50° in Suburbia

It’s about 50° outside today, here in suburbia of Austin Texas. The skeletons of the trees declare themselves steady against the silver-gray sky, as if we are in the center of a cloud. No blue. No yellow. Just smoke and siren heard faintly in the distance. A plane makes it’s way, invisible and overhead. My neighbor starts his engine and pulls out of the parking lot. Only screen and metal frame stands between my skin against the air conditioned breeze. Black coffee goes from hot to lukewarm. For two days now it has been raining, a light drizzle then a steady rhythm, then it ceases. Although my head sleeps right up against my bedroom window, I barely hear it’s performance.

My apartment has some ants, but never have I encountered any other creatures. Not that they’d scare me. I remember flying B-52’s–roaches the size of your fingers, then cane spiders the size of my baby sister’s face, centipedes red and cobalt blue–their babies flooding out from the tub drain when we turned the water on after a long period of renovation–those renovations consisting of Jacks-of-all-trades attempting to repair utilities built in the 60s and 70s as we took showers outside with the hose for a few months beside my mother’s orchids.

I remember rain being not good enough of a word for the buckets of salt water tipped over our thin houses, the yard a river of floating fish and rats in the morning.

The sky has shifted from silver-white to pencil-lead in the short time of my reminiscing a place other than the place I am physically a part of in the here and now, and lately it has been like that–ash stains and air.

Birds are trying to get their words in and the thunder is all bass. Under manicured lawns and watched streets of suburbia, bones and scraps of shelters rest, swarmed by skins and furs of creatures I wouldn’t recognize.

I wonder where the deer go when it gets like this?

The wind moves my curtains a teasing dance–it’s “I am my own and I do what I please” aliveness always prevalent, provocative. Really I know I will write about all of it–the closet rooms and the king size beds, the bus stop and the red-velvet interior caravans, and about the way dirt is gold. Really I will praise this neighborhood in the way I praise the ocean in my chest. The separation is mostly invented in my mind–here vs. there. That time vs. this time.

Water of the sky is now heard dipping into puddles, and by the slush of tires on the road. The mud on a woman’s boots coming in from walking her labrador. A sweet carrying; a seamless returning.

Rain is never asking “may I fall right here?” “Is now a good time, or..?” “How much is too much?” “How would you like me to land?” And I think I’d like to be rain and wind and soot and clay.

On Moments of Remembering & What to Do with Them

The mind has the ability to digest any truth that is read, and in turn have the spirit chime in that, yes, it rings true. We are creations that have inherited The Truth of The Universe, which knows no language or form. By default we possess this inner knowing, and sometimes we hear and read symbols on earth that resonate with this wisdom, that sing the tune of Truth we feel deep in our chests.

We receive these signals, then we go back to work–the tending, the caring, the abiding by, the responding–we are left with our patterns: the coats we have tried on, the shawls left on a sidewalk for someone else to use, ones so invisible to us that we have adopted them as a part of our skins, some removed then recovered in a later time of life, others stumbled into, given to us, then coats our earth guardians have zipped up to our chins upon being brought into the world. Coats that distract us from the core of our knowing. Coats that we needed until we realized we didn’t. But there is always the return, the promise of moments in time when we remember who we are–when the sun rises and presents a color we haven’t witnessed before, yet somehow recognize, the slip of the tongue of children around us–their simple questions worth asking that tell us systems we deem as ultimate, are not so ultimate after all, and then when we read a message delivered in such a way, that it speaks directly to the God within. Moments in meditation when we reach The Realm of Simply Being, when chords are sequentially delivered from the divine, their melodies like the palms of heaven’s hands, cupped delicately over your ears, and then sometimes the moment is in those brief milliseconds upon waking, before remembering our bodies, our walls, our obligations. These moments present themselves all life long, and in between those moments we wear our coats, and try to move along as the world is moving along, between sun rise and sun down, stepping into footsteps, looking for pathways, finding temporary comfort in coats familiar.

