Letter from Diane Haynes Woodburn

Diane Haynes WoodburnIn the Spring,” Tennyson wrote, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Mine turns to clutter, and the thought of finally getting rid of it. Although I hate the mess, I’m usually a pacifist when it comes to actually attacking it. Today, I decide, will be different.

“We’ve got to do something about all this stuff,” I proclaim to my husband, Jamie, who is folding laundry with me in our bedroom. I reconnoiter the room, but whatever open space it once held has long ago been lost to what looks like a boot-camp obstacle course.

“I, uh, have some projects downstairs,” Jamie says, beating a quick retreat, clearly sensing a woman on a mission. Alone with the clutter, I find myself opening drawers stuffed with cosmetic bags that are stuffed with smaller cosmetic bags. They live in codependent harmony with myriad tiny makeup samples and anti-wrinkle creams from decades past. “Get rid of it!” My inner warrior urges me into battle.

I dump a drawer’s contents into a recycle/donate receptacle, and at once feel uplifted. What else? I scope the room for the most likely targets, and fix my sights on . . . the underwear drawer! Overstuffed? Envision an opera diva in stretch jeans. I pluck up my courage and purge anything more than a year old.

Spring-cleaning is good for the soul. It’s also good for our environment and brings to mind this special issue of Maui No Ka ‘Oi, dedicated to those men and women who are engaged in a much bigger cleanup — our island home. Here are folks who get in, get dirty, and get it done, the reward far greater than resurrecting open space in one’s bedroom. In these pages, we bring you stories of island heroes who are ensuring the future of open space in our forests and along our coasts, the health of delicate ecosystems that sustain species found nowhere else on Earth, and the preservation of our host culture.

They are people like Hanna Mounce and the team of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, who trek into almost inaccessible terrain to protect the last 500 kiwikiu, the Maui parrotbill. Michael Moore, who, with the restaurant crew of Star Noodle and the members of the Maui Organization for the Ceramic Arts, give their time, talent and energy to raise funds for the Maui Food Bank, while throwing a party you won’t want to miss. And architect Jeff Lundahl, whose design for an energy-efficient home is an inspiring example of how to live in harmony with a changing world.

You’ll also meet folks who believe you can help. Be a hero. Volunteer with groups like the Kipahulu ‘Ohana, who open their lo‘i kalo (taro paddies) to people who want to have an authentic cultural experience — while playing in the mud. Or the Friends of Haleakala, who, in exchange for your help removing invasive species, share parts of the crater wilderness most people never see. You can even help by counting fish. That’s right, snorkeling as community service. 

Rewards? Let us help you count the ways: Spending time in places like Moloka‘i’s Kamakou Preserve, surrounded by the kind of pristine wilderness you’re helping to protect; witnessing the fragile beauty of a Kamehameha butterfly; or learning how to make a killer no-cook, gluten-free brownie. Best of all, immersing yourself in the mindset and worldview of the people who found these islands by paying attention to the rising and setting of the sun, the movement of seabirds and ocean waves, and the choreography of the stars. People who found their way home by being at one with the planet.

Lost in daydreams of celestial traverse, I abandon my purge and join my husband downstairs. “I have a surprise for you,” he says, leading me into the back room, which has been filled since the Pleistocene Epoch with boxes, books, and various possessions without an assigned home. There, on a desk once lost to debris, is a clean, clear space with my computer, a few of my favorite photos, and a lit candle giving off a sweet fragrance. “You have a space,” he smiles.

My hero.


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