The Bishop Museum

We spent the day at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu. We had never been there before and were glad we decided to visit.

It is chock-full of artifacts, reproductions, and information from all periods of Hawaiian history. I especially liked the textiles, leis, and feather-work. I appreciated learning how the Hawaiians used the phases of the moon to keep time, with a name for each night of the lunar cycle. The moon governed activities such as planting crops and fishing. Attached to Hawaiian Hall is Pacific Hall, which examines commonalities among the peoples of Oceania.

There was a calendar overflowing with presentations by staff members. We attended a talk about native plants and a fantastic storyteller, relating a long tale of one of Hawai’i’s many gods. We saw a planetarium show about how the Polynesians used the stars to navigate, along with winds, currents, and birds, to find their way among the tiny islands in the vast Pacific. Brent and I went to a lava demonstration, where we got to hold various kinds of lava rocks, including the incredibly dense pillow lava from a deep underwater volcano, and see lava pour from a 2,000 degree furnace.

I even had a typical Hawaiian lunch at the museum’s cafe, featuring kalua pork and cabbage.

There was more to see than time allowed. I hope we will be able to visit again when we come back in the future.


News from back home

I was awake early today, which usually happens when I know I have a morning flight. Because we were ready early, I called my mom, which, on Eastern Daylight Time, makes her six hours later than on Hawai’i Standard Time. (Given its latitude, Hawai’i has no use for shifting its daylight hours later.)

That morning, my mother had heard back on some tests that she had had done. It turns out that she has giant cell arteritis, a condition that often occurs with polymalgia rheumatica, for which she has been receiving treatment with steroids for about a year. This link has further information on both conditions.

A few days before we left for Hawai’i, I had been thinking how lucky we were that my dad, who has had a number of medical issues in the part year, was doing well. That same day, my mom had an appointment with her family practice doctor, who was concerned that her sed rate wasn’t staying down. She had had a couple of instances with difficulty chewing crunchy foods and he was concerned that she had developed giant cell arteritis. He wanted her to see a rheumatologist, have more blood work, and see a surgeon for a temporal artery biopsy. She wanted to wait to do the biopsy after we returned, but it turned out that it was arranged for more quickly, so she had it taken last Friday, with the results coming today, Wednesday. It was a bit of a shock to us when the biopsy came back positive, because the only symptom she had had was the very occasional jaw pain. No visual problems, no headaches, no sensitive temples or scalp. Given that it was caught early, there is little chance of any lasting damage.

Mom’s doctor is about to retire. We were joking that he wanted to go out with a bang, diagnosing a serious condition early on minimal symptoms. It shows the value of having a good family doctor looking out for all aspects of your health. Even though he is retiring, my mom will be in good hands, with care provided by her new rheumatologist and one of the younger doctors from the family practice who has been her back-up provider in recent months as her long-time doctor has been cutting back his hours to ease into retirement.

Now, nothing else is allowed to happen on the medical front, at least until we get home from our second week, now in Honolulu…


Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden

We spent the morning at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, just north of Hilo. It is in the Onomea Valley, located off a “scenic drive” – translation: narrow winding road with no shoulder, overshadowed by large trees, with several one-lane bridges. Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse reclaimed the valley and opened the Garden to the public in 1984. You can read more about it here.

Although there are some native plants, most of the trees and other plants originated in Asia, Oceania, Australia, Africa, and the American tropics. Fortunately, they are well cared for so that they don’t escape to become invasives out in the surrounding area. The path is only 1.25 miles, but there is so much to see that it takes two or so hours, especially if you stop to take pictures.

We saw many palms and other tropical trees, orchids, heliconia, calathea, gingers, and more. There were also streams with waterfalls and a wonderful view of the bay. There are twin rocks that protect the bay. Legend has it that the villagers, under imminent threat of invasion by canoe, asked for a young man and a young woman to sacrifice themselves to the sea to protect the village. Morning light found the young couple gone and in their place two large boulders, almost touching, that protected the village from being reached by water.

By the time we finished walking back upslope to the Visitor’s Center, we were hot, hungry, and thirsty. We found a fruit stand/lunch stand nearby, which made nice sandwiches and fantastic juices and smoothies. Just what we needed after spending the morning in a tropical rain forest!