Then there are chapters of times in our lives, where instead of living between these moments, we are among them, when we consistently remember we have machete’s to find a clearing in The Wild, we have our songs and our hands and our blood. Blood unlike, yet very much a part of, the blood that came before us, that created us, carried us, the blood of our neighbors, the blood in the winged above, the blood in the cold below. Blood of mineral and iron and stories–stories made of coats that were gifts, that were left behind, worn until ragged, made anew, dipped in spring water, buried in ash. We are actively alive and inside of every story made up of these Truth Moments, where messages were delivered, and Remembrance Rang through. All the blood before and beyond, given their very own messages of the same Exquisite Infinite.

May waves of these Truth Moments take hold of us all, and carry us for longer and longer amounts of time in all of time’s capacities. May we gain a way of weaving ourselves through our words and actions that are rooted in these Rememberings we all carry. And may we take the time to deliberately remember.

May mothers remember the daughters within themselves, and laugh with mouths so wide-open that they taste sun, and drink in moon–may our feet made-for-dirt and sky, find no inhibitions in our dances, our greetings, our runnings, our work.

May fathers remember the sons within themselves, and pause along pathways to ask their why’s, and how’s, and what for’s–may their throats thirst for Truth, and be quenched in returning to connectivity.

May all of our vessels be recognized as Holy,

all of us look one another in the eye,

in recognition of the sacred.

May our coats be disregarded and used only for good–

celebrated, transmuted, taken off when too heavy.

May we hold the infinite wisdom, as residing in messages abound,

and infuse it’s simple potency into the invisible of our daily lives.

For the world transforms into more balance,

the longer we swim in those moments of remembering,

the more we accept as individuals,

that it is in those moments,

the real work is done.

On Moonbeams

If you research the benefits of sunlight, there are medical websites that tell you about Vitamin D, it’s mood-enhancing and bone-strengthening qualities, and the way it responds to every cell in your body. Information, stories and discussions on the absorption of moonlight is predominantly affiliated with folklore, tales of turning into a werewolf, tarot sites, spiritual, mystical, and ultimately, separate from the scholarly and scientifically accredited playing field. Hardly a trace of experimentation, research, or any sign of minute inquiry can be detected from academia and science, into how, and then why, we are affected by the moon.

There are Ayurvedic1 studies done on the cooling impact moonbeams have on our nervous system, moonlight being beneficial for inflammation, regulating menstrual cycles, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, increasing fertility, and more. Ayurvedic medicinal practices and herbs are not recognized by the pharmaceutical world. Western medicinal practices relying heavily on pharmaceutical advancement do not highly favor or take seriously the traditions and holistic remedies of the earth. Where a bottle of turmeric powder says “anti-inflammatory”, “increases brain function”, “rich in antioxidants” there is a requirement by the Federal Drug Administration to place an asterisk next to those claims, disclaiming “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”, discrediting long lines of work done by medicine practitioners, not-so-coincidentally of indigenous and non-European origin. Where is the inquiry, or the tests run, or at bare minimum the acknowledgment of preventative and highly-effective medicine? At this point in time more people are becoming aware of the flaws in the FDA, the invalidity of claims made in the past, claims made only to further an economic agenda or government interest.

We absorb the particles of our environment–fumes, compounds in our water, the type of light we are exposed to. Our skin is an organ that is constantly taking in what we expose it to–even the soap we use to wash our sheets and clothes is taken in. Toxins are released and our bodies work hard to assign everything consumed, to where it would be most useful. Nothing goes unaccounted for, and everything matters. Therefore, the light of the moon, like the light of the sun, is no different. It’s silver blanket and hypnotic radiance is absorbed, and where does it all go? What role does it play in the cells of our bodies? Through the blood in our veins, to our nervous system, what effect does it have on our brain? It moves our wombs—but why, and how? As we gaze into the piercing white light what happens behind our eyes? Moonlight illuminates the plants as they grow, the soil, the earth, so by way of the food we eat, and water we drink, what role is the moon playing? What effect does it have on the animals of the sea, the desert, the birds in the sky?

