Tag Archives: Celtic

Hau’oli la Hanau! (35)

“Aunt Tadi” with my son Christian, 2003

Thirty-five years ago today, my mother employed her primary Superpower and made a person. A day or two later I was introduced to a lifetime companion and playmate and co-conspirator and friend: my sister Karin. (She guides people’s pronunciation with this clue: “You park a KAR-in the garage.”) I turned three just a few weeks before her arrival, and my game du jour was tagging people with their initials. My new sister’s “KD” became Kadi to the family—a name that stuck permanently.  (With the occasional variation, such as “Aunt Tadi” when my son Christian was little and couldn’t pronounce K.)

with my sister, 1994—a family trip to Maine

Kadi and her husband Scott visited from Seattle last weekend, and Keoni told me he was getting a kick out of watching the two of us, noting the facial expressions and mannerisms we have in common. It’s a funny thing, how amazingly alike we are, despite our very different lives. Even some of our random OCD eccentricities are a match, like our refusal to eat the last bite of a sandwich—the piece we’ve been holding while we ate the rest. Can that possibly be genetic? It certainly wasn’t something we learned together—we discovered the quirk-in-common as adults, when we met each other for lunch one day.

my sister’s high school graduation, 1996

I don’t see my sister in my mirror, but I see her all the time in my photos. We insisted for years that we didn’t look anything alike (despite being taken for twins with some regularity), but then I began to mistake pictures of her for pictures of myself… When she first moved to Boise after graduating from Law School, she reported getting hug-attacked in REI by a perfect stranger—someone who obviously knew me well enough to hug me, but still couldn’t tell that she wasn’t me. I have occasionally gotten responses like “Duh” and “No shit” when I point her out or introduce her as my sister. Apparently it’s obvious.

Our family traveled a lot when we were growing up, so we were often the only available playmates for each other. Happily, we got along pretty well together—barring the occasional scuffle or argument, we enjoyed like minds and tastes and imaginations most of the time. Our mother has said of our six-month trip through Europe that we fought the first day, and then it seemed to dawn on us both that we would only have each other for the next half-year… So we made up—and stayed made-up for the rest of the tour.

with my sister—when she was in Law School and I was a new stay-home mom

Our friendliness is, in itself, a testament to my sister’s amiable nature. It’s not easy being anyone’s younger sister. She has gone on, though, to distinguish herself in arenas of her own—clerking for a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, working as a Deputy Attorney General for the state of Idaho, and now with a prominent law firm in Seattle. We’re pleased with the idea that we both make our livings at writing—legal briefs in her case, and random oddities in mine…

We used to write plays together, and perform them for the captive audience of our parents and grandparents. We had to make creative allowances for the small size of our cast, which led to some memorable adaptations like “Snow White and the One Dwarf,” in which she played the princess and I played everyone else.

at a Black-Eyed Peas concert

Keoni introduced me to the idea of the ‘aumakua—the totem or guardian in Hawai’ian culture—and last summer it became clear to me that the Owl is mine. Owls were crossing my path, night and day, every time I was on the road with a writing assignment… When I wrote about the topic here, Kadi emailed me, expressing astonishment because she had developed a particular affinity for owls in the last year as well. I wasn’t expecting that, of course, but at the same time it didn’t surprise me. (I figure it’s our “Irish” coming out… Owls are totems in Celtic culture too.) Besides, we’ve always seemed to be on the same wavelength, even though our lives are outwardly so different.

Kadi & Scott’s visit last weekend

Speaking of Hawai’ian culture, Keoni has asked me to tell her “Hau’oli la hanau.” When we say it aloud (how OH-lee lah huh-NOW), people often respond by telling us their age, thinking we’ve asked them, “How old are you now?” But it actually means—from both of us—Happy Birthday!


Cracking the Winter Chrysalis

shamrock

heliophilic shamrock!

I often joke that I’m a plant–I need my sunshine! The shamrock in our front window (inherited from my Irish great-grandma, and a decade older than I am) responds so enthusiastically to sunlight that you can almost see its movement toward the light when we open the curtains. My daughter says she’s half-leprechaun, so maybe I’m half-shamrock.

I’m not a severe sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder (with its apt acronym of SAD), but a good dose of sunlight does have a measurable effect on my mood and energy level.

cat nap

Suzy & I agree: winter is for hibernating!

