We Go…

We go…

When Tutu kane died the ground trembled and the valley wept. A cool wind swirled through the house, tickling our noses and watering our eyes. It carried away his final breath into a heavy, waiting mist. And the trees murmured a chorus of lament, with branches groaning and moaning as they bowed low and bore his breath up, up, up to the summit where he once used to climb and explore. Where he would tend the trees and pick flowers. When the wind and the mist returned to their peaks, so too left our grief, and our spirits were not restless. There was only the smell of rain; of ozone and earth.

We go to the mountains. We go to Tutu kane.

The family gathers, from near and far; relatives from the continent—aunties who cannot pronounce our street names or the places of our kupuna, cousins who don’t know the stories of the gods. They arrive anxious and itchy, restless, “because of this horrible humidity,” they reason. And then…

“You’re lucky you live in Hawaii,” they say. Why lucky? Because we had no long flights to catch or expensive, last minute plane tickets to buy. Because we didn’t have to drop everything to come here. Don’t they know? Here, is everything.

They laugh at our “accents”, and lack of shopping stores and franchise restaurants. They frown at all the old houses and the small parking spaces, but they want to go to the beach and eat laulau before they go home.

“Move to Texas, everything is bigger,” they say. Five bedroom houses, only half price, more job opportunities, and a better quality of life with nice things, new things. What is the value of laulau or sandy beaches compared to those big, important things? It might take some time but you’ll adapt and find new things to love. Things to replace spam musubi and crack seed. That’s what they say, anyway.

They’ve forgotten how the wind can bring the smell of ginger and plumeria billowing by on a hot day. Forgotten the sound of the trees and how their leaves rustle like roaring waves; or the sound of waves and how they can rumble like trees. Or the smell of the clouds, the mist and the air as it tumbles down the valley walls. They’ve forgotten the salty spray of the ocean and how it sometimes tastes like limu. Or the damp, heady smell of the taro patches and how the water that protects the roots will ripple and glimmer when the low wind blows.

They have wind in Texas, and it’s a big wind (because everything is bigger in Texas) but it’s not makani‘olu‘olu the fair wind, hau‘oki the icy wind, or Moa‘e ku the strong tradewind from the Northeast. They’ve forgotten these words, these names, and cannot call the winds. Forgotten the different ways it can caress the skin or whip around limbs, between fingers. Their children will only know one wind.

Should we stay, or should we go? Move to the mainland for a better life, like they say?

But when Makua kane’s sickness brought him down, and he could no longer build; when his big, strong arms finally lay still, we felt the plains of ‘Ewa hold their breath. We watched the grey clouds gather in that perpetually sunny place and heard the anguished cries of a thousand cane swallows, like ancient bell tolls, as they flew to the coast. Where Makua kane once rolled in the waves. Where he rolls with them again. Where he threw net and speared fish. No more sugar cane, no more Makua kane.

We go to the sea. We go to Makua kane.

The family gathers, from near and far; relatives from the continent—back again and still itchy. They show us pictures of the new pool and sunroom they had built. We are happy for them and remind them to buy guava jelly and macadamia nut pancake mix before they go. They go.

We go to the mountains.
We go to the sea.
We go home in between.
We go eat.
We go stay.

This is my home, the land of my ancestors. I am an extension of it, and it is an extension of me. To leave and forget, would bring no value to me. My children will know the winds. And when I die, there will be no flight to catch, no last minute plane tickets to buy. When I die, my spirit will not be itchy and restless. I will go to the mountains and climb with Tutu kane. I will go to the sea and surf with Makua kane. Because that is where we go.

Talk story

  1. appleblossum says:

    Yes, there's a phantom "he" that belongs in that sentence. "where [he] once…"

    I'm so sad I missed it. 🙁 And couldn't go back in and edit.

    It's a real bummer that it's right at the beginning too!

    Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. BetweenWatersUnseen says:

    The part that stands out the most for me is the ninth paragraph, when the narrator is describing the different types of winds. It's a powerful climax that emphasizes the point of the piece perfectly, with everything after rolling to a smooth finish.

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