For the last two nights I was with family tucked away with no street light to disrupt circadian rhythm, and took a significant break from the light of my phone, just letting it completely die without a sense of urgency to charge it up right away. The moon peaked over the mountain around 10pm, to reflect off the water and beat down like a stadium light over a football field. The brightness entranced me–every leaf on the trees around us were as visible as if it were sunlight. Quarter-sized translucent frogs could be seen along the banks of the river; I could read the notes in my music book, and if I wanted to could have written pages upon pages under her glow. With the safety of having family nearby, and being far away from the busy suburbia of my apartment, I slept outside directly underneath the moon, legs sprawled out, hands crossed under my head, as calm as the animals sleeping around me.

As a reiki practitioner of seven years, becoming more and more attuned to the way my body responds to the environment around me, to what I consume in any way, to the way various energetic exchanges make me feel, the moon was medicine I didn’t know I needed. Nothing in the world could have stopped me from laying there, open to receive, cradled in silver.

I was not expecting to start my cycle for at least another two weeks, but on the same day as my brother’s wife, on the night I laid so openly under the moon, I started my cycle significantly earlier than expected. Her daughter was also on her cycle at the time. Where is the scientific and “administrative approved” information on something so widely accepted amongst women as just “something we do”? If it were something happening so closely in the lives of men, would we have more answers? While I am not hurried or demanding in any way to have an explanation, I find it “funny” that in matters such as these, we sweep it into a box of phenomenon not worth serious pursuit, experimentation, questioning, diving into the root and connection it has to all living things. There is still no certainty as to why women sync cycles when in close proximity to one another, or how or why the moon correlates. Ironically, as far as the “medical world” goes, a study lead by a woman named Martha McClintock at Harvard in the 70s2, found that amongst her dorm-mates, they were indeed syncing up and sharing cycles, but for that to be the closest thing to accredited knowledge for something so common and a part of our lives, shows how much more we need women, and I will also say non-white women3, to be in high ranking medical fields. We still have little to no information on the female orgasm, or on the variations of experiences we have with our vaginas in general–from menstruation to sex to miscellaneous occurrences, women have vastly different experiences from one another, which we are constantly uncovering variations of. While men have a very concrete understanding of their genitalia, girls scramble to exchange lessons taught to them, things they read on the internet, experiences had–even in this age of information at our fingertips, nobody really has a handle on so many mysteries of the ins and outs of life with ovaries, the same way we don’t really understand what moonbeams are good for, how they dictate our cycles, what is happening in the body when we absorb her light.

If we are dependent on peer-reviewed articles, or FDA-approved information, we would think the moon to be non-essential, not a vital part of life, not worth diving into. But we know better. The undercurrents of the psyche, hormones, a woman’s womb–the cells and electric currents of our bodies respond to moonbeams. I know it because I feel it, my body responds to the silver blanket over me, and the grass underneath me. There is a kind of charging and cleansing taking place. Tides are moved by the ocean, and surfers are able to predict where to go based on the time of year, based on the moon. Growing up we always knew that beaches would be filled with Portuguese man-o-war jelly-fish, or “blue bubbles” around the time of the full moon. The ocean would come up into yards, filled with debris from the shore–rocky and spewing. Then as nights pass and there is less silver, the tides return to being shallow, calm and still. Our bodies, and our wombs of gushing current are directly affected by her in the same way, reminding us we are a part of the earth, made of the earth, and return to earth. Rain falls and basins are washed clean, valleys of mountains are cleared, veins of the earth in motion.

