The new moon had sunk into the sea and the black night held an air of enchantment as I walked the dark garden paths of Lumeria, the relatively new educational retreat center on Baldwin Avenue below Makawao.
I always enjoy visiting this refined place, built on the footprint of the old Fred Baldwin Memorial Home, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens are lovely, the lighting restrained, and I appreciate the sense of peace and spaciousness when I go there.
That evening I passed a lanai where a delicious-smelling dinner was being served to an intimate group, then through a quiet courtyard and a living room full of dark antiques before I found the yoga/meeting room on the fringe of the property, abutting a woods.
Lama Gyaltsen of the Maui Dharma Center was unraveling the mysteries of the sacred art of the Tibetan thankga, those elaborately painted, intricately embellished wall hangings representing deities of Buddhist Vajrayana practice. (If you're like me, you know the word, but not the full significance.)
Some 20 thangkas hung on the walls, long, intricate, colorful scrolls above which carefully folded silk covers bloomed like golden clouds. The Tibetans were a nomadic culture, and this portable form of art was designed to be protected, rolled up and hung again at the next stop. Creating them is a painstaking, time-consuming act of devotion.
The central figure is drawn to the exact proportions of the original Shakyamuni Buddha. It is said that his glorious presence was so blinding that when an artist asked to paint him, he graciously stepped to a lake so his reflection could be captured in the water.
"They're not just art," said the lama. Thangkas are a path to consciousness, a meditative aid used to visualize oneself as an emanation of divinity, a doorway to focus the mind and lift into the inner essence.
This is the sort of thing that goes on at Lumeria, an educational retreat center where meditation, aromatherapy and yoga classes are offered as part of the daily rate. People can book individually (prices begin at $329), but it's often used by retreat groups, a boon since so many places once suitable for that purpose on Maui have been converted into private homes.
I'm happy the owners maintained the original footprint of the Fred Baldwin Home, designed in 1910 by Oahu architect Harry Livingston Kerr, who had designed the Wailuku Courthouse.
It was a memorial to Fred Chambers Baldwin, the fifth child of Henry Perrine Baldwin and Emily Alexander Baldwin, who died of a ruptured appendix in New York City in 1905. It was to be a brief vacation before Fred, only 24, assumed duties as a field luna for HC&S. Handsome and charismatic, he was the most popular of the seven Baldwin siblings, and his dream was to one day manage Haleakala Ranch.
All of Maui turned out for the funeral. Plantation workers lined the road from Kahului Harbor where the coffin arrived, all the way up the hill for services at the family home at Maluhia in Olinda. Fred's favorite horse, "Bowery," ran to the fence when the bier bearing his master passed by.
Construction of the home took place five years later half a mile below Fred's birthplace at Sunnyside, now the site of Maui Job Corps. It was a long, low, U-shaped campus, made up of five low, wooden buildings, with two one-story dormered structures at each side. A two-story structure at the apex housed the dining and communal rooms. The spacious private rooms with wide verandas centered around a formally landscaped park.
Henry P. Baldwin endowed the home to aid indigent old Hawaiian and white men (although it evolved into caring for the latter). Ethel Baldwin and her daughter, Frances Baldwin Cameron, lovingly tended to the residents, many of them World War I veterans, for four decades. Their humble grave markers, arranged in rows, lie in Makawao Cemetery, not far from the fine marble headstone that reads, "Our Fred."
In World War II the facility became a military hospital and the residents were moved to the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina. They returned when the war ended, and the home was maintained until the mid-'50s, when the advent of Social Security and government programs for the needy made it unnecessary.
I'm happy Fred Baldwin's memorial remains as a place of beneficial use.
* 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.