Hawaiian Journal
page 16


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Banyan Trees


Thursday, February 5, 1981

I’m in Hilo, at the small park opposite the Post Office, facing a banyan tree. The wild growth of this thing, the roots becoming trunks, twisting each other, merging, separating, as though it were a vine strangling itself, gives me shudders.

It seems angry, too large, a growth like a cancer maybe. Why didn’t the banyan in Kailua seem this way?

This other banyan tree seems much friendlier, well-composed in its growth, and offering half an acre of deep shade. I’m almost at Rainbow Falls, my current goal. This is a truly beautiful tree. I think only a movie camera, scanning the various directions as my head and eye do, could adequately represent the space this tree makes. The crown is very dense, hemispherical. Inside there are few branches with leaves. A smaller banyan tree over there has a crown like an isolated oak.

Here I am in the deep interior of the trunk roots. The growth is like braids with the strands of rope somehow melted together. This banyan tree isn’t choking itself so much as harmonizing and merging with stuff. Even the branches far above sometimes grow into each other, forming a network.

Rainbow Falls itself is just another big waterfall. The sugar cane field across the river detracts a lot from its appearance.

This drawing’s a banyan near the falls that I could see from a low hill and get some kind of wide angle view.



I was walking down the main street of Hilo about to thumb a ride when the windstorm hit. I’m at Kamoamoa now, which must be the most beautiful campground on this island. It’s still windy. I suppose I’ll have coconuts to eat. This place, the site of an ancient village, has more coconut palms than anywhere else I’ve been. Too bad it looks like a movie of a hurricane.

I’m in a shelter where the burial site and the drinking water is. I don’t think you’re supposed to sleep here, but in a gale like this I don’t care. This is much worse than that stormy night at Baldwin Park. I think this shelter is open enough and well-built enough for strong winds not to damage it.


Friday, February 6, 1981

Today is clear and warm, though still breezy. That wind last night was awful. It blew toward the sea the first half of the night, stopped for a moment, then was blowing inland from the sea. I kept thinking about the eye of a hurricane. I think this was a much smaller storm.

Most of the palms have trunks ten foot tall or less, as if something happened a number of years ago that wiped out all the tall ones but those six by the old house sites. There’s a big canoe shed foundation here. I wonder where they launched the canoe.

The cliffs of this pahoehoe flow look much like the cliffs of the aa flow on Maui. The polygonal facets seem larger, but these cliffs aren’t so high. Beneath the surface off aa and pahoehoe, it’s all the same basalt.

If there’s whales out here, I haven’t seen them yet.

But there is life— lots of those little snails that glue themselves to dry rock and never go anywhere, limpets clinging to the lower rocks, and the biggest rock crabs I’ve seen yet. From here a big one’s body looks three or four inches across. They can jump quite far from rock to rock. This one’s the size of a hairy tarantula. The edge of its shell looks green in the sunlight.

Something in the sea turns the lower parts of these rocks a disgusting pink.


It feels like some magic lingers in these stones, this foundation of a canoe shed. Canoes on the Trobriand Islands were well filled with magic to carry their passengers safely from cove to cove, according to Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific. The same was probably true here.

As I sit here with my back against the rear wall and my face towards the sea, I wonder how an outrigger canoe would fit in here. Aren’t they bigger than this?

Maybe they took the outrigger off when it was stored here. I can’t see the ocean because of a lava mound, but it’s easy to imagine myself going somewhere. I look on the lava pebbles with flickering palm shadows as if I were looking at the living reef of my intuition through the clear water of calm feelings.


I met a nice woman named Ambrosia who’s living at this campground. I guess it’s possible to live here. I haven’t seen a ranger all day. She says on weekends it’s busy. She had a journal with her and was writing letters, pretty much what I was doing. Her man seems much more macho than her description of him.


Saturday, February 7, 1981

It’s been a month since I left California, 2 1/2 weeks since I left Maui.

I wake up, go to the outhouse. A gecko walks up to the top of the wall and hides. When I step outside, its tiny head peers from the space between wall and roof. I walk back to the canoe shed where I was sleeping, sit outside the shed on the grass, and see the edge of the ocean just when the first flash of orange sun appears. I watch it grow into a disc.