I am ever-leaning in, to the space between worlds–between words written, words left out, words extracted, and that which cannot be explained with them. Across landscapes and cultures the moon is associated with feminine nature, and the sun associated with masculine. “Mother Moon, Father Sun.” Yin, (feminine, dark, still) and Yang (masculine, bright, moving) represent the dualism that is inherent in every living thing. As we restore balance on earth, and within ourselves, we lean into knowledge that has never left us. This Inner Knowing has always carried us–advantageous and feared.

  1. Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine, where everything you consume and absorb–every spice, herb, oil, and everything absorbed through the skin organ–is medicine and directly effects your organs and cells in your body.
  2. http://www.mum.org/mensyn.PDF
  3. I say non-white because many women of color have experiences, outlooks on life and background knowledge to offer that differs from what we think of as “normal” or “accepted”–often times providing more holistic and thorough approaches of preventative care vs. symptom treatment. We as human beings tend to operate within and by the means of the structures we have in place that we accept as-is. There are things in place that we question and want to change, then there are things in place we cannot possibly question because we don’t even see them as being in place at all, so acclimated to their positions in our lives. When we have people from different backgrounds and ways of life in positions of power, what we find is a more thorough and in-depth account of the subject. To take things further, we should question why current “positions of power” are more respected than if we encountered a medicine person without degree or title, in a place where degrees and titles do not equate to respectability, but I digress, per usual.

Invocation

If it is a clean-shoe and giggling stroll through the park, on the crispest of days, you’ll always be yearning for fire, desperate for even a flicker. If it is wrapped in satin and bought at the mall, you’ll wonder what the cotton feels like that she made from pieces of her youth and drapes around her shoulders every full moon. If she sums it up with memes and words she never wrote, you’ll remember the maddening covet, propelling you from just a sentence once scribbled on your refrigerator. From the oval pattern of her steps leading to the passenger side of your car, to the song in her sighs, and sage oil in her hair, she is leaving you wishing to be able to explain the phenomenon, whether you are beside her, or watching her twirl under the water below you, 52 feet deep.

I hope that while you lick batter off of your fingers, you momentarily feel as though they are my own, and that the .02-second-moment leaves you mute for the entire day. When you are slipping on your smile-for-the-picture, teeth-baring grin, which you have practiced since the 1st grade, and you’re standing near the entrance of a cafe built in 1943, I hope that the melody to escape the splinter-ridden doors cradles itself onto your skin, and follows you home. You place it into the box of items you don’t have an answer to, a file cabinet, a category, a label for. And you continue to play it, long after you’ve forgotton all names.

She is entrancing you on your living room floor, adoring your heart by way of devotional movement. You wake up and wonder where your mind had to go in order to conjure such gestures. In your waking hours, in the layer of reality just under what can be seen, you spend your time looking out for anything as tantalizing as what you see in your dreams.

I hope she writes you poetry that scares your name out of you–yes. If she doesn’t invoke The Absolute Entirety of Your Heart, she isn’t the one. The Unravelling of The Fabric of All You Think You Know, waking up cooled beneathe branches of spider-webbed new, and dying-sinking trees, on earth men have not paved or trimmed for your ease or your liking, the truth swiftly moves to sit it’s page on your forehead: you have never fallen in love with The Woods, for how could you, if you’ve never set sail to meet her?

In all the tender reasons we fall for people, may The Ability to Fly be one of yours.

I know you like simple, straightforward and logical sequences that fit into an understanding militaristic, routined, and packaged. I know that a psychology textbook brings you momentary relief from the incessant plea for rationale–the ever-liquidating “Live, Laugh, Love” mug you hold in your hands. False Order giving you temporary satisfaction. This is not a homely or agreeable Tale of Good and Evil. Predictability will not  suffice. A torn page in your Book of Being is in tatters on the street, and you’ve tried in vain to make your story meaningful without it. Kept afloat by definitions, you peel away at life vests you’ve been prescribed for too long. You long to be brave, to gaze deeply into the faces you don’t want others to see.

