Another year. Another day on a speck of land sailing a 2-inch-a-year northwest course away from its geological birthplace in the Pacific. The weather has been fair. The heavy stuff of late has skirted around Maui. Blue morning skies and cloudy afternoons could represent past and present. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
A year's end conversation echoed many of the questions asked on previous days. How goes Maui, its people and what makes an island community?
Gazing at the central isthmus from 3,000 feet up the side of Haleakala, two happenstance friends talked idly, enjoying a crisp morning that promised another pretty day in a paradise going through changes more rapidly than ever before.
"Maui is still Maui, but it's not the same Maui I knew when I got here," he said from the perspective of 20-plus years.
"It's largely a function of numbers," said the haole who had arrived 40 years before when the population was something like 45,000. "I remember when it was common to come up on two cars parked in the road with the drivers talking story. It usually didn't take long before one or the other of the drivers spotted the car behind, said their goodbyes and motored on. No honking needed."
"It wasn't that loose, or friendly, when I arrived," he said, "but close." His arrival helped add up to a population that had doubled in two decades.
"It's hard to grumble about the population when we were both part of the increase." Both laughed.
It was true, although a recent Census Bureau report showed the latest increase to something like 150,000 was due to births, not airplanes disgorging Mainland escapists, adventurers too timid to abandon everything they knew and the wealthy taking advantage of deep pockets.
"I don't know what to think about the development that is going on. Do we need another discount, big box store or million-dollar houses?"
"I might be wrong, but I've heard Hawaiians made important decisions with seven future generations in mind."
He smiled. "That might be more than a little tough, judging from what is going on in the world."
"Keeping aloha alive is up to us. Aloha not only between people but for our island home."
The words were still fresh in mind when a Christmas present was being read. "The Last Atoll," by Pamela Frierson tells about "exploring Hawaii's endangered ecosystems." The island-born journalist spent months, on and off, as a volunteer researcher studying wildlife on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Midway and the atolls that became part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
"The name honors the deities of earth and sky who, according to tradition, are the ancestors of the Hawaiian archipelago and its people," she wrote. "In the creation chant (Kumulipo) tracing native lineage back to these deities, coral polyps are the first life-form created by the primal union of Papa, earth mother, and Wakea, sky father."
After reading Frierson, "The Kumulipo, a Hawaiian Creation Chant" by Martha Beckwith was dragged off the shelf of reference books. She based the book on the "Kalakaua text" printed in 1889. Beckwith consulted a number of Hawaiian kupuna who were chant experts and credited Mary Kawena Pukui as "the final authority in correction of both text and translation."
"The night gave birth / Born was Kumulipo in the night, a male / Born was Po'ele in the night, a female / Born was the coral polyp, born was the coral, came forth / Born was the grub that digs and heaps up the earth, came forth / Born was his (child) an earthworm, came forth / Born was the starfish, his child the small starfish came forth / Born was the sea cucumber, his child the small sea cucumber came forth."
The chant that begins with "At the time when the earth became hot" includes a list of sea creatures predating the arrival of man.
"For an island people, all life begins and ends in the sea," Frierson wrote.
The statement had a big impact on a haole who began a haphazard exploration of Hawaiian culture only after learning to be a diver and thinking it was only proper to learn the Hawaiian names for critters found in the ocean.
It's another year, another chance to do what we - collectively - can do to protect the island, even with further development. As the ancient poet knew, it all begins with the ocean, its reefs and the ocean around us.
One can only hope 2014 is a happy new year.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.