I would dare tell you one talkstory now, as in the traditional ways of Hawaii. Have you been to Kauai, the garden isle of Hawaii? If not, even so perhaps, you can imagine it with me now....listen....
In Kauai, gigantic stone ribs thrust far up into the heavens. The highest ridges are pocked, like bone sockets. The lower ridges are creased, as if sheathed in rippling muscles. From within the creases, sweaty streams meander down into a damp weave of rainforests. There streams join, and rivers cascade down into warm seas. In those lowest waters, friendly fish swim around toes of laughing children and lovers.
And over rivers, forest fronds brim with fragrance and succulent fruits.
There is one such ridge just Northwest of the city Kapa'a, shrewn from volcanic rock of such bright maroon hues that the lava soil almost appears molten. The first time I passed that way, I had been hitch-hiking up to backpack along the Na'Pali coast. I had heard tales that Na'Pali be of awesome beauty; yet as for all such places, the journey there can be better still.
An islander in a rusty Chevy stopped to give me a lift. He was not impatient while I put my backpack in the back, then he invited me to sit beside him. Together, we wafted up the coast towards Na'Pali, sharing various pleasurable observations of the paradise around us.
As we approached the maroon ridge, he murmured "aia na kuahiw i na mokupuni kahiko. He keu a ka nani o na wailele ma ka `ao`ao Ko`olau."
I smiled curiously. "is that Hawaiian?"
"Yes! I was just saying, 'there are ridge-backed mountains on the older islands. The waterfalls on the windward side are very, very beautiful!'" He adeptly twisted the steering wheel as he spoke. As we glided round each bend of the road, different scents bloomed around us. "Look over there now," he said, nodding to one side. "Can you see how that ridge looks like a giant man, lying on top of the hill?"
I looked carefully. "Yes! I can see the head...arms...legs...I can even see some toes in the shapes of the mountain! What a curious formation! But the nose does look a little bulbous."
"Well--we islanders like noses like that," he assuaged me gently. The car circumscribed a hairpin bend, and the ridge sank out of sight behind an orchard of palms, all festooned with baby bananas. "We call that ridge Hau-pu, the sleeping giant," he continued. "Hau-pu is a warrior of wonderful powers. Mostly he sleeps. When he wakes up, he is very angry. When he wakes up, there is a very big storm. When the storm washes down from his lava bed, the rivers turn as red as blood. When he throws his spear, there is lightning and thunder. The storm can kill many people. But most of the time, there is no storm. He just sleeps. He is our protector. We are thankful for his protection." Glancing at me then, the islander chuckled kindly. "I think Hau-pu favors you. He will protect you too. I think he will bring you good luck."
And I think Hau-pu may have brought me good fortune indeed. For the next time I passed that ridge, I was with my bride on our honeymoon. I told her about the rocks of Kauai and the islander's tale, pretty much as I have told you. Then I asked her, "Would you like to see the giant again?"
She thought for a moment. "I'd rather see friendly fish swimming around my toes," she declared. “That’s what you told me first.”
"OK!" The islander had told me of a secret beach near there, and we found it soon after. By the time we had clambered down a steep path, it was approaching nightfall. There were no other people there; just us on the beach, and in front of us, the roar and crash of deep ocean surf.
"Do you remember me saying how I'd like to run into the Pacific singing 'Hawaii Five-O?" She asked loudly, over the din of the breakers. Thereupon she ran straight into the sea, casting aside her blouse and singing "de de deh de deh deh...."
We both laughed as the waves hit her in the chest and knocked her over.
"But where are the friendly fish?" She asked after a little while.
"Umm.." I looked down the beach towards the setting sun. "I think there may be some over there, on the other side of that sand bank, where that stream enters the sea. The water is calm there, so you'll be able to see the fish."
She waded down there, and I followed more slowly. She ooh'ed as little silver creatures schooled by her ankles. Hyacinths overhung the inlet, their soft aroma mingling with the salt of the sea.
I looked back behind us. From where we had been on the more exposed beach, white horses atop the rumbling surf cantered towards us. A few of the highest crests trotted over the top of the sand bank, then slid slowly into the shallow riverbed below us. But the lower crests could not leap over the sand bank, and instead rolled away into the ocean's backtow, ebbing into the deeps with the setting sun behind.
Ocean breezes can twist vivid colors into tropical sunsets. In the sky that night, I could have imagined darkling, Gormenghast flashes of future storms; but instead, I saw no storms. Instead, I saw skies rippling with salmon pink, and cloudmanes combed with coral; in that sky, I saw the dawns and dusks of our future days together, full of hope and joy.
May Hau-pu favor you and bring you such joy also.
Ernest Meyer, 2004