“Aloha!”* she called from where she sat near the black lava rocks. A cluster of ripe fruit hung like full breasts from a papaya tree overhead. As we approached, the ample Hawaiian woman beamed an open, white-toothed smile. As I returned her hug, I enjoyed her rich, smoky smell, like the volcano I had visited earlier.
We had been driving around the island searching for her, asking Hawaiians and Haoles (white folks) if they knew where she was. When we mentioned her name, Aka, their faces would light up. “Oh, Aka, I saw her last month at Kealakekua,” or “yes, she came to me in a dream,” they’d say. One man produced a soft, black ostrich feather, and petitioned us to make an offering of it when we found her.
Sitting together, my companion and Aka exchanged news.
“My mother died last month. She passed on the role of caretaker for this temple, Hikiau Heiau, 11 days before she died. That’s why I’m here.”
She told us she had been traveling, teaching Huna, the Hawaiian spiritual tradition, in Japan, Russia, and mainland US.
“What have you seen about this place, Hawai’i?” she asked me.
“I see that the elements are pronounced and amplified,” I said. “The rain is soft and wet, hot water springs up from the ground, and powerful waves continuously pound the shores; the fiery lava is just beneath the surface and streams down from the mountaintops; the earth is so fertile that succulent wild food grows everywhere; and the air is fresh and clear, bright from its cleansing by the sea, and in the rarefied atmosphere of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.”
“You forgot the fifth element,” she said. “The fifth element is called Aka. It is the ether, the substance of space that knits everything together. It’s the medium of the life-force that fills and penetrates all. In people it’s the force that unties the knots of repressed and unresolved emotions. It is the stuff of peace. Aka is my name.”
She paused, and smiled at me, again. “You have lines between your eyebrows,” she said.
I realized I had stopped hearing her sound, and was instead processing my own thoughts.
Aka suddenly erupted into a song of love in a full voice that filled and overflowed the sounding chamber of her abundant girth. The sound was mellifluous, a flow of honey. I was transfixed.
When she stopped singing there was silence. “So sweet,” I said.
“I am molulo,” she said. “It means perfectly ripe—fat and juicy—like a papaya.”
I knew she wasn’t talking about her body, but her being.
“The most important practice is enjoyment.” She was answering a question that hadn’t yet occurred to me to ask. “When you go in the water, feel its wetness, luxuriate. Drink in the sensations. When you eat this mango, just eat, and let it fill you with its perfect ripeness. If you can bring that kind of appreciation to whatever you do, real love can begin to flow though you into the world.”
“Is that what you teach your students?” I asked.
“I don’t teach and I don’t heal, though I am called a teacher and healer. I am simply available, and knowledge and healing come through me as they are needed. Both are the result of the love that unties knots of frustration and anger. For this is what’s needed for learning and healing—clear channels that allow a flow. Every one of us is that channel, and we need to expand our capacity to be conduits for life and love.”
Now you may wonder what is the relevance for Chronogram readers? I got a dose of medicine and I brought it home (unlike the papaya, mangos, and passion fruits which didn’t make it through customs). It is the medicine of a direct experience of the elements, and a deep, sensual appreciation that beckons in every moment. And it is the medicine of meeting a Kahuna, a woman who embodies the power of place, and the power of a love so potent that thinking of her brings me tears.
“I am doing this work for the planet,” she told me. “And I am doing it in every moment both visibly and invisibly. I am always doing it, and I am never not doing the work to bring love and healing to the world.”
Beyond commitment, she was describing a marriage to what matters. For better or for worse she continues loving, and because she is anchored as a bridge between worlds, she receives the power to fulfill her mission. Being with her, my habit of mediated, interpreted experiences felt empty. Real life is lived directly, passionately, and intentionally.
It is not Hawai’i I endeavor to bring to the Hudson Valley, it is the fertile impulse of robust feminine power realized. So strong, and yet so sensitive and supple. So forceful, and yet radiating an intense force of love. Only love.
* Aloha literally translates “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present moment.”