 

 

 

 

Steel-Souled Shoes

I return to this post and keep it close, sometimes adjusting wording but never deleting, because it reminds me of why it is important to keep your “mad spark”. Don’t you dare refrain from showing and pouring love onto anyone, while thinking of the lens’ of others. You Are Made For This. Looking silly often means you’re doing something right
my sweet, sweet hearts.

One night during my undergrad years of multiple jobs and express buses, a high school student got onto the late-night Ewa-beach-bound route with her family, decked out in her cap and gown, neck and chest filled with leis up to her ears. She got on by the Blaisdell Center, and I found it really strange that on a bus filled with people standing and wiggling their way around bodies just to get off, only 1-2 people said anything to her or addressed the fact that she had just graduated. As she got closer I beamed at her and her family, standing up so she or her mother could have my seat, and beamed a loud “Wow–congratulations!!!” After that exchange, a man in her group told me to never, ever change, and that people like me are needed. At the time, really needing to hear that, it rippled through me and I have never forgotten the rush of appreciation that I was simply me and bravely wore my heart on my sleeve. There was a tinge of nervousness but I knew if I were this girl, or a member of this family, I would have wanted at least someone to show some enthusiasm. I also know what it’s like to arrive and depart from a memorable life-marker of an event, via public transit. I have experienced shame from being at a busstop, while people are leaving in their cars, from a party, a class, a dance, a graduation…

Recently I was told, in a joking manner of course, based on some writing I did, which he didn’t understand or have a response to, “They say that, people who can’t DO, TEACH!” It stung, despite me knowing in my heart of hearts that it was untrue. I remained silent, and now that toxic person is far removed from my life, and I have formulated a response that he may never hear, and that is okay because it is more important my soul hears it. Truth is, I am GLAD it was said, because it allowed me to remember my gifts, my purpose, and my strength. I have also endured a few brunches and dinners where people are baffled at why I “don’t teach college, or at a private  school”–not there is anything wrong with teaching at these institutions, and who is really to say that one day I won’t? Point is, I don’t simply teach English because I speak English, and I don’t teach because I can’t do. I teach because I feel everything so deeply, and to a degree his higher paycheck does not comprehend. I teach because it has only taken a few people, saying a few things to me, to lift my spirit for years on end. I teach because I have the ability to look at trash on the street at A’ala park, and see opportunity. I teach because I don’t have any fear of walking through that park and speaking with, and hugging strangers. I teach because I can find a way to laugh even without shoes, in the rain, after missing the last bus. I teach because I am built strong enough to do so. I teach because I know dark places need as many candles lit as possible, in order for peace on, and sustainability of, our earth. Most importantly, I teach because I CARE. Teaching is not about me. Like creating art, it is simply something I have to do, not something I flippantly choose to pursue. It’s a calling only people who have given in to their own calls would be able to understand.

Standing in the back of the bus on that night in May, I did not think I was going to become a teacher, and my mind was still focused on journalism as I considered tutoring and teaching to be enjoyable, yet only part-time gigs. Now, still busy as hell, and trying to find as many thrifty ways to live as possible, yet more secure than I was ever before, I am so happy that I DO what I DO–teach. And to be honest, every time someone like him comes along I imagine them in front of my most challenging classes, and just KNOW they wouldn’t be able to handle what I did, and then I just giggle and walk away.

Haole Hips

hula

“Late!” Uncle Wayne says and rolls his eyes. The halau is already lined up–skirts, or pa`u’s on, hands on hips, knees bent—and a few heads turn around to look at me before quickly looking forward. Delicately sliding my slippers off at the door, I step into the brightness of the glowing room that faces the mountains, where the sun is slowly hiding behind. I pull my pa`u on over jean shorts, wrapping the top elastic band of scrunched fabric onto the correct place on my hips—not too high, and not too low, letting the rest of the material parachute and sway around my thighs, stopping just below my knees.

