Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
Apologies in advance for the disjointed style of this posting. Formatting, etc. are almost impossible on this site now.
We returned to a beach-side cottage on Molokai, where we stayed nearly four years ago as a writing retreat.
That was one of my objectives on this trip, too.
But first we had a weekend visit from the almost-three-year-old twins from Honolulu–and their parents.
Molokai beaches are beautiful. Many are like small pockets of soft sand and water separated from each other by ridges of lava rocks. Beach combing required a little rock climbing.
Toward the end of our stay, we took the five-minute flight from Molokai airport to Kalaupapa–a small flat tongue of land, just about in the center of the north side of the island where the former leper colony was established in the mid-19th century. We learned much from our guide, Kai, who did double-duty as bus driver for our group of sixteen. A native Hawaiian and member of the National Park Service staff who now maintain Kalauapapa as a National Historic Park, he told us much about Father Damien and Mother Marianne, who dedicated themselves to the care and support of the sick people who were banished to the leper colony. Father Damien designed and helped construct the Catholic church and always welcomed interaction with the residents. Mother Marianne and her staff of nursing nuns also provided as much care and comfort as they could.
Kai explained that Father Damien contracted leprosy and died sixteen years after he arrived. Mother Marianne instructed her nuns to follow her example of boiling the clothing she’d worn every day. Neither she, nor any of the 200 nuns who served there contracted leprosy. She died forty-four years after she came to the island.
Kai also told us much about Hawaiian history and culture in general and recommended one book in particular: Tales of the Night Rainbow. On our last day, we were able to peruse the book at the Maunaloa library. Published in 1988, captures the memories of a 105-year-old woman who was born on Molokai. I was surprised to learn that Hawaiians traditionally practiced both polygamy and polyandry and that children were often given at birth to be raised by other parents. And, like Kai, she emphasized that Tahitians were the warlike invaders; Hawaiians are caring, sharing people.
We stopped in Honolulu on our way home, for another visit with the twins. Both there and on Molokai we did a little baby-sitting and provided the parents with a couple of ‘date-nights.’
We all had dinner at the beach one evening. Just after sunset, we enjoyed an astronomic treat: an “appulse,” in which the new moon passed very close to Venus.
A fitting finale to a wonderful visit.