Ramblin Christian Gypsy
Literary whimsy. Dedicated poetic observer.
Literary whimsy. Dedicated poetic observer.
Growing up in Hawaii, much of my childhood’s entertainment was spent knee deep in a stream behind our house catching fish with a net and putting them in a bucket to feed live to my Oscar fish at home.
I would every so often catch sight of a mongoose who would’ve loved nothing more than to have me wander off so he could steal my bounty.
“Shove off, Gypsy!” I’d yell. He’d look at me all insulted like and harumph away. But the more I thought about it I decided he had far more of a right to the fish in this island stream than did I, scrawny girl with an Irish fro, child of missionaries like I was.
So I started sharing with him. Leaving him little peace offerings. Two net fulls of guppies on the side of the flowing stream. I decided this was his portion.
After a day of fishing with Kehau, my childhood friend, we would take showers with wildly floral or fruity shampoos and bath gels. Our fifth grade, girl bodies had not yet embraced our adult forms in any way but were not opposed to the idea either. Then on long spider like legs we’d race to the bathroom mirror and stand there slicky wet and dripping to see who got the most sunburned. It was always me.
If Kehau was sleeping over, my parents would make the Friday night pilgrimage to Ala Moana where we’d order Princess plates of noodles and two other choices at Pattis’ Chinese and then rush to spend my allowance on Hello Kitty crap at Shirokiya.
After the sugar high and acquisition of Japanese novelties we would fall on to my bed and Kehau would tell us Hawaiian ghost stories until we fell asleep.
I knew a goodnight prayer to make us feel protected against the evil we had conjured up, and eventually we would fall asleep in my little house at the foot of the Koolau mountain range, where the clouds hung low, gray and fluffy like an old man’s eyebrows.
Many was the night that my last conscious thought before nodding off was of the gecko clinging to my window. His clicking, kissing lips sound always reminded me of a lover trying to get my attention by tapping his ring against the glass.
That the gecko has long been regarded as a guardian spirit to protect households was no accident.
I had so many geckos in my house. It was as if they were dispatched by someone somewhere who realized I needed a veritable legion of sticky footed protectors to ward off the trouble that I not only naturally attracted but even went looking for.
The Nuuanu Pali is a section of the windward cliff (pali in Hawaiian) of the Koolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley on the island of Oʻahu. It has a panoramic view of the windward coast of Oʻahu.
The Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside is a lookout with sweeping views of Kāneʻohe, and Kailua. It is also well known for strong trade winds that blow through the pass forming a sort of natural wind tunnels.
The full throttle wind could be scientific or paranormal depending on who you ask, who you believe, and if you’re prone to feeling whispers on your neck like the hot breath of a sleeping albeit nonexistent baby. A situation I’ve long ago come to this tacit agreement with. I will not whirl around looking to prove what cannot be proven only to meet the stare of my old fashioned cat clock with it’s tail, ticking and tocking. Not again anyway. It’s gets old.
The Nuʻuanu Pali was the site of the Battle of Nu’uanu, one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, in which King Kamehameha conquered the island of Oʻahu, bringing it under his rule. In 1795 Kamehameha sailed from his home island of Hawaii with an army of 10,000 warriors. The pivotal battle for the island occurred in Nuʻuanu Valley, where the defenders of Oahu were driven back up into the valley where they were trapped above the cliff. More than 400 soldiers were driven off the edge of the cliff to their deaths 1,000 feet below.
And then there’s the Goddess Pele who likes to stop motorist’s cars along the Old Pali Road to prevent them from passing. But only if they have pork in their cars. Has something to do with Madame Pele hating that demi God Kamapuaa who was half human and half pig. You cannot bring a form of Kamapuaa (pork) from the wet side of the island, the Windward side, to the dry side, the Leeward side. Because that’s Pele’s stomping ground. And she will forbid it by sending tragedy or mechanical failure to your car. Only if you tie a ti leaf around your pork will you and your passengers be saved.
Also along the Old Pali Road is reported to be the ghost of a raped and murdered girl child jumping rope. Chilling enough that, but when she turns to face you she stares at you with wildly bulging eyes, the result of her being strangled. If that’s not freaky enough for you, her face is in half decay as that’s the way she was found after being gnawed on by animals for days until she was discovered. She’s said to look terribly pissed off by the whole thing and who can blame her?
You might also see a little menehune the Hawaiian legendary dwarfs who are generally up to no good. Or a small white dog who grows in size until you rid your car of your char siu bao and all other offending pork.
It should also be noted that the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Air Force used the winds of Pali pass to give them a boost when flying through on their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
So pick any one of the wildly spinning vortexes of terror to explain the blustery winds that sometimes blow you off your feet when standing at the Pali lookout. Many times as I child I would lean into the wind trusting the treachery to hold and not drop me face first, with a few less of my teeth, to the cement.
Ghosts just don’t scare me. On my most recent visit to the Pali Lookout I took a full breath and considered the brilliant view that felt very much like the lookout from the top of my soul. How I’ve managed to navigate the tricky turns of my life thus far, avoiding damage, war, and demon people, time and time again.
Even today whenever a breeze blows by my face I feel a kinship with those clever rascals who have unburdened themselves of their human bodies but play on by planning mischief on those who don’t follow their arbitrary rules.
It’s on ancient streets where old ghosts meet,
such is the case on the old Pali Road.
To beguile, spook and flirt.
Like a breeze up my skirt.
Begging, “Don’t you wander too far away.”
(paintings by Edwin Ushiro)