A welcome to the return of light, life

Talk about craving sunshine — with all this rain and the gray skies being experienced, clothes hang miserably damp overnight on the porch line; our beet crop is rotting; algae attacks our lemons, and mold attacks the kaffir lime and tangerine tree leaves; papayas drop early; fruits and vegetables in the kitchen baskets spoil; the sodden soil can’t be worked; the driveway and porch turn black and slippery; leaves clog the drain pipes; porch furniture and lauhala mats smell funny; slippers are mud-caked.

The previous list, I realize, is what the song “This is Hawaii” doesn’t say.

Have I entered a myth, or a folktale, of this island of Kauai — one that I’ve told our visitors in past years, during sunny times, and with a blithe heart? I wonder.

Here it is, paraphrased:

Once, there came a time of great darkness to Kauai. The kalo was rotting, calabashes smelled sour, sweet potatoes turned to mush; kapa and the fishing nets wouldn’t dry, likewise, the woven walls of the houses, which remained miserably damp; fires wouldn’t light, the ocean was so stained with red Earth washing down from the mauka lands that fishing became a real challenge; feet sank into the mud. Day after day, no sun rose. The people became dispirited and began to lose hope. Would the island ever be sunny again? Would the trade winds blow, restoring a balance of sun and rain to make life good?

A wise old woman suggested asking the local Kapaa giant, who was known to be exceedingly strong and fearless, for help. The giant stood over seven feet tall and was the tallest man known on Kauai in those distant days.

A meeting was held, and the giant agreed to try to bring back the sun. All the people gathered at Wailua Bay to watch him walk out, straight east into the muddy gray waters. They cheered him on until he at last disappeared over the horizon. They returned to their homes to wait, to wonder.

Miles out to sea, the giant spotted a great cairn of rock jutting from the ocean. Tethered atop it was a fearsome bird — a “watchbird” set there by a foreign chief and his followers who had stolen the sun and imprisoned it. As the giant approached, the bird squawked to alert those inside. Luckily, the sun-robbers had all passed out from celebrating their evil deed, and didn’t hear the commotion as the giant managed to grab that bird and wring its neck, tossing it far to sink like a stone. Good riddance!

Next, he began heaving the slabs of rock into the ocean. Immediately, the sun’s rays began shining out, lighting the sky. A great wind arose as the giant continued to work, creating waves that poured into the cairn’s now unprotected space, claiming all within. The sun escaped, climbing up into the sky. The giant’s work was accomplished.

Meanwhile, the people rose to the welcome glow of light, returning. Their hearts filled with gladness. By the time the giant was seen carefully striding back over the ocean towards Wailua Beach, they had gathered there to greet and honor their hero. “A – ka La …” Many chants of gratitude were lifted to celebrate the return of La, the sun, to the sky. By evening, with the last warming rays of the sun emanating above Kalepa Ridge as the sun sank toward the west, a luau was prepared. Everyone brought whatever still remained in their personal stores that could be eaten and shared.

Possibly, dear listeners (readers), this was the feast of renown after which, it is told, the giant (who was so very satisfied) lay down to sleep and has still not arisen — becoming known in today’s world as The Sleeping Giant of Kapaa, or Nounou Mountain.

The last few days, we’ve experienced the effect of the sun freed of its winter prison, so to speak. We see the sparkle back on our island. Mahalo ke akua, also, for the trade winds that blow out the damp and the fog. Our people will improve in health along with their increase in general happiness as the vernal, or spring equinox approaches, and spring gets definitely “sprung.”

   What happens on Thursday is that the sun will be moving north of the celestial equator from south of it. The days, which have been getting longer since winter solstice on Dec. 21, will now equal the nights in length. Equinox is Latin for “equal nights.” I venture to rename this, Hawaii style, since there is no exact word for the season of spring: Mai ka la hiki a ka la kau, from the rising sun to its setting. And then again, Mai ka mahina hiki a ka mahina kau, which focuses on the rising to setting moon, mahina.   

According to www.sunrisesunset.com, the full moon rises at 7:10 a.m. on Thursday. Sunrise happens a 6:46 a.m., and sunset, 6:47 p.m.

Until that happens, “the luck ‘o the Irish” to you, and a happy St. Patrick’s Day. Many who do not have Irish blood will join in a customary meal of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and perhaps an accompanying pint. Besides green shamrocks, leprechauns, and ancient symbols of snakes and serpents, it’s interesting to note that some say that Saint Patrick added the sun — a powerful Irish symbol also — to existent symbols. The Irish saint is credited with creating the Celtic cross, starring no less than the sun at cross center.    

• Dawn Fraser Kawahara has been a Kauai writer and promoter for 30 years. Born in British India, brought up in Australia and California, she found her home and heart on Kauai in 1984 when the fourth of her children was almost raised. A former writer and department editor for The Garden Island, she launched and continues to run her TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations–Kauai as part of DAWN Enterprises. Since 1998, she has been a Pacific Rim group leader and an instructor for HPU-Pacific Island Institute’s visitors to Kauai.

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