A series of islands lie scattered in an arc across the immensity of the mid-Pacific Ocean, the largest and furthest south of them is Hawaii Island, or as it is often referred to, ‘The Big Island.’
On its rugged and jagged East coast, twenty five miles south of the only city, Hilo, the small town of Pahoa perches atop lava rock and intermittent sparse volcanic soil. Here I live, teach and care for children, in a simple one-story home set on a green and open forest-like acre of gently rolling land. The neighboring properties on all sides are either vacant, filled with rough towering elephant grasses, aggressive vines ensnaring all in their reach and a variety of volunteer trees, bushes and smaller flora both native and invasive, or houses with yards of tended patches of intentional plantings and poison-controlled grass, or bare cinder, according to cultural and labor preferences.
Yet, here, on this bit of earth, hard-working hands once hauled soil, patiently planted and tended trees and bushes and flowers with care – and the land still bears the imprint of the years of affection that accompanied the labor. Fairies understand this love of the ‘aina, and years later, reside here in abundance, especially now that children come bringing their laughter and song, as they run and race over the tangled grasses, climb and swing from the trees, and delight in fruits both wild and domestic.
Each island in the Hawaiian chain is unique; indeed each of the numerous geographical areas this island has its highly individual temperament and flavor. Pahoa is situated far from the ocean; no murmur drifts up to us even on the stillest of nights. Above and beyond the rather heavy traffic of the main road connecting all of the locations further south of us, there is the sound of birds, of feral chickens, and the ever-present rain. Ah, the rains! Whether intense and pounding, with whipping winds, or gentle, rainbow-filled mists, the watery world punctuates our days, especially now that Autumn is here.
Heavy fruited branches are filled with slow-ripening lemons, swelling pink grapefruit and hundreds of deep green tangerines – all the promise of juiciness soon to come. Avocados, large and creamy, plop onto the long soft grass, providing a late-season hunt and seek game for the children each morning. Wild strawberry-red waiwi and deep yellow pineapple guava bedeck their smallish trees and the stalwart limbs make climbing an inviting, edible adventure. Kukui nuts, though not for consumption except in medicinal situations, are fun to gather and use in daily play, both indoors and out.
Friends contribute other bounty of the autumn months: wild mangos, small, deep orange and succulent; dramatic fuchsia-pink dragon fruit whose insides are pure white studded with hundreds of tiny black seeds, pinkish soft-spined rambutans with their juicy sweet berry similar to lychee, and not-to-be-overlooked lilikoi, purple and golden, with their treasure trove of vivid orange pulp and tangy citrusy flavor. These latter we squeeze and freeze, to make into Thanksgiving cranberry-lilikoi sauce, mixed with local honey. A friend cuts down the clusters of coconuts from the central tree in the back yard – for our safety and for the sweet water and soft meat that lies within the large oval nuts.
We now begin to dry apple bananas and white pineapple – holiday gifts for our family and friends on the Mainland. Pineapples take 18 months from planting of the spiny tops to harvest of the fruit, and of all the varieties, the most sweet, delicate and non-acidic are the white variety…. truly a delicacy and treat. Apple bananas, firm and hinting of lemon, also require months of patient waiting, from that first large blossom to the eventual stalk bowed down with fruit. Some of these harvests are frozen, for smoothies or ‘ice-cream’ treats: it is never quite cold enough to forgo these, nor to run barefoot over the ground by day!
With the advent of autumn rains, nights grow cool, and the whispering trade winds hint that time has come for warm cocoa mornings, hot oatmeal and indoor slippers. In several weeks we will harvest a green Hokkaido pumpkin for pie. I do a pumpkin festive event, for children in care and/or granddaughters, in lieu of the typical custom of trick or treat, with a treasure or scavenger hunt, and small elfish and other magical treasures to be discovered, then pie and whipped cream as a finale.
Although our temperatures do not plummet, nor the lengths of the days alter dramatically as they do on the Mainland, a more inward feel is perceptible along with the subtleties of weather and climate variations. The day length does decrease by an hour each end and evenings require a blanket at night, dropping down to sixty degrees. This may not sound impressive to someone living in Vermont or Minnesota, but with the persistence of rain, single-wall constructed houses and no indoor heating, we do feel the chill!
This transitional period between summer’s end and Michaelmas, and the beginning of late autumn/early winter with Saint Martin and our lanterns, is filled with many rich, sweet scents, vibrant yellows, vivid pinks, reds, orange and gold in flower and seasonal fruits…harbingers of the advent of increased warmth of hearth and home, through baking and crafting, and many shared birthday and other festival occasions to lead us towards the Holy Nights and beyond, into a new year.
About Pamela: LifeWays serves as her inspiration and it is to this model and imagination that she dedicates her work with, and advocacy for, young children and families on Hawaii Island and statewide
We thank you for stopping by to enjoy this article. If you would like to share your experiences working with children in a LifeWays home or center, please feel free to contact Mara Spiropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be thrilled to work with you to share your wisdom and experiences on the LifeWays blog.