Monthly Archives: March 2011

Surviving the Tsunami 2011

Chicko’s Bar, Honolulu, HI
Na Palapalai, a trio of Hawaiian Falsetto singers, are rocking the joint. Ukulele, Guitar, and Stand-up bass are in perfect synchronicity. Hawaiian calls of celebration, “Cheeee-Huuu”, splash against the walls. Hawaiian music legend Robert Cazimero is pumping his hands in the air beside me.  He is supporting the next generation of musicians. Robert turns and looks at me, raises his eyebrows as if to say “Damn, they’re good”, then turns back to the trio with a sweet “Yeee-hooo”.
On an average night, this scene would have been typical for Chicko’s. But, tonight, the Tsunami is coming from Japan. It’s 12 o’clock, midnight, and all is well here in Honolulu.  I look towards the small stage at Chicko’s, and I see celebration of life through music. I look behind me, and I see death on the large flat screen TV’s, our windows to Japan.  An eerie tension builds in the air like sick mist.
Black water pours over the sides of the island of Japan in Sendai. One lonely car speeds on a road as the oil slick looking ocean plows houses, cars, and earth. The white car makes it off the screen, and we all hope they got away from the water. Buildings torn asunder are now bathed in dark flow. The news gets worse, as a fire has erupted at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant just south of Sendai. The nuclear fall out could have the longest impact on Japan’s recovery.
It’s 12:25am, and all is tense here in Honolulu. The musicians are still pumping out fresh Aloha, but it’s time to leave, time to go up the long hill to my home at the foothills of the mountains in Manoa. My partner and I pass half a dozen Japanese restaurants on the way. They all have family in Japan. I feel a sense of ease, and self-gratitude, that I chose a place so elevated and so protected by mountains for our home. I feel sad that there was no place to run for so many of our Japanese neighbors. Bags are packed, food is bundled, we sit and wait. Wait to see what will happen to us, wait to feel an impact. Wait for God to hear our prayers for Japan.
It’s 2:30am in Manoa Valley, and all is ready. We are told that our area is safe, so we sit tight, eventually passing out on the couch.
Several days have passed since the Tsunami, and we are grateful. And sorrowful. The Japanese and Hawaiians have always had a close relationship long before Hawaii became part of the US. Many Kalo (taro) fields have been converted to hold rice patties. Many Hawaiians still eat rice with breakfast. A scroll of Japanese calligraphy for “patience” hangs beside our bed. Many Hawaiians have Japanese last names from the mixing of their ancestors. There is an Island people bond. 
A week later, the tsunami has passed, and damaged homes are left in the wake of the quake and tsunami. How do we find hope? From two steps away in Hawaii, it’s difficult to look at the footage on TV and see the good in this situation. So I take 10 steps back, and look at the greater history to find solace.
As the likely nuclear leakage from the damaged power plant remains a threat in Fukushima, I remind myself that this is not the first time that Japan has faced the harmful effects of radiation. Just decades earlier, the Japanese were the enemy of the US after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Hawaii was not yet a US state, but the shock waves rippled throughout America. My Great Grandmother grew up sewing military uniforms from home. Even in her eighties, she was still hurt and angry at Japan for Pearl Harbor. It was the defining wound of her generation, a pain so great that it was deemed unforgivable. The Pearl Harbor attack contributed to the devastating decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the south of Japan. Those who survived still remember the effects of the nuclear blast. How can remembering such a painful event in our modern history bring me hope?
Remarkably, a few generations later, we are sending the USS Ronald Reagan to Japan. This time, our ships are not there to attack with bombers. They have arrived to help. Supplies, equipment, and medical care are being offered to help our Japanese neighbors. This current crisis has opened the hearts of Americans to the Japanese people in a new way. Did the people of my great grandma’s generation ever think this was possible? After all, it was considered an act of loyalty among many of the older generations of Americans to shun the “Japs”.  Yet, many of my generation born in the 70’s have friends from Japan. When we look into their eyes, we see our friends and our neighbors in need. It is likely that the Tsunami of 2011 will be the defining historic wound of Japan’s young generations. This outpouring of support to Tsunami victims has shown us the possibility of healing the “infamy” and the “unforgivable”. 
While I do not welcome the tragedy in Northern Japan, I do see the collection of miracles that have been awakened from this crisis. People in Japan are hungry, thirsty, tired, scared and grief stricken. Yet they work together cooperatively, with no sign of riots. A collaborative humility and a spirit of resiliency have become so clear. Age old feelings from WWII have not hindered the aid offered to Japan.
People standing in line for kerosene in Northern Japan
As I watch the images of the Tsunami on TV, I think to myself, “That could have been me.” The record breaking earthquake could have sent a much more powerful wave to these Pacific Islands. The ripples from Japan touched our island of O`ahu, reminding me that we are not as separate as we often believe. That elucidating reminder brings its own gift. While we cannot control nature’s expressions through storms, earthquakes, and tidal waves, we do have another power. We have the power of choice. Choosing to help each other in times of crisis is our empowering initiative. It is what we can do.  The humbling power of nature is reminding us to move forward, to forgive, and to bond together in our common vulnerability. This bond, inspired by tragedy, but formed through choice, is unexpectedly helping us to heal the past.
Click the above link for actual video footage of the Tsunami.

