Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

On my first bicycle trip, I left Jasper with a too-heavy trailer and made only 35 kilometres the first day. When I reached camp, I was so tired that I set up tent, ate an energy bar, and fell unconscious on my thermarest. I awoke later to the brilliant Milky Way–traditionally a “navigation chart” for travelling through this world as well as the great cosmologies and spiritual traditions. The next morning I was consumed with doubt — could I really complete a 5000 kilometre solo trip through British Columbia? Four months later, I rolled into Lake Louise, Alberta completing the route. The trip and its conclusion paralled the roads taken: lots of ups and downs, detours, change in plans, fears and strangers that became friends, unexpected encounters, smiles and tears, joy, and moment-by-moment grit and gratitude.


At City Mill Hardware

For my sabbatical in Hawaiʻi, I chose my Brompton folding bicycle as the main mode of transportation. With few exceptions, I use the bicycle for getting to-and-from classes and meetings, shopping for food or apartment furnishings, running Zander, exploring the neighborhoods, or getting take-out meals. Walking, occasional use of a ZipCar, and bus are secondary choices–and often not as convenient as the bike.

Bicycling constantly exposes me (and Zander) to the natural environment–wet when it rains, struggling against the winds, careful in the dark (even with lights), and hot, sweating in the sun. We also become entangled with the “local scene”–the woman who does sudoko outside her apartment always looking for help; the couple on their lanai who wave as they enjoy their daily coffee; dipping my head under the ulu



(breadfruit) hanging low on the tree; recognizing flowers (plumeria, mock orange, white ginger, or night-blooming cereus) by their fragances–or lack of; or tracking the sun and moon rising and setting on the horizon. Reading street signs is like a “whoʻs who” of Hawaiian history and a constant opportunity to practice pronouncing Hawaiian words. Wednesday and Thursday evenings are shopping at two local farmerʻs markets: Zander surveying the vendors from his perch between the saddle and handlebars and delighting in the attention from other shoppers!

The Hawaiian word kuleana often comes to mind. English translations rarely do it justice, and English words struggle to capture the interconnected, spiritual, ethical, and relational qualities integral to this concept. Even as I think I am beginning to understand its breadth, I am not sure, as a haole (foreigner), I can truly understand the fullness of its meaning. Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) writers begin with broad contextual phrases: an understanding that begins with participating in  context-based responsibilities and positionalities located in interdependence of people and place (Goodyear-Kaʻōpua (2013). Specificaly, kuleana connects with responsibilities, obligations, reciprocal and respectful relationships. Kuleana is about the proper way to be amongst humans, ancestors, unseen forces, ka ʻāina (land and ocean), animals and plants, and the universe. Importantly, it includes the concept of privilege as in it is a privilege to be in a position to share one’s gift, to contribute, and hold a particular position. When kuleana appears in conversations, discussions and stories revolve around how individual lives nourish the community, how we honour our ancestors and and gifts, how we contribute to the well-being of the whole. As far as I understand, it is a concept that begins and ends with an embodied way of being enmeshed in each other.

As a haole and daughter of an officer of the occupying military, my reflections include a deep understanding of how my birth at Tripler Hospital in Honolulu, travels to Hawai’i as a visitor and tourist, and interest in Kanaka Maoli practices are all haunted by the harm experienced by Kanaka Maoli through illegal occupation, land reforms, and privileging wealth over relationships and environment. My contemplations around kuleana are infused with a desire to allow Indigenous worldviews (especially Kanaka ‘Ōiwi) to change what I think and who I am. I am still piecing together the embodied and enacted meaning of kuleana, but cycling creates a space-time for me to reflect and be entangled in everyday human lives and natural/built environments that call out for kuleana. Surprisingly, these are often momentary and mundane encounters.

I live near two private schools, a seniorʻs home, two medical centres, and two off-on ramps to the freeway. The traffic can be horrific with blocks of cars inching along and dole-street-trafficadjusting for parents dropping children off at school, ambulances, or older and slower pedestrians. Typically just before and after school, three traffic cops, a host of mothers helping children in and out of cars, parental chauffers, and alert drivers keep people safe and the cars moving at a steady pace. I, too, merge, measuring my cadence, become part of the alternating pattern, and use hand signals and waves to thank drivers who see me safely through. It is a dance of taking care of each other. It is a subtle pattern that makes a tedious routine more comfortable–often bringing smiles.

