I had good fun reading the messages responding to my inaugural column. The first was from an old friend, the therapist Susan Brown (ever reality-based), who reminded me playfully that someone who remembers Honolulu before freeways has scant claim on the word keiki.
The second was from my old landlord, Duff Kribben, who made me a spectacular gift when I first moved to Maui. I was looking for a place to live and a new friend drove me up the winding road to Olinda on his motorcycle saying that Duff might have something.
What he had turned out to be one of those Maui wonders: a barn-red batten and board shack with small windows and, as I recall, a toilet incongruously mounted up a set of steps, for the view, perhaps. Utterly charming - Maui artist Rik Fitch captured it in one of his paintings - but too primitive for me.
I looked around the lovely property perched three miles up on Olinda Road and gestured at the green plantation house a few feet away. "Now that's the kind of thing I'm looking for," I said.
Duff showed me in. It was old and funky. The wind rattled the paned windows and blew through the cracks, but the sun porch had a magnificent view of the island framed by pasture, an old corral and tall eucalyptus across the street. A huge avocado tree shaded one side.
I loved it.
"OK," said Duff, "you can have this, and I'll move into the cabin."
Can you imagine my astonishment? In that amazing second my life completely changed. I was dropped, as if from heaven, onto one of Maui's most historic roads.
Olinda itself is named for the mountain house that Samuel T. Alexander, then manager of Haiku Plantation, built in 1876 on a magnificent spot above Makawao at 4,000 feet. Wild, vast and "sublime in solitude," according to the home's guest book, it commanded a majestic view of the mountains, valleys, and bays of Maui, "a sight that has not its equal and which can never be forgotten."
Early travelers described the fields of wild strawberries and "millions of bushes of the ohelo" clinging to the side of Haleakala at that elevation. The missionary Titus Coan once rested on a trip to the crater "under shade trees near a lovely rill of cool limpid water, a beautiful spot which has since been selected by the Alexanders as an invigorating retreat from the heat and dust of Wailuku and Haiku. . . . "
On 60 acres of government land near Kahakapau Gulch, acquired on a 30-year lease, Sam constructed a two-story frame house with eight bedrooms and one bathroom, which became a beloved family refuge that later passed to the Baldwin family.
The air was so delicious, the outlook so lofty, the sight of woodlands so splendid, that Sam named it "Olinda," after a villa in shining hillside city of Pernambuco in Brazil. "O Linda," the beautiful, Don Pedro, the emperor of Brazil, is said to have uttered when he saw it. Quite likely, Sam's father and mother, the missionaries William P. and Mary Ann Alexander, saw the colonial town on their journey to Hawaii when their ship made port in Rio de Janeiro for repairs.
Sam's brother James, who ran a sugar plantation in Paia called Seaside Farm, loved to ramble up to Haleakala Crater and often took visitors there. He built a rude overnight shelter, and later an Alpine-styled cottage named "Idlewild," situated just above "Olinda." It was small, with a brick fireplace in the center of the main room and two ornamented gables. A narrow staircase led up to an attic.
For years, until the road to the crater was built in 1935, travelers to Haleakala wound up the precarious gravel stretch to Idlewild, where they found overnight lodging, horses and a guide to the top.
Around the time I moved in at Olinda a second flash of good fortune struck. Ron Youngblood introduced me to Rick Chatenever at The Maui News, who needed an assistant. It was one of the luckiest days of my life when Editor David Hoff hired me for the most fun I've ever had in newspapering.
I'll tell you a secret. When I returned to Hawaii 20 years ago and began looking for a home, I read that the kupuna say you have to ask for permission before you can move to a Hawaiian island. So I did.
I went to each island and asked if it wanted me. Each one repelled me in its own way except for Maui. I knew it the least, but, I kept hearing an invitation. "Come here! Come here!" I obeyed, knowing only two people.
Mother Maui has blessed me ever since.
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.