Ka’upulehu dryland forest

We had an amazing day today! We had three main priorities in coming to the Big Island: to see Volcanoes National Park, to attend the 10th anniversary pa’ina for the Cornell Sustainability Semester, and to visit Ka’upulehu dryland forest, where Trinity did her internship that helped her discover her passion for restoring native plants – and ruthlessly exterminating invasives.

We spent most of the day there – checking on plantings that Trinity did three years ago, checking on plots that other Cornell interns had done, visiting paths and places that Trinity had walked and worked on, exploring new areas that had opened since, including a newly built plant nursery, walking part of the border fence to make sure no feral goats had gotten their heads stuck trying to get in, and finally getting to have a long talk with Wilds, Trinity’s internship supervisor who wrote one of her recommendation letters to the ESF grad school program she will begin in the fall semester, and the current Sustainability Semester intern.

My biggest accomplishment of the day was not falling down! The hillside is quite steep and the paths – along with the forest area – is mostly chunks of jagged a’a lava. It’s difficult to find secure footing and totally impossible to walk quietly, as the chunks of lava rock grind noisily against each other as soon as you apply weight. At least, you don’t have to worry about someone sneaking up on you! I am proud to say that my little used hiking boots now look well-used after just a few hours on the abrasive a’a.

If you would like to learn more about Ka’upulehu, here are a few links about it:


I just reached 50 followers, at least for a few moments! I know this is a tiny number for the number of months I have been blogging, but I wanted to thank my followers, even the people who only follow me to try to sell me something. 😉 If you like something that I have posted, please consider sharing the link with a friend who might like it, too. Thanks – or, as the Hawai’ians say – Mahalo!

Early Morning Poem

Awake before dawn this morning, this fleeting occurrence immediately began to form a poem in my mind. I captured it before it could fade as a gift to you.

~~~by Joanne Corey

this morning
rubbing sleep from
my eyes
points of light
arranged in
constellations of
tropical flowers

pure gift of


Pu’uhonua o Honaunau

Sunday started with Trinity and I attending Mass. In a strange turn of events, the church, St. Michael the Archangel, is just one block down the street, but, at the moment, they are constructing a new church, and so are holding Mass in a large tent a few miles away. It was a children’s Mass, with children in the choir – singing and playing ipu – taking up the collection, and bringing up the gifts. It was also First Communion for one little girl. In this parish, instead of all the second graders receiving First Eucharist together, each child receives when they and their parents have completed the preparation process. Because it was a children’s Mass, we chanted a couple of prayers in Hawai’ian. The priest was a guest, visiting from The Philippines for the month. He preached a lovely homily about the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Eucharist, and prayer. I have always loved that gospel passage and have often wished that they had recorded all that Jesus taught them on the road.

In the afternoon, we went to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a national historical park on the Kona coast. It is the only surviving example of a pu’uhonua, which was a place of refuge in the days before the kapu laws were abandoned. In centuries past, the laws were very straightforward and the only penalty was death, to be executed by the witness(es) to the offense, lest the gods express their displeasure at the broken kapu by sending down a lava flow, storm, or some other calamity. If, however, the person who broke kapu could reach a pu’uhonua first, the kahuna pule (priest) could absolve him/her and s/he could return to the outside world. The trick was that the pu’uhonua was walled off within the royal compound, where commoners could not set foot, so the only way in was to swim at least half a mile in the ocean to reach safety.

Others could also seek safety in the pu’uhonua. The chiefs would declare a battle a week or so in advance. This gave women, children, and men too old or sick to fight the opportunity to seek shelter in the pu’uhouna to avoid being killed in the battle. There was a take no prisoners approach to war then and no such thing as a non-combatant, so, unless you were a warrior, you needed to leave the area where the battle was to be fought. After the battle, those who had sought refuge would be free to return.

We went to a ranger talk before we walked around the grounds. He had made whimsical insect sculptures, woven from coconut palm. He gave them to wahine (women) who answered questions. Trinity got one early on because she could remember and pronounce Pu’uhonua o Honaunau; I got one later for remembering the name of one of the four major gods, Lono, to whom the main temple there was dedicated. The insects are supposed to be used for stirring mai tais, but ours will probably stay dry! The ranger also played a bit for us on his nose flute. I hadn’t ever heard and watched one being played. The sound is haunting but lovely.