I make my way into the third row, beside other beginners and several three-year-old girls, their tiny Hawaiian-print skirts restlessly swinging in different directions. I fit my feet to a position inside of a square tile on the cold white floor, and bend my knees slightly, resting my hands on my hips, palms open along the creases of the top of my skirt. I’m standing tall, alert, waiting for the sound of the ipu, a percussion instrument made of wood with a hollow bottom and a curved open top for gripping.

It’s always basics first, and kahiko, or traditional hula, movements are practiced in the beginning of every class. Before we learn a new song, or practice what we know, we spend a long time practicing motions in rhythm with the thumping pounds of the ipu being tapped by Uncle Wayne’s hands, and then down unto the fabric he lays on the ground in front of him. The different paces we keep are according to which way his fingers and palm hit the different places along the bottom of the ipu.

Our feet instantly start moving with the announcement “kaholo”, in which we take four steps to the right, and four steps to the left, hands and fingers sitting flat, and pointing in the direction we’re going. Watching the older girls in front of me, I make sure I look just like them, and concentrate on coordinating my hands and feet to move correctly, and in sync with one another. Uncle Wayne watches each of us moving from side to side and comments on things we should correct while he is sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of us, directly in front of the open door, the Ko’olau mountain range our audience. The room is filled with focus as I also pay attention to my limbs, lifting them up and attempting to move them at the right time. Once in a while I miss the change and my arms are pointing in the opposite direction of my steps for two beats before I quickly turn them the other way, hoping he didn’t notice, not wanting to be singled out.

“Follow the person in front of you”, he says. Bump, bada-bump, bada-bump, bump-bump. Bump, bada-bump, bada-bump, bump bump.

“Keep your arms up—no slouching!” Bump, bada-bump, bada-bump, bump bump.

We are finally all in sync, and used to the pattern, but before we get too comfortable, Uncle Wayne declares the next motion to be practiced, “Ami!” After finishing the four-step kaholo, we jump right into that motion, a circling pattern of our hips where shoulders are to sit still, and heels stay on the floor, hands on our hips and knees still bent, always.

Uncle Wayne gets off the floor, ipu still thumping against his other palm, he walks over to several girls in my row, then to me. Letting the ipu fall he tells us to keep going, regardless of the lack of a beat, and the pace continues. It isn’t until he puts a hand on my shoulder and presses down a little that I notice my whole body is doing the `ami, not just my hips. I can feel my face warming to a piglet-pink as I concentrate on keeping my shoulders in place.

“You not bending your knees das why” he says. Bending them more, I keep trying to sustain the new-found stillness in my shoulders.

“Dea you go!” As he walks away I think I am doing it right, at least I feel like I am until he returns to the front of the classroom and glancing my way he simply says, “Remember to bend your knees; keep watching the person in front of you.”

The `ami I make to the left is always more difficult than `ami-ing to the right. My shoulders start a brand new kind of bob, one shoulder rising higher than the other with every circle, and I begin a new kind of concentration—trying to defy my body’s natural counter-clockwise tendencies. Feeling my shoulders bounce I look in the line and front of me and see nothing but straight shoulders and smooth hip circles.

Along with the `ami being practiced, we then do the hela, or simple sway from left to right of the hips, (another move where I desperately try to refrain from the shoulder-bop), then the kawelu, where we turn our bodies in one direction stepping with one foot back and forth before turning to the other side, then the `uehe, where we step one foot wider than the original placing, opening our knees for a second, pushing our skirts outward. We practice these and several more, moving onto the next one when we have done them well-enough, never being able to guess when Uncle Wayne will decide it’s time to move on. In between practicing different motions we always go back to the kaholo, before the next one is announced.

All of a sudden Uncle Wayne declares “break” after a set of kaholo’s and my thighs are jello. Other girls, and a few boys have tiny droplets of sweat on their foreheads and they’re reaching into backpacks along the wall to take out candy, taking off their skirts and placing them somewhere in the room, scattering in and out, playing chase-masters, and my favorite: Chinese-jump rope.

