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Living in Harmony with the Land

In 2001, my girlfriend at the time (now wife) wrote a paper for an English class that she was taking at the time.

I’d like to reprint it here, as it has more meaning now to me, then it did 7 years ago:

Living in Harmony with the Land

The beauty of living off the land and having a
family that uses the land to live off of far outweighs living in a
culture with no love for the land. When I left my family in
January of this year to live with my boyfriend and continue with
school, I moved to the non-stop hustling and bustling city of Honolulu
on the Island of O’ahu from the peaceful and laid back District of Puna on
the Big Island. This move has been the only time I have had to move in my
entire life. Because my family has been, and probably always will be, my
life, I became homesick and began to realize that not only did I miss the
beauty and peacefulness of the Big Island, but I also missed the beauty of
my family and the lifestyle that I had grown up knowing.

After just a few days on O’ahu, I realized what a concrete jungle
O’ahu is. I began to see how different these two places really are. The
place where I was brought up is beautiful, and I feel that the beauty of
my family does not only stem from their inner beauty, but from the beauty
of the land that I call home. Puna, where my family comes from, is a
major part of my family’s life.

I come from an area known as Puna, a small community on the east
side of the Big Island. Puna is a little bigger than O’ahu in size; more
people attend Kapiolani Community College than live in our district. In
Puna, everyone knows each other or at least knows someone’s relatives.
There were 98 students in my graduating class, and a little over half of
them were related to one another. Some may say that Puna is in its own
world as there are no night clubs, 24-hour gas stations, and fast-food
restaurants; and it has just one 7-11. Everything is laid back, and
everyone just cruises around all day. On O`ahu, I can go for weeks without
seeing any relatives, but in Puna I cannot go anywhere without running
into members of my immediate or extended families.

Many people in Puna live off the land. Farming is a way
of life for them. People take care of the land just as if caring for a
family member. The land that my grandparents live on is surrounded by
acres and acres of papaya fields, wild mango and guava trees. It is an
area unique with people who have so much unconditional love that
they accept each other and are willing to invite someone into their
lives as if he/she were their own family member.

The community has long been affected by numerous social and
environmental problems that don’t occur elsewhere, such as people
experiencing health problems due to the use of geothermal energy and the
loss of Kalapana due to volcanic activity. During the 1990 lava flows in
Kalapana, hundreds of families, including many of my relatives, were
forced to move from homes that they had known their entire lives to find
temporary homes to await the outcome of the devastation. One incident in
particular can describe the feeling of community, when the Star of the Sea
Painted Church, where my grandparents attended service, had to be moved
because of the approaching lava flow. Church members along with many
volunteers from around the state combined efforts to complete this
laborious task. This is what I consider a beautiful family, helping those
that are in need and giving love to others whether they are blood related
or not.

On my father’s side of the family, we have always led simple
lives, living without running water or electricity and having to share a
phone line with four other families in the neighborhood. Simple things
that many families take for granted, our family has had to do without and
work hard to make up for the lack of technological developments in certain
parts of the Big Island. To take a bath at my grandparents’ home, we had
to boil our own water outside in a large barrel and then take it into the
washroom. I miss these kinds of experiences, and it has made me
appreciate modern conveniences and how easy city life is.

Doing everyday tasks together has really made our family stronger.
Different responsibilities have been bestowed upon members of our family,
such as fishing and farming, and we all work together to make sure the
tasks get done. Even the younger children participate in all aspects of
work, from peeling taro for making poi or weeding under noni and awa trees
to help maintain the crops for harvesting.

On the one hand, living and working with my family to take care of
the land may have prevented me from attending some of the social events
that others may have had the chance to experience. On the other hand, many
of my friends do not have the experiences of working with their family to
maintain a beautiful lifestyle. If land and nature are considered
beautiful, then using the land and nature to support a family has to be
considered one of the most beautiful activities in the world. In the long
run, I feel that I have gained strong family values and know that my
family and the land that I grew up on will always be there to help me.

One Response

  1. Great post, Damon. It reminds me of my childhood in Kukuihaele, nearly 50 years ago. Our family had an ahupua’a that ran from the mountain to the shore. Four generations under one roof. My great grandmother and her brother only spoke Hawaiian. My uncle and aunt fished, others gardened and hunted. We had lots of fruit trees and vines, (including poka; the purple sweet lilikoi and white mountain apple), flowers and a vegetable garden. We had chickens and a pig, lots of cats and dogs. The house had one faucet, cold water only, but we had electricity and phone.. We had a deluxe four seater outhouse. Like your wife’s family, we had to build a fire in a 50 gallon drum and carry the water to the bathhouse.

    We had streams, lots of opae and watercress. The kukui nuts would fall into the streams and sweeten the water. We had a large lo’i that we all took turns weeding.

    Those were the happiest days of my life and as we near retirement, my brother and I have become obsessed with moving back there.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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