Categories: 2011, earthquake, fukushima, hawaii, japan, nuclear, pearl harbor, radiation, sendai, tsunami, world war II | 4 Comments

City of Refuge, Hawaii

Hawaii, Big Island, a land that still flows with lava from the active volcano. It has remained one of the few places on earth still making new land. Most of the lava has cooled into coal black surfaces. The blackened lava was all over the Kona side of Big Island. It created barriers, tunnels, secret scuba caves, and massive cliffs. Hawaiians have long made use of the lava rocks as stones for the walls of heiau (temples). As I walked into Pu`uhonua o Honaunau, the City of Refuge in South Kona, I was met by an elaborate series of lava rock walls that stood 6-8 feet high. The ground was a mix of lush flowers, sprawling hot tub puddles, white sand, and mounds of smooth black lava. In the distance lay the bay, a playground for honu (sea turtles) and nai`i (spinner dolphins). The crystal clear water revealed a reef with splatters of pink, lime green, forest green, and white. The sea floor was healthy. It was not surprising to learn that the nearby waters are a hot spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. 

In the old days of Hawaii, a strict system of Kapu ruled the Hawaiian Natives. The English version of the word kapu is taboo, which is used to describe when a social norm has been broken. If a Native Hawaiian broke kapu in a serious way, death was one possible punishment for the crime. However, if the lawbreaker made it to the City of Refuge, which often requiring swimming several miles to escape the lower chiefs in pursuit, then they could be absolved for violating kapu. In short, those who made it to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau would live, despite their past mistakes. It was the ultimate safe zone, a place free from war, bloodshed, and retribution. There was no higher authority than to be in the presence of this sacred land, held in the secure hold of the lava walls.

My first impression as I walked into the ancient seaside complex was a sense of calm. Each heiau (temple) that I have visited had its own character. Being within these walls held a freedom from worry about burdensome details. In the nearby bay, a spinner dolphin popped up and hurdled his body backwards with a splash. Another followed by doing the moonwalk, Flipper style. Though the heiau has continued to be a place of serious significance, play was in the air. Bare foot, I felt every nook of the smooth lava which looked like black elephant skin. While walking toward the ocean over a frozen sea of lava, a honu popped his head up for a photo. He was in one of the shallow pools which eventually connected with the ocean. Honu found lots of lovely green stuff to eat off the coral, then cruised back towards the sea.
I stood for a moment on an ice cream scoop mound of cooled lava. Thoughts seemed less significant, as the awe of the land took over. Memories passed through my mind rapidly, as if there were an old projector in the front of my head. The memories were scenes with ex-girlfriends. I had broken their hearts, and the movie memories were of heartbreaking goodbyes. Covert blisters of old feelings came to the surface, popping out of my chest and stomach. They rose up like intense waves and left like shore splashes. Yes, I have hurt people that I love. The greatest of this pain started with dreaming, that vulnerability that comes with sharing dreams of a future together. Then, the painful twinge, the realization that the fights were the same and something in my tired heart said we were done. Our lives moved in different directions and it was time to stop holding on. In these painful partings, I had to choose myself first, choose where life was taking me.This also meant accepting that life was taking a former partner in their own direction. That choice to surrender, to let go, meant breaking our spoken promises. It meant releasing “forever” and “life partner” and “children”. To keep faithful to my truest longings, I had to break the promises made in more enthusiastic times. 

Somehow, the walls here at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau facilitated the release, made it more gentle. Part of me was waiting for a place like this to let it all go. As the old pain from hard choices left my body like unseen phantoms, there was room to breathe again. A pocket of self anger came up, making my face flood red. How could I be so charismatic in my promises, and then leave? The neck breaking tightness of self expectation squeezed hard. How could a Healer wound someone they love in this deep way? 
Then, an insight arrived. I have always been a man first. I’ve always been a human being learning from others. Being a Healer is built on that platform. Whenever my humanity shakes, the Healer stumbles but does not crumble. Rather, the shaking was essential in the way a sculptor must cleave away the surface of an emerging statue. This humbling insight lead to self acceptance. I did the best that I could do.
My new partner, a Hawaiian beauty with cherub smile, has been by my side the whole time. Kaimiola. Her name means Seeker of Life. We walked through the refuge together, sharing steps of our life.  The cleansing I was going through was making more room for her to be with me.  Her steady presence has accepted me, has trusted me.

We stood around a deep cavern in the middle of the lava field. It was a donut hole, filled with clear water and pretty coral, stretching 15 feet deep and 12 feet wide. She stripped off her pareo, pulled up the straps of her bathing suit and plunged into the deep, brisk water of the donut hole. I jumped in after her, consecrated by the cold plunge of salty blessing. Then, forgiveness came. I had forgiven my potential life partners of the past a long time ago. Afterall, I had been hurt too.  But this moment of self forgiveness seemed to come last.  It was the moment I was waiting for. The future didn’t matter to the cold water on my skin, and the past lost its grip. This moment filled us with joy and laughter, like two crazy kids playing in their big backyard. Two tourists laughed in disbelief at our crazy stunt, then snapped pictures of us like we were two exotic seals. At the very least, they could have fed us some fish. 

It was my courageous decisions to leave the past which have brought me to this place. I’m grateful to those who have supported me along the way.  In this City of Refuge, my mistakes were lessons and my struggles were the rigors of passing through my old wounds. I could see how much I have grown from the past hurt. The wounds were necessary experiences that helped me recognize myself more clearly. By passing through these wounded doorways, I have left the familiar stories of my life behind. The aliveness that I have found was worth it!

Check back every other Sunday for the next blog entry. Aloha.
Categories: big island, city of refuge, dolphin, hawaii, honaunau, kona, ocean, pu'uhonua o honaunau, sanctuay, scuba, temple, turtle, vacation | 2 Comments

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