Ku'u pua melia...
Yes! She lives and breathes! She just never has time to blog anymore!
Kinda surprised I still remember the password here. Where the heck did the last year go? And what can I tell you about it? Umm...went to New York in the winter, Hawai'i in the fall with six of my hula sisters - one of whom had never been! - and both were fabulous trips, especially Hawai'i. So many special moments there.
And now, I find myself in the middle of the biggest challenge of my career. I can't elaborate in this space, of course, but suffice it to say the past few months have involved very long hours and very high stress. And it's not a surprise that hula continues to be my saving grace. (Yes, I'm going to talk about hula. Again.)
We've been learning a bunch of new things in class during the last few months, including an extraordinarily complex chant. It's a very special one, composed especially for our halau by a renowned poet/author/teacher/composer for the dance company's show this past fall. It's about San Francisco, and... well, I can't really explain it well. Click here - the hula that follows the chant always brings a tear to my eye, but that opening chant is just beautiful. It's also really, really hard to learn. So many words, such complex phrasing...
It's been a real gift to have something so complex to focus on outside of work. It's given me something engrossing to think about, even for just a few minutes here and there, amid all the chaos. It requires all of my brain power. And because our Kumu said he wanted us to know it before the year was out, I worked hard on it every chance I got.
So one night in class, just before Christmas, he asked us if anyone had it memorized yet. I think I was the only one to raise my hand that night, though I know another hula sister had it down, too - she wasn't there, though. We then spent the next 20 minutes or so working on it together, and just before he had us resume dancing, he called me up to chant it by myself.
And my stomach immediately jumped into my throat. When I'd raised my hand in response to his query, I'd even joked to the hula brother next to me, "Watch, he'll make me prove it." It's hard enough to stand in front of dozens of people to chant by yourself, but even worse when you're asked to do it. Normally, we volunteer ourselves when we're ready. Or even if we're not ready, we volunteer ourselves to get it over with!
Luckily, I knew I had the words down, but I sometimes have trouble finding the right key in which to chant. Especially when my stomach is in my throat. So I launched into it, and even managed to look at my Kumu a few times while I was chanting - thank goodness he was smiling! I wasn't happy with the way my voice sounded - damned nerves - but I got all the words right. And my hula siblings responded with a huge round of cheering and applause when I was done. It was almost overwhelming. I had to drop my gaze to the floor and bite my lip to stop myself from bursting into tears.
They had no way to know this, but that was exactly what I needed that night, after another long day at work fighting the good fight, feeling like a failure in many ways because things hadn't been going as smoothly as I'd hoped. It's inevitable amid major changes that it takes awhile to iron everything out. You know how you spend many hours working your ass off and you reach a point where, no matter how much more you do, you can't fix everything? That's where I was. And being the first of my classmates to get through this complicated chant, getting that massive dose of aloha from everyone as a result... THAT was.... incredible. I felt like I'd finally done something right, something that mattered deeply to me, no less.
Hula is full of moments like this for me.
When I was ten, my mom took my brother and me to Hawai'i for the first time. We visited several islands, and saw many amazing sights. But one of the strongest memories for me was on Maui. We stayed for a night or two at the famed Hana Maui resort - it seemed like paradise to me. And the grounds were covered in plumerias.
Nope, not my picture, but a great shot of some plumerias.
There were trees all over the place, and those gorgeous yellow flowers all over the ground. They perfumed everything, and I fell in love with that scent on that trip. I can't even describe it to you, but it's an intoxicating aroma that instantly makes me smile.
They come in other colors too. Preeeetty.
Since that first trip to Hawai'i, I've tried to get my hands on plumerias every chance I get. They're hard to come by on the mainland. They don't grow well here - we tried, when I was a teen - and if they do, they don't smell the same. It's a treat when I find them. To me, for many, many years, they were Hawai'i.
This is what they look like when strung into a lei. I happen to have one right now, and I'm trying to soak up every bit of that scent before it fades.
A little while after I started studying hula, I watched a documentary about my Kumu's Kumu (he also happens to be a very famous Hawaiian musician) and at one point, while preparing his dancers for a competition, he mentioned that in our hula lineage, the plumeria is considered the flower of the hula dancer.
I nearly fell out of my seat. You mean the flower I've loved since my childhood is also the flower of the very thing that's changed my life, all these years later? Was I... supposed to get to this place? Is that why this whiter-than-white girl has fallen in love with hula and the Hawaiian culture?
I don't know. But it's why on a trip to Hawai'i in 2010, I came home with this fabulous souvenir:
(It's hard to get a great picture of your own ankle, by the way.)
So now, even if I get to a point where I can no longer dance, I will always be reminded of the amazing experiences I've had because of hula. I hope they never end.