Wow! Hawaii continually makes me say wow. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the Hawaiian islands on several occasions, often professionally, and I’ve always been stunned by the beauty of the islands, the people, and the overwhelming wonder of the lush flora and fauna everywhere.
My journey this time took me, my wife Karen, and our young son Orion first to the Big Island of Hawaii itself. While I’ve had other adventures before on Oahu, Kauai, and especially Maui, our first trip to the Big Island held a particular magic. We were invited by Mariah Mann, the founder and head teacher of Journeys in the Na’au to come and teach a Coyote Mentoring workshops focusing on different educational techniques and approaches that promote deep nature connection for kids and adults. Mariah also runs the nature enrichment program at Kona Pacific Charter School, and several of her fellow staff were able to attend the program.
Mariah and I had planned for some time for the weekend, and we were able to assemble a solid, experienced dependable team including Jenn Wolfe, Nick Poccia, Annika Skoog, Paolo , Mariah, my wife Karen, and myself. This was a delightful group to work with, and we experienced an ease of communication, plenty of aloha spirit amongst us, and an ability to adapt to sometimes challenging circumstances.
Our gathering started the day before the program as several of us were able to join Uncle Tony, a Hawaiian teacher of traditional skills and knowledge for a ceremony down at the beach on his family’s traditional lands. The beach site was part of the same aupuaa (a Hawaiian land division that goes all the way from the oceans to the mountains and caretaken by specific Hawaiian families) in which we were going to have our class and in which Mariah lives. The ceremony allowed us to connect to one another, the land, the ocean, and to the heritage of the people whose land we would be teaching on.
Our weekend program took place in the Kona Cloud Forest, an enchanting forest/jungle mix at about 3000 feet of elevation on the Kona side of the island. While it’s technically a Cloud forest, I definitely felt like I was in a rain forest as we were deluged by rain on numerous occasions. Fortunately, the rain was warm most of the time, and our entire team had extensive experience in the Pacific Northwest and so was able to adopt to soggy conditions pretty easily. Participants rolled with the rain as well, and some of our best times from the weekend involved trying to get a fire going in extremely wet conditions and then huddling around the fire in the dark as it finally roared to life.
Playing, learning, singing and growing together was a core part of the weekend. Participants got to play awareness games amongst bamboo groves, and have Io or Hawaiian hawks fly over us a few times. We were also continually visited by cardinals and when the sun would come out mo’o or many different variety of lizards. We were able to work in bird language trainings, mongoose tracking, and lots of study of plants, trees, and what can burn under extremely wet conditions.
Participants really demonstrated their resiliency as they camped in wet and for Hawaii cold conditions. On Saturday night everyone really came together as we cooked uluu on the fire, shared stories and songs, and practiced skills such as coconut fiber cordage and knife safety with the kids who were present at the program. For at least one evening, we had a fully operational, multi-generational deep nature connection village happening in the Cloud Forest.
After the end of the program, Karen and I and Orion got to stick around for a few days and do a little travel and visiting. Our visit had a nice coda and wrap-up as we were able to go to Kona Pacific Charter School and spend an afternoon with their Nature Enrichment after-school program. We joined them all in a Fire-keepers ceremony which included traditional Hawaiian chanting (passed on to Mariah with permission from Hawaiian teachers), gratitude, making a fire, and then roasting coconut, bananas, squash, and other yummy treats. Kids were gathering macademia nuts and cracking them open, assisting making the fire, roasting the food, or climbing in the trees all around us. It was another little deep nature connection village happening all around us facilitated by the Nature Enrichment instructional team. What a wonderful way to wrap up our stay on the Big Island.
The next day we hopped on a small inter-island plane and flew from Hawaii to Maui on one of the most gorgeous plane rides I’ve ever been on, and that was the start of our next family adventure…