I’m getting used to this game now, but I only can do the first several levels, before in unison the girls announce “ope-you touched!” because the rope grazes my skin and I’m out of the game, inviting the next girl to challenge my defeater. The long stretchy rainbow-colored rope that was around the wrist of one girl all through-out the first half of practice is now wrapped around two girls ankles and moves up with each level, getting more and more difficult to jump in, out, and over of without it grazing your skin. The rest of us closely watch the legs of the player, ready to yell his/her loss into the early-evening air. Sitting on the benches and walls outside the classroom we reach our hands into open plastic packages filled with lihing-mui seeds, lihing-mui covered gummy bears, the lihing-mui powder itself, lihing-mui covered gummy worms, lihing-mui strawberry belts, lihing-mui covered dried mangoes, and the lihing-mui covered edibles options go on. I am still getting used to this taste that squeezes my cheeks together and wakes my tongue up—but pretend to absolutely love them blinking away any signs of dissatisfaction.

Everyone is sassy–cracking jokes and laughing at one another constantly. I’m just observing for the most part, and laughing with them on cue. Sometimes when I chime in with something for the sake of being included the response is a pause, and then uproar of laughter, which I also join in on, not wanting to seem like I’m offended. But it wasn’t long before I also found my differences to be funny, before my mouth watered for lihing-mui as we got closer and closer to break-times, and before I got better at Chinese jump—(nevermind, that one didn’t happen) and it wasn’t long before fifteen minutes was up, and Uncle Wayne called us back into the room.

Practicing simple moves using just the feet, or just the hands is over, and now it is time to use both, and tell the stories we learned through them. Back in line–pa`u’s on, hands and feet in place—we can tell what is coming next by what Uncle Wayne is doing. If he starts telling a story we might learn a new dance and, verse by verse, we will go over it—motion by motion, putting the dance together piece by piece before doing the entire thing through. If we’re practicing a song we should know, he will announce the song and start playing once we’re all ready. Uncle Wayne is our mirror as he sings the song. If he takes out his ukulele, we know its auana; if he takes out the ipu we know we’re doing a kahiko song.

Compared to modern hula, or auana, kahiko hula is bold, straighter, less romantic but more on-fire, and declarative. Each song, auana and kahiko alike, tells a story. Kahiko, which means “ancient style” are of songs that tell stories of ancient warriors or of tragic love revolving around a god or goddess’ jealousy or anguish, or of the conquering kings and the places in which they fought. It feels like passion and strength, like the after-math lingering goose bump seconds following a conch shell blow. Auana, which means “to wander, or drift” is accompanied with an ukulele, and feels like a mothers smile, and smells like a ginger lei laying cool around your neck and chest. Hands bring aloha from the inside and spill it onto the luau tables, or into the eyes of proud families, friends, and strangers watching. Auana tends to speak of something as simple as a bird, or something as exciting as driving around the island with loved ones. And Uncle Wayne is always sure to tell us every detail of every verse, every character of every king or queen, god or goddess, the intricate descriptions of places, flowers, animals and periods of time. Later I learned that not every kupuna, or teacher goes into so much detail as Uncle Wayne always did with us. Stories were told with our facial expressions, how hard we stepped a heel down on the ground, or how slowly we turned our heads from one direction to the next.

Today he has his ipu on the side of him, and is sitting on a fold-out chair with his ukulele in his arms; his left hand’s finger’s is over the strings, his right arm cradling the other end, thumbs tuning for the sound he needs for the song we’re doing next, which he announces, “holoholo ka`a.” We position ourselves for auana, right leg forward, hands on our sides, then when he sees we’re ready he starts strumming and we simultaneously move to the right in kaholo, fingers waving this time unlike the kahiko style we were practicing earlier, where our hands stay flat.

