When we arrived in Hawai’i my wife and I had racked up a ton of points on our credit card. Enough points to spend a few weeks at a hotel as we looked for more permanent lodging. The hotel we stayed at had a nice pool with a hot tub that occasionally worked, free snow cones a few times a week, and daily activities.
There were lessons on learning ‘Ōlelo or the Hawaiian language, how to play the ukelele, dance the hula, or make traditional Hawaiian leis. It was at the lei-making class where we met Kaluna. She taught us how to braid tī leaves to make a green lei. It was a sticky mess that utilized our big toe to hold the lei while twisting with our hands. It was super fun.
After the class, Kaluna chatted with us for a while and gave us a Hawaiian blessing welcoming us to the island.
Since we were at the hotel for a few weeks we ended up taking the classes over and over each week. My wife and I are natural teacher’s pets and ended up making friends with all our instructors. One day Kaluna invited us to a special event to mark 2/22/2022. Her “aunty” was going to give a special blessing of some sort. My wife was excited and I was ready to go more than walking distance from our hotel. Since we were without a car she offered to give us a ride and we went to this beautiful property with an amazing view of the mountain.
In the Hawaiian islands, they throw the term “aunty” around for any lady that is a little older but I asked if they were actually related and Kaluna told me they were.
There was a group of maybe fifteen people, some lived on the property and some were neighbors and some like us were people just visiting. The residents all seemed to revere “Aunty” and couldn’t wait for her to show up and give her blessing.
I should say besides Kaluna and my wife, they were all Caucasian.
After a while, we all formed a circle, gave our names, and said a little about ourselves. Someone said “Aunty” would be there any minute.
To bide more time someone suggested we sing an African folksong that they had learned. No one objected so she started chanting a little phrase over and over which everyone picked up.
Now, I loathe chanting above everything. I don’t like songs that sing a chorus too many times, I don’t like the music at church. If you ask me to sing row row row your boat… I’m out!
I tolerated this mantra the best that I could and patiently waited for them to finish. “Aunty” ended up not showing up but we toured the grounds and there were snacks provided so it wasn’t all bad.
Cut to almost two months later, Kaluna gives my wife a call about a special Earth Day blessing starting at 5 AM. Because of how early it was she was out but suggested I go. It was a short walk from our apartment and I figured, “Why not?” I was curious about “Aunty” having had her built up so much the last time. And it seemed like we had come to Hawai’i to do stuff and learn the culture, so I went.
I woke up early and walked that stretch of Kuhio Highway in the dark. I wasn’t in any danger from oncoming traffic but wondered about the homeless people that might have made makeshift dwellings on the beach.
Arriving at the rendezvous point I found everyone milling about in front of a cliff overlooking the sea. Even if it turned out to be a bust, I thought seeing the sunrise on this side of the bay would be beautiful.
Meeting up with Kaluna, I was introduced to “Aunty”, a Polynesian woman wearing an authentic-looking wrap and her white hair in a bun. I looked around and saw thirty white hippies and decided to enjoy the view of the waves in the fading twilight instead of introducing myself to anyone else.
After some time “aunty” arose and had some hula dancers do a dance and then proclaimed that we would be doing a chant to make the sun come up. She also stated that we wouldn’t be chanting until we saw the sun but until it had emerged fully from the horizon. Not only that but there was a Macarena-type arm movements we were to do during the chant until we could fully see the sun.
I wilted internally.
But I was in it to win it, and a-chanting and a-Macarena-ing we went. However, looking at the sky the cloud cover was so thick I thought maybe we were in a little over our heads. If you have ever watched a sunrise on the ocean, it happens pretty quickly but seems to slow way down once the sun reaches a good way out of the water. With these clouds, it would be around noon before the sun would peek through.
Eventually, I stopped saying the words and stuck to the arm movements, never considering I was doing anything remotely spiritual, but just getting in a senior citizen-level arm workout.
It might have been an hour later the sun was full in the sky but totally behind a cloud, the only real praying I was doing was that the cloud cover would burn off to expose the fact the sun was well over the horizon. Eventually, a glimpse of the sun was shown in a passing cloud, and “Aunty” called it off.
A part of me felt a triumph that these people who thought they were responsible for making the sun rise would be defeated by cloud cover. The other part of me was upset that I didn’t turn and walk back home as soon as I learned chanting was on the table.
It sounds like I am complaining but I was glad for the entire experience. I mingled with pseudo-spiritual people and got the feeling they are all just searching. Being transfixed on sunrise was wonderful. Watching the waves coming in and changing color even on that overcast morning was a beautiful sight. But mostly, I am glad for the weird things like this that happen to me. Our lives are rich tapestries, and things like this become an interesting story to share with friends and loved ones.