(The article and story below was originally printed in “The Paradise Post”. As their website no longer exists, I am re-publishing the unedited version of my article here. Thank you for reading!)
Alooooooooha… Sometimes I feel like that song. I’m not sure of all the words but it has the phrase, “Coconut girl in a high fashioned world…” Iʻve always had that image of a Hawaiian girl dressed in only tapa, only a wrap around her middle. Her long, untamed hair flows out behind her like an Herb Kane portrait of Pele. She walks barefoot through the greatest city in the world. NYC. I feel like that girl. That duality of being.
Sounds very artistic and lofty.
But really… I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere. I’m just one of those birds who was either too colorful, too plain, too weird, too out going, too shy… Too much or too little. I just never fit in.
Probably didn’t help that I traveled a lot… hmm… correct that… I travel a lot. As a child, I was always moving and changing schools. As an adult I moved from home as soon as I could afford it. I moved to NYC about a month after I turned 21 in August 2001. We all know what happened in September 2001… But that story is for another time.
I have always been, what my Kumu Hula calls “a strange bird”.
I am going to use this, my first dance in this beautiful publication, as a thank you. Thank you to my Kumu to ALL my Kumu for nurturing my weird. For accepting and highlighting my strangeness.
Here is a little story… I have titled it:
“Sharing Your Aloha”
“Let me tell you a story,” my Kumu Hula said in his uniquely melodic sing song voice. It was one of those rare moments (that seemed to happen every Sunday) where hula practice had turned to kanikapila out on the lanai, which turned into Aunteh Kathy bringing over dinner, which turned into “talk story”. My Kumu always had a story to tell and tonight was going to be a good one.
“Come, come!” He laughs as the rattan chair cricks and bends under his momona body. I sit. Of course I sit.
“I want to tell you the story of a strange little bird named Aloha the Mynah bird. Now… donʻt let the name fool you. She wasnʻt noisy or talkative. She was actually a shy little bird. She belonged to a Hula Halau called Halau ‘O Nā Manu ʻO Hawaiʻi.
Every year the birds of the world would gather in her home town to compete. Every year they would sing their songs and dance their dances. Every year a group of the most majestic and knowledgeable birds would judge and crown winners. Whosoever danced and sang the best would be lavished with gifts and praise.
Aloha wanted to be acknowledged. She felt plain. She wanted to shine like those birds on the stage that flashed their feathers and sang their songs. She worked hard everyday with her Kumu and her Halau. She danced and sang and learned her language and traditions. She got over her shyness … but she was still a little strange. As she became knowledgeable in the art of dance and song she began to express her strangeness in more than wearing mis-matched socks… (What bird in their right mind would wear socks, anyway?) She would work with her Kumu (who was also a little strange) to change the motions of the dance. They would work on non-traditional ways of movement.
Years went by and her Kumu Hula never entered this contest. He did not believe in it. He believed that the dance and song of his people should be shared with the world without judgement.
Still… the little bird worked hard. Her Halau sisters and brothers saw how she worked and followed her lead. They studied the dance and song of their people. They studied the song and dance of others as well. They moved to the beat of the song but made their own song heard as well. The Halau accepted any and all. The Halau was a brilliant rainbow of cultures and birds from all over the world. The song and dance of the Halau changed. It grew. It flourished.
The Kumu saw this and gathered his haumana, his students from around the world. Feathers flew and voices squeaked and squawked. Quacked and pocked. The Halau settled in to hear their Kumu speak.
“Haumana… I have decided that we will enter the Contest this year. You have all worked so hard. Why not? We will also SHARE our song and dance with the world.”
Aloha, who was a little older and wiser now but still a little strange, was excited. There was a special night at the Contest where only the best birds in the world got to sing and dance. They had the best feathers and they were the most celebrated. Aloha was afraid though. Would her Kumu choose her. She raised her eyes to her Kumuʻs face and she knew her answer.
Yes. Her years of hard work had paid off. She would compete. She would SHARE.
For months the Halau prepared. They learned and sang the songs of their ancestors. They fluffed their feathers and donned the costumes. They would SHARE. They would compete with other birds from around the world.
The Kumu Hula and the rest of her brothers and sisters in the Halau spent extra time getting Aloha ready. She would be their Poʻo Manu. She was their Head Bird. She would compete for the title of Miss Best Dancer Bird in the Whole World.
The week of the Contest arrives. It is a nationwide celebration. Birds of all colors, shapes, sizes… beaks and claws and all find themselves in the midst of a flurry of culture and pageantry.
The Contest days are here. Feathers are flying and beaks are raised in song and chant. Aloha and her brothers and sisters of Halau ‘O Nā Manu ʻO Hawaiʻi share their songs and dance their dances along with all the other colorful Halau from around the world. But the night has arrived. The night Aloha has been waiting for. Her Kahiko is about the Puʻeo. Her ‘Auana is about the mynah bird.
Sassy strange little bird.
The haumana all help to get her ready. They make pick ʻopala and she makes her lei. They talk about the previous performances on Kahiko and Auana nights… But for Aloha… She is now concentrating on tonight…
She performs. She shares. She shows the work and love that has encompassed her life. She shares the love and work of her brothers and sisters in the Halau. She shares the love and work of her Kumu and her ancestors. Aloha shines.”
My Kumu Hula yawns and picks up his ukulele. He strums it, singing “Sassy little Mynah Bird.”
“Did she win?” Keaka wonders aloud. Keaka was a new student from another part of the world. She was new to hula and a little shy.
Kumu strums and changes the song to Aloha ʻOe. The entire Halau raises their voices in song.
When the last notes of their song come to a close the Kumu smiles, “Does it matter?”
What is your answer? Does it matter?
Share with aloha,
Art work above from the comic book “Soulfire” by Aspen Comics. Developed by and Pencils by: Michael Turner. Color by: Peter Steigerwald. This short story has nothing to do with “Soulfire” but I thought the image fit and the character in this book was named after me and bares a slight resemblance. Look up Aspen Comics… their work is phenomenal!