In winter months I tend to go into hibernation-mode, withdrawing into the snug sanctuary of homey coziness and physical comforts. This last winter particularly, my leap into writing-as-a-profession enabled me to burrow into winter-mode entirely unhindered by inconveniences like having to leave the house.  I retreated, as I habitually do, into my cocoon of soft sweatshirts, down quilts, and thick socks, with Suzy-cat warming my feet and the coffee-pot constantly brewing… and contentedly wrote all winter.

With the advent of warm weather, however, my Summer-Self emerges from the winter chrysalis. She’s more energetic, more active, more adventuresome, more sociable, less inwardly focused.  Summer weather has arrived rather suddenly to the Boise area this last week–and just as suddenly, I’ve got my toenails painted (for sandals!) and legs shaved (for shorts!), and the sandals and shorts themselves pulled out of the Rubbermaid bins where they’ve been hibernating…

Keoni and I were just reflecting that it feels as though our new year is beginning now, rather than in January. We’re entertaining fresh opportunities and enjoying fresh energies…

Keoni is moving around amazingly well since his winter knee replacement, and beginning to shed pounds again. (I tease him already that he’s literally “half the man he used to be”–500 pounds just a few years ago!–but he anticipates arriving soon at a weight he hasn’t seen for four decades.)

We’ve been shifting toward some healthier habits… from our habitual diet sodas to green-tea drinks, for example–and from smoking vanilla mini-cigars to “vaping” vanilla flavor from a Blu-brand e-cig… (It was the act of smoking, and the purposes to which I put it, that had me hooked more than the nicotine; this solution allows me to indulge in the habit without the hazards. And the kids–for whose sake I made the resolution in the first place–are tickled even pinker than my lungs!)

weed whacker & gardening gloves

gardening gloves–and a new weed-whacker! Last year Keoni was painstakingly using SCISSORS to edge the yard…

I’ve brushed off the yoga mat that’s been gathering dust in the storage shed, and we’re hoping to be able to buy a second bike this month and start exploring the network of trails in the State Park by our house. We’ve both gotten out our gardening gloves.

Keoni has completed an application in hopes of returning to his Corrections career–and we were heartened by a phone call from a top state administrator, who’d heard rumors he might re-apply, and phoned to urge his return.

I’m edging toward some new beginnings with my writing as well, contemplating the book that Keoni and the boys are after me to begin composing. And (as you see) the blog just got a facelift, seeking a clean-instead-of-cluttered look to accommodate the ads WordPress just authorized here. The sticky-note stack on my Mac is transmuting from writing-ideas into actual writing…

Idaho butterflyWe’ve started to plan our summer outings and adventures with the kids–a camping-trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument, a road-trip to visit Grandy & Boboo (my parents), a river-rafting trip with Grandy… Christian hopes to try horseback riding (luckily we know some cowboys) and wants to see Romeo & Juliet at the outdoor Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  Elena Grace wants to learn to snorkel, and Kapena wants to go to the summer football camp at Boise State University.

One of the “perks” of my writing-job is the fact that there’s no need to pay much mind to the calendar… So when Keoni and I first talked this week about the “new year” vibe we’re feeling, it didn’t immediately occur to me that Beltane is around the corner. It’s one of the Celtic cross-quarter days, a fire feast (the name of which, in fact, translates as “bright fire“), and a celebration of a new half of the year. The lighted half. A celebration of optimism, and abundance, and light.

And of course it’s natural that this celebration comes at the time when we are becoming sun-charged ourselves, busting out of the winter chrysalis with a new fire lit under us to venture out and find new stories for ourselves. It’s a few days early yet, but here’s wishing you a Blessed Beltane!

ready for adventure

Adventure-Ready: dusting off my Summer-Self. Yoga-mat, water bottle, iPod, camera, sandals, hiking hat, iPad (for maps & note-taking) and camera bag!


How to Bury an Owl

Ah, trick question!  Of course you wouldn’t bury an owl, because the Migratory Bird Act makes it illegal in the United States to be in possession of even an owl feather, let alone the entire dead bird. (Or three.)  So of course this post is entirely a work of fiction. (Cough, cough.)

Last summer I was sent by an Idaho Travel magazine to an old mining town in Idaho’s Owyhee mountains (“Silver City, Idaho: A ‘Ghost Town’ that Never Gave Up the Ghost“). The Owyhees were named for a trio of native Hawai’ian trappers, working for the Hudson Bay Company, who disappeared in these mountains around 1820.  For my husband Keoni, a native Hawai’ian himself, this bit of history put an intriguing spin on our trip.

