A Cultural Kind of Day

After a leisurely morning spent around the house, the family and I traveled to the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens. It always strikes me as quaint when I expect a large sign or parking lot and end up with a tiny dirt road to a grassy area. I enjoy the Big Island immensely when these things happen. It amplifies the sense of adventure I was looking for when I sent out for most of these places. We spent a lunchtime eating sandwiches on the seat of our van and studying the various trees that surrounded it. Ruth ate some grass along with her cracker and Owen decided to not finish. Abra was excited to show us around as she had already been there on a field trip. I tried not to picture a group of sixty fourth grade students milling about aimlessly and shattering the quiet. We began our small trek through the Gardens by seeing the Taro plant and finished with a plant that makes a small paintbrush-looking seed. As it is still very early in the spring, most of the flowers and smells were not doing more than poking through. The highlight of our journey was the Papala Kapau tree whose sticky seed pods were once used to catch birds by the Native Islanders. Jeff chose to see just how sticky that actually was. By the time we walked away, he had practically a whole bush attached to his foot. It was fantastic.
After the Gardens, we drove down to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, or as it is more commonly known by its haole name, the City of Refuge. We spent a whopping $5 on entering the parking lot full of rental cars. The Ranger at the gate was so excited that Abra had brought us back to the park with her, I fear that this cultural landmark is not visited very often by locals. Which, to be sure, is a shame. I am not sure what I was expecting from my Kmart bought book of travels, but it certainly wasn't the sense of peace that permeated from the sand. I could actually hear time stop and it was music through palm leaves. At least until the quintessential American tourist walked by, complete with non-rubbed in suntan lotion and overlarge sunglasses, to jump in the ocean after crossing the Royal grounds. Ah well, I suppose we all look like that in other places. Might as well wear big signs on our backs.
As we were driving back up the hill, we decided to stop at the Painted Church. On a quiet hillside, with an abundance of flowering shrubs, sits a tiny white chapel. Inside it has been painted with biblical scenes both of Grandeur (capital G, of course) and Sadness (might as well be fair and capitalize that too). There is a small winding staircase to the loft where once one rang the bell to come to church. It made me ponder how people used to just be smaller. Like my mother and stepfather probably couldn't have made it up if they tried. Not that you can go up. We signed the guestbook as Barrett Ohana.
I marvel at how although we have lived many other places, until we lived on the Big Island we never really explored the heritage of the area we lived in. It's something that says to me that here we can have a home. I wonder sometimes about all of the things that make me want to move elsewhere: more money, more time, a house of our own, infringing on the Native Hawaiians. But here is the first place we have ever actually made a life and I cannot help but feel it is because in some way we belong here. I thought all these things while we stopped to get pizza on the way home.