Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pele's Gardens

She’s back: Pele in all her glory, devouring the land, crushing the lehua blossoms as she takes what is hers. Creation, destruction; the cycle inevitably continues. Here on the island of Hawai'i we are now watching a giant plume of ash and SO2 emissions rising up out of Halema'uma'u crater, the home of Pele, keeping us on alert in case of evacuation. Like other residents, when I look into the glowing red heart of Kilauea volcano, I experience awe and excitement with a tiny bit of terror mixed in. It’s all part of what makes this place so special and worthy of our respect; those who are inspired become reaffirmed in their devotion to the land. There is undeniable, ultimate power and energy manifested here.

Destruction passes over the kipuka. Within these oases ancient ones dwell; flora continue to flourish and support the next generation of fauna. And at this time each year, native forests provide for the waves of hula halau that sweep through in search of material for making lei. In preparation for the Merrie Monarch hula festival, dancers collect native plants including maile vine, palapalai fern, and lehua blossoms and leaves according to protocol. Halau have increasingly become more aware of their kuleana, their responsibility, in the forest with regard to the native plants they gather. Many have learned to take only what they need, and instead of unceremoniously dumping their adornments into the rubbish after the festivities they return plant material back to the land with understanding and due reverence. That is right action according to the knowledge and wisdom of ancestors, staying connected with the ‘aina.

Maile, palapalai , and ‘ohi’a lehua are natives of the Hawaiian rainforest that are fairly easy to grow if you live on the windward side of the islands, and it’s convenient to have them in your yard for lei making. Palapalai needs filtered sun and a wet spot in your yard. I keep mine on the lanai in a lava-like hypertufa bowl I made, and the Lyman Museum in Hilo has some planted in a shady area next to a hose bib. Palapalai tends to stay small in a container, so if you want large fronds, plant it in the ground instead.

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