Spam-can cairn--an offering to Pele

Islanders use two words for giving directions: makai (toward the ocean) and mauka (toward the mountain), since pretty much anything on an island can be described within that frame of reference.  When I asked him if that’s why his “uncles” might have lost their way, he replied in Pidgin, “Bruddahs wen’ mauka, wen’ mauka… Stay los’!”  Joking that our trip might double as a search-and-rescue, we armed ourselves with an offeratory can of Spam, which these days is a favorite food in Hawai’i (you can order Spam & eggs at McDonald’s there).

He had another mission as well: looking for rounded rocks of pahoehoe lava (what we “here in America” would call vesicular basalt), which he plans use to line an imu, the traditional pit for roasting a whole pig.  Our overnight bag and camera bag rode in the back seat, the car-trunk kept free for his boulder collection.

On his native turf, however, he would never remove volcanic rock without making a return offering to the volcano goddess Pele–traditionally a cairn of rocks with fresh fruit or flowers or a bottle of liquor.  It’s a custom he takes seriously, although with his own touch of humor–there have probably been some hikers in the Owyhees who are still puzzled about the Spam-can-topped cairn they ran across…

It’s not the only cultural custom he still practices, some of them adjusted with a modern twist.  He was taught not to sweep after dark (because it brings bad spirits into the house)–so he only vacuums during daylight hours. If something gets spilled or broken at night, it stays put until morning when he’s willing to get out the vacuum. Same thing with whistling in the house–not after dark.  He doesn’t shake hands when he greets someone he knows, or even meets someone new–he embraces them, with an intake of breath as the “exchange of breath” that’s part of the cultural greeting. The word aloha literally means “exchange of breath.”

Another interesting linguistic side-note…  The Hawai’ian word haole is used now to refer to white people, but it literally means “without breath.” (And no, it’s not a compliment.) When the Islanders attempted to welcome newly arrived missionaries with their traditional greeting–the embrace and exchange of breath–the prudish new arrivals recoiled from the nearly-naked natives and refused to hug…  So the Hawai’ians assumed they had no breath to exchange.

card shark tattoo

Keoni's "card shark" tattoo--Mano protecting against the "Suicide King"

Another cultural element about which he feels strongly is the ‘aumakua, or guardian spirit in animal form. His family’s ‘aumakua is Mano, the shark, and several of his tattoos include Mano as a symbol of protection.  The King of Hearts card (often called the “suicide king” because of the dagger he’s holding to his head) is eclipsed by a fiercely protective white shark–his guardian against any return to that dark place where suicide seemed the only out. A traditional Maori tribal representation of a hammerhead is swimming up the side of his neck, a design gifted to him from a Tongan family who used to eat regularly at our Hawai’ian restaurant. He added this one after talking with his grandfather in a dream–Tutu Pa suggested he put Mano on his neck rather than put a rope around it ever again.

I wrote in an earlier post about Owls crossing my path until I recognized them as my own ‘aumakua (or totem, or whatever Irish word would better fit my own heritage–owls are totems in Celtic culture too). Interestingly enough, my sister responded to that post by emailing that she’s been developing an affinity for owls over the last year as well. I don’t believe in coincidence.

owl goddessOn this particular road-trip, as we were returning from the Owyhees with a trunk full of volcanic rocks, we passed a large white owl, dead in the middle of the road.  It didn’t look as though it had been hit or run over–just dead on the center line.

As we drove for another moment in silence, I was just feeling all kinds of wrong about leaving that owl dead in the road. Like dragging an American flag on the ground or stepping on a consecrated communion wafer, rolled into one. Keoni was watching me, and without a word, he swung the car around in a U-turn and headed back. Without a word, I grinned at him in relief.

I thought he would pull over so I could run out for it, but instead he slowed in the empty highway, opened the driver-side door, and lofted the owl onto my sandaled feet. Its feathers were warm from the sun. When we got to a pull-out, we carefully tucked it among the pahoehoe rocks in the trunk and nosed the car back in the direction of home. Not five minutes later, we passed another untouched dead owl, this time on the side of the road. And within another five minutes, another owl.

three owlsSo we arrived home with not one, but three white owls in our trunk. Arranging an appropriate owl-burial took priority over the other unpacking, so Keoni dug a hole in our garden and we solemnly interred our owls. With an offeratory Spam sandwich (extra mayo) and a cup of soda (liquor would be more traditional–but we’re both recovering alcoholics) and some quiet words of respect.

I see public buildings with plastic owls on top to “guard” against pigeons. Well, the guardians of our home are the three white owls in our garden. Or perhaps now it’s a guarden.


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