I have begun to see kuleana as an outward perspective that focuses attention on what is and what can be contributed to life at that moment–even traffic! The more I contemplate and look for it, the more opportunities appear. I realize how intertwined I am with the world and how every action has a ripple effect. Bicycling viscerally places me within this net of life forms and energies: a lost key found where I dropped it next to a bicycle rack; people who offer water to Zander; students in class who generously share notes and study time; the cashier who reminds of me of sales or loyalty cards to save money; the gardener who shares a papaya from her tree; fellow cyclists who are homeless stop to help or provide hints on thrift stores. Cycling provides space-time to understand on how little I need or how to choose activities that nourish the land, sustain others, and honors the genealogy of Kanaka ʻŌiwi. And a day filled with cycling leaves me relaxed, active, and content. As Zander and I are slowly knitted into local communities, I pay careful attention for opportunities to contribute to their lives and futures.

Notably, kuleana circles back to things! On long distance bicycle trips, I learned to reduce what I carried; too much stuff makes it harder to pedal and slowed me down. This sabbatical is restructuring what I need materially and having little actually provides a sense of freedom and relaxation. And this opens up more space-time to be, to focus outward and contemplate my intersection with others, time to play with Zander and others. Although I am not convinced of the accuracy of my interpretation, simply struggling to understand another worldview and its spiritual and ethical implications has already shifted my sense of self–and how out-in-the-open-cycling contributes to a life of service, acceptance of the privilege and responsibility, and care for the ʻāina and others met along the way.

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A Bicycle, Dog, and Joy


Traveling by bicycle is an unassuming entrée into the world of other people. Add a small, shy but friendly dog, and I have the perfect combination for meeting people from all walk of life and getting to know Honolulu.

Zander Park BikeThis time, I am using a Brompton folding bicycle that, when folded, slips into a suitcase within typical airline baggage requirements. It also accommodates the “BuddyRider” or dog seat between the bicycle seat and handlebars where Zander rides. The short cranks make hills challenging, but if we are defeated Zander gets a short walk and break from riding! It is smaller than a “full-sized bicycle,” so there are challenges in transporting small appliances or furniture, Zander and groceries, or paddle and gear for canoeing. With ingenuity, it has all been managed, and I am reminded of Susan B. Anthony’s evaluation of bicycling giving “women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Bicycling allows me to keep Zander fit as he runs alongside when it is safe or the Honolulu Bicycle Lanetemperatures are cool enough. When time is of the essence or traffic is crazy, I pop him in the seat and move at a faster pace. Ruffwearʻs Swamp Cooler vest extends the time Zander can enjoy the day. A number of stores allow dogs–so he accompanies me to Home Depot, Don Quixoteʻs, and other places if he sits quietly in the carts! He is learning his manners as he waits outside when I pick up food–and then off to a nearby park for a picnic. The King Street bicycle path reminds me of Copenhagen–and we cover substantial distance for all our errands: credit union, pet store, grocery store, bicycle store, and other necessary stops in safety.

And, of course, moving slowly and together allows us to meet people along the way. Zander’s “smile” while walking often elicits comments or questions about his linneage; the elderly Japanese man who walks his daughters dogs loves to talk to Zander and share a “high five”; the woman groundskeeper at the school bows deeply toPrescious say good morning; the elderly couple who have their breakfast on the lanai have just begun to ask how are we doing; and the grade three girl at the farmer’s market who loves dogs holds Zander while I order dinner. Precious is the “resident mama” of the apartment complex. She is pregnant and has recently become infatuated with Zander!!! The three cats, on the other hand, seem not so interested!

