He Wahī Paʻakai: A Package of Salt

adding flavor and texture to your world through story


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If I Had A Daughter*

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If I had a daughter, I’d give her a lei, a garland of delicate flowers. Not for adornment or decoration, I’d place it over her head, drape it on her shoulders, allowing the scent of blossoms to fill the space between us. Then I’d lean in, my calm breaths gently stirring the fragile petals, waking them, and I’d whisper in her ear:

Remember 

Her brow would furrow. “Remember what?” her eyes would ask, her head tilted slightly to the side, lips pursed. But I wouldn’t tell her. I’d simply smile, gifting her a lesson that would continue to bloom with time: unfurling, opening, blossoming with each year of her life.

At first, she’d study the lei, come to know each and every flower intimately: their colors, patterns, textures, scents. She’d examine the way they were fastened together, each placed and braided in with purpose. She’d wear it proudly.

In time, she’d grow too accustomed to its presence. It would become so much a part of her that she’d forget about it, ignore it. She’d stop studying it, too distracted by and too attracted to everything else around her. She’d only be reminded of it when it got in the way, restricting her arms from reaching too high. It would become cumbersome.

When she’d start to achieve, gaining recognition, praise, admiration, she’d spend too much time basking in the sun of her own accomplishments, that the flowers would begin to wilt, loosen, drop. And when she’d start to experience failure, she’d rip at them in anger, pulling at what remained, leaving nothing but thin strands, the fibers that once bound her lei together.

She’d forget because at some point, we all do.

But with forgetting comes the chance to remember.

If I had a daughter, I’d then take her by the hand and lead her to the shade of a giant ʻōhiʻa lehua tree. I’d unfold a mat, place it on the damp earth, and take a seat beside her. Then I’d lean in close, my calm breaths touching her skin, cooling her tears, and I’d whisper:

Tell me.

Her chest would rise as she took a deep breath and then it would collapse as she released it slowly, her eyes closed. Then she’d open, look at me, and relay the story of her lei, recounting moments of her life. And in the process, she’d remember. She’d remember where she started and where she’d been going. She’d remember the generations of women whose beautiful legacy she once wore, whose legacy she’d often neglected. And before she could crumble at her loss, I’d tell her to stand up and turn towards the path we took to get there.

Look.

At the edge of the mat she’d see a petal, a small and wilted petal. She’d lean down, pick it up, only to see another, then another. She’d follow the path of fallen petals, back to where she started, retracing her steps, recounting the journey she’d taken, back to the beginning.

And as she took one step at a time, slowly gathering the memories of her life, she’d come to understand. Each place and each person, each celebration and each struggle, each joy and each fear, had prepared her hands to fasten a new lei. She would start with the fibers draped on her shoulders and add to them, strengthening them with her own experiences. She’d add her own flowers, make her own patterns, and place each and every blossom in with purpose. Together, they’d tell a new story: her story.

If I had a daughter, she’d then know what to do. She’d wear her new lei, carrying thousands of memories bound by the legacy of generations. She’d wear it until the day she had a daughter. Then she’d take it off, put it over her child’s head, and drape it on her shoulders with one simple whisper:

Remember.

In the shade of ʻōhiʻa

In the shade of ʻōhiʻa

*The title of this blog was inspired by a spoken word poem by Sarah Kay. Check her out on Youtube!

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Finding YOU

So what is this blog really about? 

Niua

Niuatoputapu, Tonga

Having foolishly packed a flashlight without any batteries, I sat on the floor of an old guesthouse next to the soft glow of a burning candle. The room was dark and hot. Mosquitos buzzed by my ears, headed towards sections of my skin not properly coated with repellant. I couldn’t see them, but could feel their biting presence. I held a blue pen in my right hand and steadied a thick journal on my bent knee with my left. On a page, in what had been my playground of words since I was a child, I scribbled:

I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a path, no longer walking it, looking back and forth, trying to determine if this is the road I want to follow.

I continued to string phrases together, each examining the course my life had recently taken, as if Niuatoputatpu[1] itself had compelled me towards such reflection. Maybe it was the candlelight, maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the occasional sting on my skin or the presence of years of reflection propped on my knee, or maybe it was the island and its people. Whatever it was, something in that moment shifted. I could feel it.

Exactly one year later, I sat on a plane, flying high above an ocean pathway connecting Hawaiʻi and New Zealand. I couldn’t sleep. My eyes couldn’t close to the sight of the unknown. Much of my material life lay packed in a series of boxes, each stacked upon the next, left to collect dust in a corner of my childhood bedroom, a space I once shared. At some point during the previous year I had decided that my path could and perhaps should be different. Therefore, I stepped off the clear-cut road I was traveling upon and turned towards the overgrown thick of a new path not yet carved out. I had three large suitcases, a new student visa, and an unwavering knowing, one born by candlelight, on a hot and sticky floor in Tonga.

