On this side of O’ahu, where giant resorts and the city of Honolulu serve as a playground to hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, we tend to forget to connect to the natural beauty and spirit of the island.
I’m hand in hand with strangers, forming a circle under the Hawaiian morning sun. I’m with two college-aged girls and a woman. Singing in a melodic verse that’s distinctly Hawaiian, slinging words of thanks to the heavens, while grounding their feet to connect to the volcanic soil. Each inflection seems to mimic the lapping of Pacific waves, and their cries of thanks echo the sound of birds tweeting their own music toward the ancient mountains that once blessed this land with fertile, irrigated soil.
“This is our community,” a woman at Ma’o Organic Farm (86-210 Puhawai Road, Tel: 808-696-5569. www.maoorganicfarms.org) tells me. “We work hard to protect our ohana (family),” she says sitting under a summer-camp structure made from an old chicken hut. It seems ironic, though, that she speaks so personally and passionately about the locals, after all, she comes from the Mainland (as Hawaiians call the Lower 48). She is, however, deeply connected to the people here, having married a Hawaiian and becoming part of the community of Wai‘anae on O‘ahu.
It seems easy to see why she’s taken such a motherly and active role in the community as we sit with the two girls. They both work here on the organic farm, receiving an education, pay, and credit for their time. Here, they learn about ancient farming traditions that sustained Hawaiians for centuries. They also learn how the connection between the people and the land was severed, both physically and culturally when the army stopped these sacred mountains’ waters from freely flowing, destroying the farming here. Yet many people are not aware of what happened because of modern-day conveniences and imports coming from the Mainland and Asia.