Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn
The sails filled, propelling us over the ever-increasing swells. Behind us, Maui’s green mountains peeked out from above their veil of clouds. Ahead of us: a small, secluded bay on Moloka‘i’s north shore. As we approached, sea cliffs—the tallest in the world—rose above us, dramatic and regal in their isolation. Waves crashed over the reef and receded, leaving only the evanescence of sea foam on the black lava rock.
Guests aboard our friend Michael’s boat, we were four generations of several families, some from as far away as Switzerland, Colorado and Quebec. We dropped anchor, and while the men and boys swam off to explore, Mike’s daughter Nicole revved up the music. Soon she and I were dancing to Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole: “I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself . . . what a wonderful world.”
Nicole is too young to remember when that song first hit the airwaves, but I do. It was 1968, a time when the country was rife with fear and political turbulence, and Louis Armstrong’s gravelly voice gave an evocative depth to the simple lyrics. As it did then, the wistful hope behind “What a Wonderful World” struck me as absolutely right. At that moment, the pristine little bay was all I needed for a cathedral, a place to give thanks and celebrate the joy of life, bumpy waters and all.
This holiday season, it seems natural, even necessary, to celebrate our moments of awe and joy. In these pages, you’ll find some of the ways we’ve found to do so. As our tribute to those who came before, we offer you a tour of Maui’s historic churches and temples. Paul Wood guides us on this compelling pilgrimage through the island’s diverse religions and cultures, beginning with an eloquent reflection on Keopulani, sacred wife of Kahamehameha I, the warrior king who conquered and united all the Hawaiian Islands. It was Keopulani who built Maui’s first Christian Church, and in so doing, forever changed the fabric of Hawaiian culture. Over the years, Maui beckoned people from many corners of the world; each immigrant group built places of worship, rooting their culture in this exotic new soil. With each brick, or nail, or rock, they said, We will be here for generations to come.
A journey of another kind awaits you aboard a Whale Trust research boat, where Jim Darling listens in on whale song, hoping to discover the meaning behind the melodies of these giants of the sea. From the expansive to the exquisite, we look at feather lei, a tradition in Polynesia for thousands of years, made new by today’s feather artists. Of course, the holidays are also a time for festivity—which in our house always begins in the kitchen. We turn mine into a test kitchen, where five women try out recipes from five cookbooks by Maui chefs; we’re sharing the delicious results.
None of us has forgotten that we are in hard times; like many businesses, the publishing industry is still navigating rough water. But I do have faith. I’m convinced our hardships shape us. The memories of those we’ve lost sustain us. And our faith, no matter what form or name, provides sustenance for the future. Whether your cathedral is rock, or wood, or in your heart, my wish for you is to meet each day with awe, and take joy in those you love.
“It’s a wonderful world.”
Happy Holidays from all of us at Maui No Ka ‘Oi.