After doing a kaholo to the quick strummed melody Uncle Wayne plays, we announce as a halau, or group of dancers the first word of the first verse, which is “kaua.” This verse talks about two people heading out in their car, going nowhere in particular, just on a joy-ride. It’s exciting and we first point to the audience with one foot stepping out in front, then point to ourselves with our thumb, bringing our foot back in place saying “you, and I”, then turn side-to-side with wheel motions meaning “Let’s go!” I always remember the first verse then have to make sure I’m watching the other girls carefully so that I’m not caught in the opposite direction or turning into anyone as the song progresses, making the “joy-ride” even more exciting for me in my crazy car. Each verse is done two times, so if I mess up the first time I usually come back around the second time.

As we kaholo after the first verse, I know the second verse is coming up, and I don’t remember what that word is so I just keep quiet and hear, “`Alawa.” I recognize this one—the wind! I love doing this motion that shows how the wind is blowing hard, as we’re travelling down narrow winding roads. Since I enjoy it so much, I exaggerate my motions, making it seem as if the car is in a hurricane about to topple off a cliff.

At this point in the song, all my favorite motions are covered, except for the one at the end where we get to pretend the car breaks down, and we are hitch-hiking—something a little extra Uncle Wayne threw in for fun. So I again listen for the cue announcing the next verse, ready for anything, and then I hear “Ho mana.” This verse explains that the car is old, and has problems, but we feel so blissful driving, that nothing even matters. I’m recovering from fumbles, comfortable back into the kaholo then “`O ka pa” declares the next verse and I instantly remember that this is where we clap once softly, and show the moon shining in the sky.

It is now the end of the day and of our long joy-ride, and we’re close to the bright moon in the sky, so we look up and reach our hands into the sky, palms face outward, thumb-tips and pointer-finger’s touching, leaving a circle shape in-between and over us, showing the moon is above us. It is time to go back home.

The last verse, the same as every last verse in hula, is declared by the word “Ha’ina,” which doesn’t have a literal English meaning, but is something like “let the story be told” or “tell the refrain.” The last verse we just enjoy the ride home, and we sing and smell the smell of gasoline fumes. Then, in our halau’s version, our car breaks down and we shoo our hands outward toward the car broken down on the street, now having to hitch-hike for a ride home, which is why we’re all giggling as we end the song.

With each song we practice I go into a different world, nothing specific coming to mind at all—just entranced into the song itself, body and mind engrained into each moment. Today I couldn’t tell you the exact order of motions for every song I learned over the course of eight years, or the lyrics for all the stories told, but when I listen to a familiar melody I feel as if I am in the tiny room of Satellite city hall, in the little town of Hau`ula, and something inside my gut moves in the directions it is supposed to. My chin wants to lift with the singing of the word “mahina” so I can look at the moon; my hands want to form shapes of budding petals with the word “pua,” and an ukulele playing; I get an alert sense inside of me when an ipu is heard beating nearby; and my mind drifts around anything sacred, or belonging to the earth when I hear a chant.

After that frenzy wind riding song we do at least several more songs, stopping now and then to re-learn a section, or a movement, or even for Uncle Wayne to describe something, or emphasize what the story is about. Some motions are harder for me than others to remember. And at certain points my feet move correctly while my arms just swing into general directions they should go. Then at times my arms and hands are telling the story they should be, while my feet scramble and I scurry this way and that, trying to watch the girls and keep up with everything. One day I’ll keep up, and one day an older woman at a first baby luau will exclaim at the ending of a song “Ho, dat haole girl can dance!” and I’ll smile from ear-to-ear all night, and all the next day.

It’s dark, and my body is moving like it’s my first day all over again when practice is finally finished, pau. Everyone says “thank-you!” and bye to one another, and I’m hopping on my bicycle to pedal home, pa`u over my handlebars, a humming in my head, and long blonde hair trailing behind me in a ponytail.