That “knowing” was my “call to adventure”, as Joseph Campbell[2] would say. It was a pounding in my gut, much like the crashing of incessant waves that continue to beat upon the shore no matter how many times they are sent away. Its presence was constant, so constant that I couldn’t ignore it, and after a while, I didn’t want to. So one day, rather than fighting against the waves, standing in fear, I let them pull me and I drifted outward. I drifted away from everything I thought I knew and needed in search of something else, something more.

A year and a half later and I sit as I have done many time before: a journal propped on my knee, ideas stirring in my head, phrases beginning to take shape on paper. I smile as I look at them, as I read them over, and take a moment to remember. Words have been my constant companion: sitting with me in candlelit rooms, providing definition in darkness; taking my mind away from stings of discomfort; soothing my nerves on flights across the ocean; hiding in boxes of memories packed away. They’ve fed and inspired me, led and required me to make more of myself.

And in the process, they’ve taught me that what I’ve been searching for—that “something else”, that “something more”—and what I set out on an adventure to find, was me. That’s all we’re ever truly in search of: a deeper understanding of self that will lead to further understanding our role, our purpose, our contribution. I don’t pretend to know exactly where I’m headed. But I am sure of one thing: that as I continue to carve out my own path that I will leave behind a trail of words. You need not follow them. You need not even read them in order. Take one sentence, one phrase, one word, one letter even and use it to start your own story.

I will admit that what took me thousands of miles across the ocean to discover can be found at your doorstep, outside your window, in the feel of the wind at your back, in the burn of the sun on your neck. We don’t have to travel far to make profound journeys. But we should remain open to answering the call to adventure, the call to recognize that in order to grow that we may first have to depart a piece of ourselves or a piece of the life that we once thought we needed. It may be as small as leaving an outdated belief on the wayside, filing an old perspective on a bookshelf, or as large as separating from a job, a relationship, or a place that restricts you from finding you.

That’s what this blog is really about. As I share stories, as I print words and attempt to create meaning in madness, to find clarity in confusion, to find purpose in potential, I hope that you will find a piece of yourself reflected back. As Deepak Chopra[3] once said:

If you speak to someone from the level of mind, then you’ll speak to their mind. If you speak through your heart, then you’ll speak to their heart. But if you speak through your life, and your life is the story, then you’ll change lives…

While I don’t necessarily expect to change your life, I do have one hope: I hope to speak through my life, through my experiences, through my stories, to share a bit of this journey with you. And in the end, I hope that like a person who peers into a pool of water, unable to see to the bottom, that when you lean your head back, and squint your eyes for a better view, that you will see the true purpose of your search: yourself reflected in a pool of words.

Standing on Niuatoputapu, looking out towards Tafahi.

Standing on Niuatoputapu, looking out towards Tafahi.


[1] Niuatoputapu is a small island at the northern end of the Tonga Island group.

[2] Joseph Campbell was a comparative mythologist who studied what he called “the hero’s journey,” a pattern he found repeated in myths around the world. It consists of a departure, an initiation, and a return for the main character. Answering the “call to adventure” is leave to particular piece of your life—whether physically, mentally, or spiritually—to head in a new direction.

[3] Deepak Chopra is an American-Indian author. This quote comes from the film, Finding Joe. I highly recommend it.


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He Wahī Paʻakai*

It’s a small and humble offering, this package of salt. Yet, in each individual grain exists an ocean. To take it in the palm of your hand is to hold the promise of movement, of fluidity, of rippling time. While paʻakai reminds us to be paʻa, to be steadfast, solid, and secure, it could not exist without the kai, without the ocean and all of its swirls, shifts, and sways. It is a small and humble offering. Yet, to hold it is to embrace the power of the sea.

This blog was created to provide a space, like the ocean’s edge lined with rocks, where the waves can collect in stoned pockets, beginning to crystallize, taking new shapes and forms, new purpose. Like salt, the ideas shared here may appear to be fixed in writing: solid and unchanging. Yet, they are as fluid as the sea they come from. They are shifting. They are meant to garnish, to add season to your own ideas. If taken alone, salt can be too sour, too pungent for one’s tastes. Therefore, take these ideas as you would a bit of salt: sprinkle them atop your own thoughts and perspectives to give them added dimension, texture, flavor.

This is what I offer you: he wahī paʻakai, just a package of salt. Take it, hold it, taste it, feel it run through you, confirming what needs confirmation, changing what needs adjustment.

E pū paʻakai kākou. Let us partake of salt together.

Paʻakai at Kalaemanō, Kona, Hawaiʻi.

Paʻakai at Kalaemanō, Kona, Hawaiʻi.

* “He wahī paʻakai” is an ʻōlelo noʻeau, or Hawaiian proverb.