“The green, green grass of home …” Those lyrics from the mid-1960s country music hit have been playing through my head, along with some other “green” themes, since traveling from the east to the west side of our home island twice in the last two weeks.
The day trips were to introduce Road Scholar visitors arriving on cruise ships to the wonders and challenges of Kauai. As we viewed the Hanapepe Valley, fields spreading between Kaumakani and Kekaha, and drove on, climbing toward Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park, recent rains had greened up all plant life. This riot of greens, I thought, might excite and frustrate an artist painting these scenes or individual plants and trees in attempts to capture nature’s artistry.
I pictured someone like the late, talented botanical artist Geraldine King Tam, mixing paints to create just the right shades of green. I had the pleasure of watching Gerry do just this while painting the lush leaves of spider lilies — Hooker green, gold, white, a dot of rose, of gold, a dab of raw siena. “Spider Lilies,” incidentally, is on display with other Tam paintings at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens through mid-May, with a Saturday, May 14 special showing. (For information, call (808) 332-7324, Ext. 227.)
The views from the Waimea Canyon lookout had me thinking colors beyond the dominant greens. Some of the rusty reds and lava blacks and grays were still evident; the tropicbirds carried the glinting whites; the glittering streams — and the helicopters — took care of the silvery tones.
The smaller group rode in a van, in which we were able to take what I call the “roller coaster” road climbing from Waimea. We spotted rows of spring green grapevines growing on a high western flank. We oohed and aahed at all special glimpses — there were many. We visited the Kalalau Lookout and stood and gawked at the panoramic scene, including the tri-level waterfall ribbons in the upper reaches. We rested and strolled the area surrounding the Kokee Natural History Museum.
The larger group traveled in a tour bus that necessitated a route on the less-winding road from Kekaha. The grassy carpet of the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow beckoned as our destination for learning and exploration, including the Kokee Museum. A nature trail developed behind the buildings, planted with a variety of Hawaiian trees and plants, allows for learning about our mesic forest, “Laka’s forested domain.”
Strolling the short trail using a handy pocket guide borrowed from the museum gift shop (if you don’t have a live guide), you can see examples of the only native Hawaiian palm, loulu; the somewhat rare (except on Kauai) oheohe; a supine olopua; kauila (the dense, hardwood “metal” of early Hawaiians); shrubs such as native white hibiscus and a‘ali‘i; the endemic laurel/avocado, holio, coffee, manono and citrus uahi a Pele, Pele’s smoke. There are also ferns, fragrant vines, sedges and tall haha lua lobelia trees.
The numbers carved on identifying posts that correlate with the pocket guide were damaged during Hurricane Iniki. Some are worn past recognition. However, the pictures in the guidebook are helpful and the remaining posts provide a rough “map” when referring to the guide’s information while on the trail.
Along with its beautiful “green, green grass,” the meadow is rimmed by stately old conifers that speak of the origins of our settlers drawn to the forest. Some Methley plum trees are randomly planted between them. With Arbor Day coming up on April 29, we should celebrate those green grandfather trees. There are California coastal redwoods, loblolly pines from the southern United States, China firs, Australian hoop pines, Monterey, Italian and Mexican cypress trees, and the Sugi, Japanese redwoods.
Native Hawaiian trees are stately and/or struggling, lovely or straggly, depending on how and where they’re rooted. On Kauai, especially in Kokee’s forest, I have tramped, rested and birdwatched under — and admired — the ohia lehua, Hawaiian kamani, and olapa varietals. I have cheered on koa trees that sent up new growth after Iniki winds decimated them, and sandalwoods that struggle to live on after a history of being systematically harvested and stripped in past times for the China trade.
There is a movement taking place to replace dying or unhealthy imported trees, such as monkeypods and casuarinas (ironwoods), with native trees. When this hopeful plan succeeds, coaxing the growth of native trees suited to the Garden Island, there will be a natural proliferation of native birds and insects, also.
With the abundance of fresh water and the soil and weather of Kauai, we can truly celebrate green, the color of life, during Earth Day and Arbor Day (April 22 and 29) in our own gardens, along our coastal areas, or in our native highlands. And remember on the trails to honor Laka, the goddess of hula and the forest. Please do not pick or take any of “her” plants.
Green, Green, you are so glorious green.
An abundance of beautiful green,
not coloured, but just natural and kind.
Makes me wonder how your creation
of green came to life …
— Premila Patel
Last, mahalo to Tommy Noyes and the Friends of Lydgate volunteer crews for all the work accomplished and run fun Saturday!
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, regularly instructs on the topics of history and Hawaiian culture for visitors to Kauai through Hawaii Pacific University’s “Road Scholar” program through Pacific Islands Institute. The writer is completing her second memoir, based on the Burma of pre- and post-World War II times, toward Burmese independence. She continues to run her TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations-Kauai under DAWN Enterprises.