Later this morning, I see a monarch butterfly flying near the sea and think about how they fly across the Gulf of Mexico to a secret hibernating place high in a Mexican mountain range.

This is the park where the hippies have their parties. They were playing some good rock and roll, but I didn’t feel like I fit in. Too many men, not enough women? I don’t know. Am I avoiding making friends with anyone here? I don’t want to come back. My mind’s made up about this.


The questions (what I really think) and what I say:

What do I think of this place? (I don’t like it.) Oh, it’s lovely.
Why am I staying here? (It’s an exercise in mortification of the soul.) It’s cold at home.
Have you been to any other islands? (I didn’t like Maui either.) I’ve been to Maui.
How did you like it there? (At least I wasn’t afraid of being raped, robbed, and murdered on Maui.) It’s different.
How long have you been here? (Too long.) About a week.
How long do you expect to stay? (As long as I can stand it or March, whichever comes first.) About a week I guess, then I’m going back to Maui.
And my own question: So why am I doing this? (I’ll be embarrassed if I come home early and won’t know what to do with myself there, either.) Oh, I don’t know.


Sunday, February 8, 1981

I went to the pavilion before moonset. I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t rain, but couldn’t sleep or relax in all that wind energy. It wasn’t even cold. I don’t know why I feared the wind, or why being even half-inside something relaxed me. I wonder if Kamoamoa means something like “windy” in Hawaiian.

I should count my blessings. If I were home, I’d probably be sick with the flu, and a lot of poems and drawings would not exist.

I’m sitting reading what I wrote on Maui, watching picnics come and go. Some Hawaiians are fishing. Only people who are more than half Hawaiian, descended from people living here before 1822, and who presently live on the Kalapana coast, may fish here. This reminds me of an Indian treaty. I wonder how this rule got negotiated.

The sea is still dark and heavy as blue lead, but the sun is back, the wind has stopped, the clouds have blown away or dissolved.

The pahoehoe here by the sea is much more solid than in the crater. By the time the flow gets this far, most of the gas has escaped. Even though this flow is hundreds of years old, it looks fresher than the 1920 flow near Kilauea Crater. Solid rock erodes less than foamlike rock.



E niu ola hiki
I kupo i Kahiki
I mele i Kahiki
I kumu i Kahiki
I lau i Kahiki
I hua i Kahiki
I oo i Kahiki e!

O life-giving coconut
That budded in Tahiti
That rooted in Tahiti
That formed a trunk in Tahiti
That bore leaves in Tahiti
That bore fruit in Tahiti
That ripened in Tahiti!

Hawaiian chant printed and translated on a park sign.


The last glow of sunset
silhouettes coconut palms
beneath a crescent moon.

A breeze through palm fronds,
a fluttering rattle,
crickets and ocean waves.


Monday, February 9, 1981

I keep thinking about Michele and Ruth, how they seem to know so many things I’ve struggled to learn. No wonder I miss them so much. There’s so much I could learn just by watching and listening to them. Like when Michele stalked off at the bar, Ruth told me, “That’s her problem. You’re not responsible for her feelings.” At that moment I realized I truly wasn’t. Maybe I never am.

Just pick out whatever truth you like, and try to adjust to it, I told Doug when I was about their age. Was I wiser myself when I was 23, or just clever with words?

The kind of learning through experience that inhibits me, Michele rejects. She knows how it should be, and everybody else is learning. How much experience can you ignore?

The waves roll on. The palm fronds patter in the wind.

There’s millipedes here like the yellow spotted ones of Oregon and home, but only about half as long and wide.


Tuesday, February 10, 1981

When I did relaxation last night, I did deep breathing for a while, maybe half an hour, but I’ll never know. It made the area around my nose tingle, then my fingers and hands, then my lips, then my arms. I told my mind not to be sad about anything, to be healed and whole. Some thoughts and feelings came up, but they just passed. That’s what I’m told meditation is like. You have thoughts and feelings, but they just pass by.

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