Bicycles are relatively plentiful in Honolulu–parents with trail-gator bikes or chariots, for children, families on a series of bicycles, people commuting to work or school, the classic cruiser bikes, fixies, bmx, and of course the serious cycle racers. As in many places, bicycling is a process of being “out in the open”–pedestrian and cyclists waiting at lights often say high, drivers giving way or accepting your offer to go ahead, or someone noticing Zander on the bike. Given how dense Honolulu is, I always find it easier and quicker to maneuver on a bike compared to the traffic, parking structures, or lack of parking spaces. And with courtesy and consideration for pedestrians, no one seems to mind if I ride on the sidewalks.

RainbowAs part of our daily routine, Zander and I walk or bicycle-run early in the morning or evening when the the temperatures are coolest and rain is likely to fall in short bursts or mists that cool. We seek new routes to discover old cemetaries, ranges of housing designs, and local haunts such as Yama’s Fish Market and their delicious Kalua pork, poke and haupia. Three guys provided an impromptu ukulele concert while we ate lunch in Honolulu Stadium State Park. People from all walks of life share their lives whether in fragments or life histories. Honolulu and the people within become mapped onto Zander and I and we become enmeshed into these currents. A passing park, stream, memory shared, helping hand, or glimpses of cattle egrets, red-crested cardinal, or shama grace our lives.


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In the verdant Hawaiian valleys, a balance must be struck betweeen removing invasive species and epiphytes and supporting native and food bearing species while providing space to wander amongst them. It takes time to understand the relationships since an “invasive” species might, in a particular instance, enable a native species to thrive. This was the world I entered in a small patch of tropical flora behind a friend’s house in Pauoa Valley. Lychee trees supporting avocado trees; bamboo forests obscuring ancient trails; vines swirling around trees and plants on their way to the sun. To enhance the health of this small patch required daily attention.

So, careful observation, listening to multiple stories, and taking time before action is a wise course of action. A great metaphor for moving to a new place, adjusting to a new climate, starting a new project, or learning to play at a dog park! August is a not month in Hawaiʻi–tropical storms bring rain and cool winds followed by “dead” air and heat. We are up early (5:30 a.m.) to enjoy a cool morning walk or run. Then Zander wilts and hides beneath my desk under the cooling breeze of fan until late afternoon. I find time to work or do errands–slowly adjusting to the heat or running in and out of air conditioned stores or offices.

Each day, I have accomplished one or two tasks of arranging my life in Hawaiʻi: thereʻs the bank account, state identification, bus pass, locating farmerʻs markets, desk lamps, getting registered for language classes, and finding agility classes. It is amazing how the heat saps my strength and the time it takes to find a place even on a bicycle. On the other hand, it is amazing how many helpful people I meet, how fragrant the flowers are, how

Zander and Jackson

Zander and New Friend

many birds and animals are present in the middle of the city, and how cooling the rains are.

Then, the sun sinks and the temperatures drop. A group of women and their dogs show up at the dog park next to our apartment at 6:30 p.m. Zander is slowly learning to “play” with the other dogs rather than constantly jostle for dominance. Yet, each night as we return, the relationship slowly morphs into new forms of play and enjoyment. Other evenings we go for bike rides around town–he in his seat on the bike.

Iʻve met with the director of the Institute for Hawaiian Language Research and Translation. In addition, I attended a symposium on their translation project with the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives. They are translating a collection of letters from the aliʻi or members of the ruling class of Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiians) that are part of the Mission Housese archives. The panel was simply amazing; each had been translating specific letters that supported dissertations, books, or journal articles. The perspectives and insights are radically different from the classic American historical perspectives. As much as I was excited and intrigued, it was daunting as well.

The daily routines of walking Zander plus walking or bicycling as my primary mode of transportation has been a blessing. Not only do they all allow me to pay close attention to my surroundings–the various birds, slugs, cats, mongoose, flowers, plants, cacti as well

Hawaiian House

Hawaiian hipped-roof, wooden plank house, lava rock foundation

as meet interesting people, notice how many people (drivers and pedestrians alike) who are generous and courteous, variations of architecture, wondrous gardens, and much more. All of this brings home the transitory nature of life–the older buildings giving way to the environment, dying flower petals on the ground. Each of these have a beauty of their own and a reminder of the wisdom in allowing things to follow their own lifespan. And finally, negotiating traffic as well as life requires movement and balance.

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