Diane Haynes Woodburn
“Put some junk clothes on,” my husband advises. “We’re going to get dirty.”
It’s a blustery winter day. From Kula, we see that the winds are howling on the south shore. No beach today . . . we are going seed hunting. “Do I need long pants?” I ask.
“Oh yeah,” he says with a big smile. This is more than an outing; it’s a pilgrimage, and a story of sweet resurrection.
Jamie loves seeds, particularly the bright red wiliwili, a favorite for Hawaiian seed lei. For the past several years, the small, bean-shaped gems had seemingly vanished. In 2005, a blight of nearly microscopic gall wasps invaded the Islands, laying their eggs in the endemic trees. The disease they caused was so devastating and widespread that botanists predicted extinction.
But miracles do happen. In 2009, a Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture entomologist found a solution: a predatory wasp that is the gall wasp’s natural enemy. (See “Saving the Wiliwili,” www.mauimagazine.net.) After exhaustive tests, the new wasp was released into the Hawai‘i landscape.
Now, two years later, the wiliwili are showing signs of regeneration. My husband, with our friend Walter Kanamu, will plant many of the seeds we find, experimenting with different elevations, and nurturing them for future generations.
Armed with water, snacks, and baggies, we head into the dryland forest along the South Maui shore. Jamie maneuvers the truck over bumpy, lava-strewn terrain marked with gnarled and blackened kiawe trees. “What are we looking for?” I ask.
“Trees with golden trunks, and big clusters of pods at the end of the branches.There!” Jamie points into the distance, and as if on safari, calculates a new route toward the promise of treasure.
The first trees we find are surely dead—no sign of seeds here. We venture further, winding into thicker brush, and find a bonanza of wiliwili. These golden branches are laden with pods still clinging to delicate upper limbs. Jamie coaxes the dried bounty with a long stick, and the pods flutter down, showering us with a fine umber powder and spilling their content against the rocky terrain, each brilliant seed a small promise of renewal.
The year 2012 also promises renewal—for the wiliwili certainly. And if the predictions of the Mayan calendar and the Chinese Year of the Dragon are correct—for the world.
China’s celestial dragon, for example, symbolizes imagination—balanced with benevolent power. It is ancient, wise, majestic and intelligent. The Water Dragon in particular (2012) is noted for its serene, visionary intelligence and balance of right-brain creativity with left-brain logic—an auspicious sign for the renewal of spirit, creativity, and wealth.
At Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi, we have embraced the Year of the Dragon with our own renewal. Art director John Giordani has fanned the fires of creativity with a bold new look for the magazine. Layered color planes playfully reflect the rich, vivid hues of Maui. Graphic elements, inspired by the geometric patterns of Hawaiian kapa and tattoo, add thoughtful detail. “Another aspect of the redesign,” John adds with humility, “is knowing when to stop and let the images do the work. . . . There’s no better designer than Mother Nature.”
Back on our quest, as I bend to pick the bright seeds from the bleak, inhospitable ground, it occurs to me that perhaps the wise and benevolent dragon is already at work. I imagine new forests of wiliwili trees, healthy and vibrant. Many of the seeds we collect will become hopeful seedlings. Another batch will go into the freezer—just in case.
And some, handpicked for the occasion, will be made into lei for special friends—in celebration of enduring friendship, and the miracle of renewal.