Wednesday, August 8, 1984

At the coffee plantation, Hawaii journal


Later, at the coffee plantation, geckos chuckle, and make small fists as they lift their hands from the hot surfaces. A Hawaiian hawk circles overhead. We talk about getting closer to the center of the core. The papayas below the kitchen are like multi-breasted Greek goddesses, hanging heavy on the trees. We will eat them with lime juice and apple bananas.

I am sleeping on the slopes of Mauna Loa, this great joyous weight—aina. These islands were called the Sandalwood Islands— ʻiliahi. The sacred fragrant wood was a source of wealth in the islands, traded for rum and weapons, until there were no more trees.
Ed points out the trees. I learn that the Australian macadamia nut, named after the Scottish-Australian chemist, John MacAdam, as was macadam, is also called the Queensland nut.
The kukiu tree, first to colonize the lava fields, is the candlenut tree, a bringer of light. The koa tree, is Hawaiian mahogany. And the kamanu tree (punnai nut) is mentioned in the ancient Hawaiian chants.

The mountain apple, or roseapple, a kind of myrtle related to guava (Syzygium malaccense), ohi'aloke, or ohi'a 'ai, is the golden fruit of immortality. Buddha was said to sit beneath that tree. Not the banyan. The mountain apple, the first fruit tree of Hawaii, is sweet, crisp, pear-like, with overtones of bayberries. Will Staple and I once made a mountain apple pie on Maui. A sacred wood, used for carvings and canoes.

The jacaranda from Brazil, sometimes called the fern tree, its blossoms form vast lavender carpets in the undergrowth. Wild philodendron snakes up trees like a massive serpent. The coffee trees, with their red "cherry," and gardena-like blossoms are so beautiful and fragrant. Ed says they're related.

A mango tree looks like it's always ready for Christmas with its rosy fruits bright against dark leaves similar to the magnolia and rubber trees. We press some banana fronds into instant rain capes.

Ed quotes: "Man is like a banana the day it bears fruit—like the banana which dies after it bears its one bunch of bananas, man dies after his work is done," I've no idea said that. He doesn't elaborate.  It's bad luck to dream of bananas. Later I find out that it's an old Hawaiian saying. Bananas, the fruit of the gods, sometimes used in place of human sacrifice, were kapu, forbidden to women.

A racket in the distance. Kona nightingales are wild donkeys, says Ed. I make a few quick drawings before the rains come.

Mauna Kea rises up 13,796 feet above sea level, or 32,000 feet from the ocean floor. Ditto that for Mauna Loa. Twinned breasts. In the Waipio Valley, the 1946 tsunami cut 2000 foot cliffs, 4 miles across, out of the Kohola mountains. Escaped papayas float in the inlet like a canoe war party.

added 9/17, revised
Hawaii Journal, August 4 -12, 1984
Letters to Pele, Hawaii journal, Volcano
Kamapua'a and Pele on Kilauea
Kilauea crater rim, Hawaii journal
Ke'ie Beach, Hawaii Journal
At the coffee plantation, Hawaii journal
Kona Lagoon, Hawaii journal

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