Camping... LOCAL STYLE! Part Two

Saturday morning of the "Pioneers of the Pacific" Campout we woke up early-- before the sun was up over the mountain. The ocean, just two sturdy paces from our tent, was so still it was completely silent.Matt went out to the end of the levy and I sat on a little pier with my sketchbook listening for baby's waking up noises and look for sharks in the water.

All around from the 3 bedroom tent-suites, the semi-automatic folding inflatable couches, the climate controlled, card-table-included-two story tent-suites the aunties and uncles emerged and set out their breakfasts: hibachi grills came out, rice was boiled: sausage, pancakes, eggs, and all laid out to share in the main pavilion. I surrendered my chocolate chip rice crispy treats.

I watched the kids play like wild water-things on the rocks, flirting with jumping off the pier, bragging and daring each other.
"You gonna jump off the pylons?"
"If I ask my grandma."
"I can do a front flip."
"But don't go off the third one. My dad got attacked."
"By eels?"
"By a shark!"

A five year old's phone rang. It was his mom. I heard, "Hi mom. Dem no need nutting bye." Click.

A pair of kids found some little jelly wormy baits knotted under the pier stairs and pushed and pulled together and finally got them out, and connected them lovingly to a found hook, line and float, and chucked it into the ocean. A new kid joined them.
"look, we got bait!"
"That's not bait. That's just a fish, to catch the fish, to eat!"

The manly men-- the older teenage boys, the young dads, the sun-burnt bachelors-- went off together to go diving with their spears in the glassy-smooth early morning water. Matt caught some fish, saw an Moray Eel, and a school wide grinning sharks. One family paddled their kayak, another family got our their outrigger canoe. Other families drifted off to go swimming or fishing closer to the harbor.

And I got a humbling lesson in Hawaiian time. In the emailed schedule, there is a sense of a series of planned, consecutive and overseen activities.

(6:30 – 8:00 Pule/Breakfast/clean-up
8:00 – 8:15 Morning Spiritual Message
8:15 – 8:25 Briefing on Day’s Activities
8:25 – 12:00pm Makali’i Activity

What actually happened was almost everyone drifted away.

The organizer-- Aunty Val-- did not seem disturbed by this at all. When someone asked at about 7:30 am, "when are we going to go on the canoe?" she answered, "when everyone is here."
And that seems to be the organizing principal behind Things Taking Place.

When do we eat? When we want to eat. Nobody claps their hands and says, "well, dig in!" or, "Oh, it's noon, time for lunch." The consensus moves wordlessly through the crowd, and then it begins. Things unfold organically. Parties last all night, a day trip to the beach can last for a weekend. So you better be prepared! Bring your tent, bring clothes, bring enough food for your family, for all day, and for all of your friends, in case you see them (you will), and bring a tent (it will be hot, you need shade! Maybe take a nap!) and some cots (why not spend the night?), plus the crib of course, and a radio, and your ukulele, and a full cooler (drinks!) and an empty cooler (why not catch some fish!), and a grill (for cook da fish!).
That is why everyone has a truck. So you can go anywhere or do anything. So you don't have to be constrained by things like schedule or agendas or trunk space. Just in case!

And sure enough, a willing audience materialized, wordlessly, at about the same moment.
Pomai got out her voyaging canoe equipment and showed us how to wear the harnesses, and how you pack 4 months worth of personal possessions into a 40 lb cooler. Honu and Mele performed a hula about the canoe as Pomai sang and played ukulele.

And eventually the time was ripe (about 5 hours later) and we got to go onto the canoe itself-- the Makalii (the eyes of the chief)-- a beautifully crafted double hulled voyaging canoe, that Chadd and Pomai and their crew sailed to Tahiti, to New Zealand, to Washington State, using only the stars and currents for navigation. I lack the vocabulary to describe it-- to my ignorant landlubber eyes it looks more like an intricate piece of modern art-- a balanced woven mobile. Ropes, polished logs, shaded canvas cubbies, double hulled. No nails, only tight coils of lashed ropes. It's beautiful. We sat in the shady cubby, talked to the crew, heard stories about storms and trusting the tradition and the boat.

It lives up to its name-- the canoe gazes out on the ocean with the cool clear eyes of the chief. It is a symbol of the mastery and the wisdom of a people.

Matt asked Chadd if he had ever been lost or made a mistake at sea as a celestial navigator. He answered in his enormously warm and generous way: No, because if he runs into trouble-- foul weather-- he just stops and waits. Just be patient. Everything that is created is good-- even if it's bad weather, it's good. So just wait. Be patient. Don't fight it.

The conversations petered out on the canoe. We waited. I showed baby the schools of tiny silver fish in the water. The crew watched a coast guard ship and cracked good hearted jokes -- watching 8 guys standing around on deck while one ran up and down and did all the work. "Oh, government on sea is the same as government on land!" And, "oh, they never left yet, captain never finished his lunch!"
Another lesson in Hawaiian time. Waiting, waiting. The boat rocking. Baby fell asleep in my arms. And then like a breath moving through the group, we were mobilized, ferried to the pier, thanks all around.


  1. yes, what an experience to camp with the locals. all you said goes for sure on Oahu as well...and ward camp. but to be on that canoe....wonderful.


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