the future.”
Her beautiful, powerful book — in which it’s impossible to find the line where the mana-filled poetry ends and the impassioned call to action begins — is like that road, fulfilling the same function.
“Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer” by Dana Naone Hall is published by ‘Ai Pohaku Press and distributed by Native Books/Na Mea Hawai’i (www.nameahawaii.com).
Long before Bruce and Kolleen Wheeler moved to Maui 34 years ago to launch Maui-Angels.com, which specializes in weddings, wedding photography, ceremonies and other island experiences of a spiritual nature, Bruce was a pioneering drag racer on the Mainland.
His two Wheeler Dealer AA/Fuel dragsters were legendary enough on the circuit to have gotten Bruce named as an inductee into the 16th Annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame ceremony coming up Oct. 22 in Henderson, N.C.
Calling it “bucket list time,” Kolleen has launched social media and a GoFundMe campaigns to help get Bruce to the ceremony. Bruce’s many friends on the island can help with gifts to PayPal.com at angel@maui
gateway.com; by sending something to P.O. Box 817, Puunene 96784; or by contributing to www.gofundme.com/bruce039s-drag-racing-awards-trip.
Cynthia Conrad was among the many professional women attending “A Woman’s Place,” a panel discussion organized by Maui Business Brainstormers at the King Kamehameha Golf Club last Friday. She shared some memorable quotes from the women business owners participating: “Be happy in this moment because this moment is your life” (Melanie Marrero). “Love what you do” (Debbie Finkiewicz). “Err on the side of generosity” (Diane Haynes Woodburn). “I’ve never met a ‘no’ I didn’t like” (Susie Thieman). And, “Be enthusiastic and excited; it’s contagious” (Gladys Coelho Baisa).
* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at the University of Hawaii Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.