Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Net and the Red Hat

He puko 'a kani 'aina
A coral reef that grows into an island.
A person beginning in a small way gains steadily
until s(he) becomes firmly established.
- 'Olelo No'eau
When I was a girl in Kuli'ou'ou Valley Tata made net like this one. I was not a fisher, but I was the daughter of a fisherman's son and Tata was my dad's very good friend. They'd smoke -- Camels for Dad and toscani Filipino style rope tobacco for Tata--and drink Primo beer. Tata spoke thick pidgin that was hard for me to understand without really trying hard. Those were the days before Dad lost his hearing (a side-effect of work on heavy equipment without ear-protection). The two men had their place in back of the Pacheco house that gradually grew bigger -- the house not their backyard place. The memories are foggy now, but I believe I can still see the vines of Tata's vegetables and can almost pull a scene where daddy and Tata squatted or sat on what? Tin can turned upside-down maybe. Nothing fancy, probably not even a chair.

When I was a girl in Kuli'ou'ou my favorite thing to do was to listen and watch storytellers. Tata and Dad were two of those early storytellers whose bodies and faces as well as their words were weaving for me a net, or hei that was without doubt ensnaring me with the small steady gains required in the initiation and long term journey of a storyteller. My sister-in-law wrote an email, for which I am long overdue in replying. Perhaps, this post will be one way to answer her question "Who were your role models" for telling the stories and the style of story I tell.

When I was a girl in Kuli'ou'ou my avenues for expression were few as I reflect on the ways I tapped into the gifts my 'aumakua (ancestors and guardians) seeded in me. I was a quiet, shy girl. But. I was born with star-patterns embedded with fire and the desire to be front and center. Unlike the woman, and teacher who often fuels my fire now, Pualani Kanakao'le Kanahele, I hid the fire and would wait for decades before taking center stage. But. I was watching and listening. My ears, the ones I was born with are large like those of my ancestors on both sides of my lineage. Big, and large of lobe little would miss my radar. Slowly and in halves and quarters I noticed. I noticed how the two men sitting under the vines and nets in the Kawekiu Way backyard told something, sipped on the Primo, watched the other, or looked out into space as if there were others listening in. The pause the empty space seemed as important as the words. I tucked that awareness somewhere in my little girl's closet of special things to know. My personal hei was growing, slow to medium just like Nature. While my mouth was not talking it seems my hei was ensnaring a tasty story about one thing, while another bit of a story from somewhere else -- with seemingly unrelated connection -- was tempting a knot of potential.

When I was a girl in Kuli'ou'ou wisdom in many places was feeling for the potential within me ... yet to be-ness is what potential is all about. In the universe that was coming to be from my ancestors, from the stars, the sun, the moon and the shadows the venue for sharing synchronicity was laying its nets on the inside. I would need ripening and life would do that over time, season in season out, through sacrifices, successes and cycles of re-birth. I have carried a small wool felt beret with me since I was a little girl growing up in Kuli'ou'ou. It was a gift from my father. A red wool beret may seem a strange thing for a girl in the tropical temperatures. Perhaps. It was a gift though, and it has meant a lot to me to remain one of the few possessions I count among my inventory at 66, and after so many unraveled tales. Last weekend I took my little red wood beret to the Farmers' Market wanting to seek out the potential for 'growing' the felt hat to fit me today. I felt myself shy again, like that little girl who was given the hat so many many years ago. With one woman who did have a felt hat I loved a lot, but it was too small for me, she said "Maybe you could wet it and then stretch the edges, adding another bit of felt to make it larger." She ended with an escape clause, "But I am not a milliner maybe you should talk with Wendy. She knows a lot about wool, and felt. Go to YouTube and see what other people have done. " I thanked the first woman, and went about the market with my small red wool beret. I found myself at my friend Jody's stand where she sells flowers and tomatoes and sometimes onions. I told my story of my red hat and she said, "My friend here knows about felt, she might some ideas." Her friend had been listening to my exploring tale and was eager to touch and get some ideas in the mix. "Perhaps you could snip the edges and add a triangle (or two) to make it fit your head." Sew it on? Maybe. "That's what I would do said the second lady." A third woman who spins wools and thread was quietly shaking her head to nick the idea of making the hat any larger. She was quietly convinced the hat was set. No way to make it larger. I chatted on about other things, and went on to finally see my chance to chat with Wendy who knows a lot about wool and fibers. "Oh you're the lady asking about the hat," she said. I said it was true. I am she. Taking the red wool felt beret in her old and well-worn hands she pulled at the hat and flipped the grosgrain ribbon that has held its edges true. "No, this is the size of the hat." I was disappointed to hear her say that. "Is it too late to pass it along to a grand-child?" Wendy asked. I told her I was told not to wait for one of those.

When I was a girl in Kuli'ou'ou valley my father bought me a red wool hat. A beret. I don't remember when or if I ever wore the red wool hat when I was a girl. It seems like such a 'front and center' thing to do. Red! My father named me after his favorite screen diva, movie star Yvonne De Carlo. In her day she took front and center stage with red lips tempting, curves unhidden. I have been wanting to wear the red wool felt hat to tell the stories that have grown in the girl from Kuli'ou'ou Valley. I wonder what Daddy would say if I pitched my tent, took the mic and began telling stories in The Safety Pin Café with that red wool felt beret perched on my head like a cherry on a sundae? Maybe he'd say, "I've been waiting to see you in that hat. What a peachy tomato." If that's what he'd say, I think I owe him the pleasure. It might also be a case of being unable to wear that hat because among other things I am sensitive or allergic to the wool. If it turns out that way ... I'll leave this story in the cybernetic hei, the internet, and send it off with my father's name on it. With that knot of potential unleashed another story will have grown over time. And that is good!

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