Saturday, August 22, 2009

Iao Valley

My father was 100% Hawaiian, my mother maybe 1/8 Hawaiian. It was my mother’s family that we were closest to, learned things Hawaiian from and lived with my Tutu (grandmother) Rose off and on for many years. There were five of us. In order of birth there was; Gloriann, Leina’ala, Charlene, me Lokelani, and the only boy Kaiwa. We were pretty close in age and I often wonder how my mother kept her sanity raising us. I don’t believe she had much help from my father. I say that because as far back as I can remember, there were long spaces of time that he wasn’t with the family. I don’t know why, but that was the case. I do remember one of his absences though when he was gone for a long time. He went to what was Canton Island to work and was gone for a couple of years. My mom, with the help of her family, kept us together…for that I will always be thankful to her. A lot of what I learned of my heritage came almost exclusively from my Tutu Rose. She told us the stories and legends of Hawai’i, most of them scary and prayed every night to her gods. I learned on being a girl from my older sisters and also learned on what not to do and how to keep from getting into trouble from them.

To get a feel for painting landscapes, I did a practice piece of The Needle in Iao Valley on the island of Maui. What was a simple, practice landscape turned out to be a powerful reminder that touched my soul deeply. It took me back to my childhood…the fun, the trauma, my siblings, my family… the emotions it invoked completely overwhelmed me. Not only was I so touched by it, but so were the family members who viewed it. For some it brought tears, for others deep reflection of the memories that surfaced at dealing with that time of their lives. Maybe as someone mentioned…the lone figure…the lost little girl??

As children we (my siblings and cousins) would trek up to Iao Valley by way of a cow path that led out of the small cemetery at the end of Vineyard Street in the town of Wailuku. We would swim in the Wailuku Creek at the Mahi’s pond and other ponds on our way to Kepaniwai Park and The Needle. On the way we picked and ate guava and nuts; drank the fresh, cold, sweet water out of the creek; picked clusters of ti leaves and rode them down the muddy slopes. When the ginger was in bloom, the scent of the flowers permeated the valley so thickly that it felt that the scent was completely absorbed by your clothing and even your body.

I recall a time when we, my mother, Tutu Rose and the kids, went to Mahi’s pond for a family picnic. After swimming for a while I went back to the car to change my clothes and get ready for some lunch. When I was changed ready to return to the fun, I looked out the window and found myself and the car surrounded by cows. I was petrified. I screamed and screamed, crying like a baby for my mother. The cows just stood there through all my caterwauling looking at me as if I was a complete idiot. Needless to say, both Mama and Tutu came running to rescue me. When they saw what was really going on they both let me know how silly I was being and that the cows would not have hurt me. How was I to know that, I’d never been that close to cows before. Check out this fun sketch, which was done for one of my art forum challenges called Silly Situations.

I often wish my children and grandchildren could experience the innocence of that time.

Aloha for now.


  1. What a delightful story and a wonderful painting. It is a true gift to be able to evoke such strong emotions with your painted images. This is such a lovely way of memorializing you memories for generations to come.

  2. Thank you Sheila. I am certainly enjoying doing this blog more than I anticipated.

  3. That was wonderful what you wrote here Loke. The Needle in Iao Valley is a recognizable landmark for the island of Maui. Happily, I can say I have been there. To hear about your childhood in and around that area is very special to me. As an artist you already know that your soul isn't in it if it doesn't 'touch' you deeply. In fact, I wonder if we could ever paint anything and do it justice without having the deep spiritual meaning that it holds for us show through.
    BTW loved, loved, loved the cow story...

  4. is amazing how the little stories like this cow situation is remembered with fondness when one looks back into one's life.

  5. Aloha Auntie Loke,
    Thank you for sharing your small kid time stories. That's the best! When you are telling it from the heart, this is what touches me most of all.
    The memories you share with your family and friends are priceless. Please know how grateful I am to hear such things. They tell me of my mother too. She is the one sibling that is no longer with us, so your thoughts and memories mean a great deal to me too. I love you and miss you and my cousins are lucky to have you. Aloha for now, sincerely your niece,

  6. Mo'ikeha...Thank you for your sweet comment. Maybe it's the fact that I'm getting older, but these memories are priceless and I want ohana (family) to know them. Me ke aloha pumehana.

  7. Hi Lokelani, This is a wonderful story and wonderful paintings to go with it.Thank you for sharing