Throughout this past month we have been inundated, in equal parts, by angst and compassion. This, from the good folks across the continental United States (and around the globe) who care deeply about these Native people and their Islands.
The national news - in this rare case - has paid ample attention to what is happening on our archipelago in the middle of the Pacific. Outrageously flamboyant social media video demanded no less.
'Iokepa and I arrived home from our four-month book and speaking tour at the exact moment that the mountain - Kilau'ea - at the heart of the Island of Hawai'i erupted. The frantic (and generous) emails descended immediately after our first night's respite at home.
Initially we assured our correspondents. We are well, and at the other end of the archipelago on Kaua'i; the wind blows the poisonous gas away from our Island; and our friends and family on the Island of Hawai'i were unharmed. But the rest of our message struck many as callous.
And herein lies the distinction between the implanted Native, the planted non-native population of these Islands - and all others. Those who carry the indigenous blood and those of us who've lived among these kanaka maoli for any length of time think about the lava - and for that matter, about the recent floods and the recurring hurricanes - diametrically opposite of the off-Island fear, grief and panic.
A deeply faithful people, profoundly connected to their ancestors and their Creator, trust in larger purpose - understand the limits of their human control.
Overwhelmingly, we, who've chosen to live among this aboriginal people on these volcanic Islands have taken the Native Hawaiians and their remarkable ancient culture as our inspiration. We live here because we admire these people; we emulate their connections to all of Creation. Otherwise, why choose to be here? Clearly warm weather and pristine beaches can be found in less precarious locales.
'Iokepa speaks for his people. "Pele (the mystical, feminine force of creation) is the mother of these Islands. These Islands exist because of that lava. What people see as houses being destroyed; Native Hawaiians see as a blessing. More Island is being birthed,"
When you have lived on the Island of Hawaii, you know that you are living on the brink of an active volcano. When you live anywhere in Hawai'i. - you know that the land you walk on is the gift of the volcano - the blessing of Pele. Those who live on these volcanic rocks marinated by the Native culture, view this current eruption as an awe-inspiring act of creation. That essential truth doesn't seem to get communicated outside of the Islands.
'Iokepa says. "It's feminine energy - you don't want to misuse it, and you don't want to misjudge it." (An apt metaphor, if ever I heard one.)
In other words, if your realtor suggests that building a house on the edge of an active volcano is "cheap," you may want to calculate if there is a reason for that bargain. Greed is greed - utterly alien to the indigenous culture of Hawai'i, but still prevalent among the occupying one.
Within the aboriginal culture, there was no concept of ownership - most particularly of ka 'aina - this good earth. Native Hawaiians assumed their Creator owned the land and they were but stewards, responsible for its care. Responsible, too, for the care of one another.
And good stewards they are - savoring their connections to one another and to all of the natural world - certainly no less at times of floods or hurricanes or volcanic eruption.