I am on a journey of spiritual rediscovery with Kauaʻi. My childhood was filled with camping trips at Māhāʻulepū, going on long hikes through Kōkeʻe, and exploring the abandoned cane field roads behind my house in ʻŌmaʻo. It was a time filled with wonder and a developing kinship with the sands that raised me.
Becoming a practitioner of hula, I now see Kauaʻi in a very different light, through a cultural lens that I hadn’t developed when I lived there as a child. Kauaʻi is an old island, not just geologically, but mythically. Below its thick and glossy image as a tourist destination, before even the rich local culture developed out of the plantation lifestyle, Kauaʻi is the backdrop to many of the traditional staples of hula and oli. It is home to mystical places and magical events in Hawaiian mythology, particularly those related to Pele and her ʻohana.
I went home to Kaua’i this past weekend and made it a point to visit Keahualaka. The heiau is literally translated to “the shrine of Laka” and holds the distinction of being a sacred site for hula. That space, where I danced as a child, and again as an adult, had haunted me for the last month. Multi-sensory dreams of being there at Keahualaka had lasted for weeks at a time and I needed to go back to figure out what it all meant since I had exhausted all possible avenues for interpretation while the dreams persisted.
After the slight hike and the ritual of offering a lei to Laka, I sat for awhile in awe of Keahualaka’s historical relevance. The clouds raced above the steep cliffs while the ocean rolled below, but in the pā, stillness was amplified. I slowed myself down to calibrate with Keahualaka’s pana that gently pulses when you sit. I allowed my mind to wander, to revisit memories of dancing there, hearing my heart in my ears while feet traveled as if on clouds and arms swayed as the hala do on the cliffs. It is what scores of other dancers had done before and will continue to do there and I was humbled and awed that Keahualaka didn’t allow me to forget my connection to her, that she called to me in my dreams to visit, to be cradled in her bosom so I could remember our time together, and to invite me to return again and again.
he leo wale nō…