LIHU‘E — Jotting down her thoughts on pads of legal paper, Inette Miller spent 10 years living homeless at various Kaua‘i beach parks. The award-winning international journalist lived with her husband to be, ‘Iokepa ‘Imaikalani, who stepped away from a material life in a suburb of Seattle, giving away his house, seven cars and every last cent he owned.
He did this after his grandmothers appeared before him and revealed his prophecy — to lead by example to restore the culture and land to the Hawaiian people.
Ten months after his grandmothers appeared to him, Miller met ‘Imaikalani during a week-long vacation to Kaua‘i.
“When I left Portland, I left a trail of friends and family who feared I’d stepped off the deep edge of Middle Earth,” Miller writes in “Grandmothers Whisper.” “I spent the next year fulfilling their worst fears. I went on vacation for a week and I stayed for a lifetime.”
Miller used more than 10 years of notes to write “Grandmothers Whisper: Ancient Voices, Timeless Wisdom, a Modern Love Story,” a spiritual memoir about her journey with ‘Imaikalani.
Miller and ‘Imaikalani will read and sign copies of the book from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kaua‘i Society of Artists’ gallery in Kukui Grove Center.
The couple have spent the last six months touring the book from one end to the United States to the other, logging more than 32,000 car miles, but Miller said she is excited to bring it home to Kaua‘i.
After spending years as a quiet observer of the Hawaiian culture, Miller said she felt an enormous responsibility to write a memoir that not only told her story, but reflected a higher purpose.
“There have been a lot of outsiders to the culture who have written very poorly and incorrectly (about Hawaiian culture),” Miller said. “I felt a mammoth responsibility to ‘Iokepa, ‘Iokepa’s people and the people who accepted me as a guest.”
After spending 10 years living in Hawai‘i, Miller and ‘Iokepa took their message on the road. They spent more than two years traveling the highways of the continental United States sharing their journey, which they call Return Voyage.
While on the road, the couple said they never charged an admission fee, but donations from generous strangers would help them travel to the next city on their list.
“We are deeply touched and enormously grateful for the hearts that resonate with our journey and with the ancestors’ messages,” Miller said. “We are acutely aware that it is not us who are being supported, but the work that we do on behalf of this culture and this people.”
When the couple toured the mainland, they expected to be speaking with other Native Hawaiians. Instead, they were surprised how many different cultures and people were interested in their journey.
“There were every kind of human being you can impossibly imagine,” Miller said. “In New York, at the Open Center, there were turbans, there were saris, there was every imaginable of accent and language, and that was an eye-opener.”
It’s there that the two knew that their story isn’t just for Hawaiian people, but all people.
“Being the example is exactly what the book is about,” ‘Imaikalani said. “It wasn’t about telling people what to do and being evangelical. … We live the example my ancestors lived in its entirety. We lived 100 percent ho‘omanawanui, which translates into waiting in faith.”
Since returning to Kaua‘i, Miller and ‘Imaikalani have returned to the life they left before embarking on their tour.
“Since Return Voyage, we have had people on the Westside asking me what we have been doing,” ‘Imaikalani said. “The older people start crying, because we are talking about the indigenous culture. My grandmothers said that it would be a shame for the rest of the world if they didn’t know the Hawaiian people’s story in its entirety, and that’s what were doing.”
Meet Miller and ‘Imaikalani 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kaua‘i Society of Artists’ gallery at Kukui Grove Center. There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.
Visit www.returnvoyage.com for more information about the author’s journey or to purchase a copy of the book.
• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.