Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ka lau papa

I am feeling a little like some of the ar has fallen out of my ticulate. March has been a very busy month for me and there are lots of others folks I know celebrating anniversaries this month. Somehow I managed to take on two new clients as I near the end here. It is time to get serious about my move and get past the mere scraping of surfaces. The Bush administration continues its free fall into disgrace. I watch in fascination and wonder with each new revelation if this is the one where we will all say enough? A lot is going on and I feel like I am not keeping up. There may not be enough time to enter the great artificial turf war at GardenRant.

So I will not try to rewrite history and provide a link to the National Park Service Story of Kalaupapa. Enter at your own risk.

You may not enter Kalaupapa without a reservation. Access is limited and guided. You can not roam the peninsula freely. You can enter with permission by plane, by mule and by foot.

We are headed down there on foot.

This is the pali we are hiking down. This is the pali that helped keep the former patients in. There are 26 switchbacks on this 2.9 mile trail and a nearly 1700 foot elevation drop.

Surrounded by rough ocean waters on three sides and up to 2000 foot cliffs on the fourth, this was a fine place for dropping people off that you needed to remove from society. In 1865 King Kamehameha V approved this location for people afflicted with Leprosy. The healthy Hawaiian inhabitants of this peninsula would have to be bought out and moved.

After this imported disease began to spread with vigor on the islands, the growing population of Kalawao, the first leprosy colony descended into anarchy. The patients were left to fend completely for themselves in the wilderness with no hope, no help and only death to look forward to. Stories of the atrocious conditions began to come out and another man came to Kalawao to try and help.

It is ironic that the culture that brought disease and destruction would come to offer a God in return. There is plenty that can be said about the Church. It has a dubious record to say the least.

But this was a simple man who came to a remote and isolated place filled with disfigured and desperate people. Be not afraid. You are beloved children of the universe, he said. He spent his life building a town and forging a sense of community. He fought to bring the simple comforts we all take for granted to his fellow human beings who had been forsaken by the rest of the world. There is a spiritual power there that can not be denied.

By the late 1890's the move over to the dryer and warmer leeward side of Kalaupapa began and the Bishops Home for girls was opened.

We were warned to stay off the roadways since the few patients and residents still there were mostly elderly and those that could, still drove their cars. Some nun driving like a bat out of hell roared down the road and up the driveway of the Bishop Home while we were stopped here.

Simple structures created long ago have begun to show their age. As the population declined with the introduction of new drugs for Hansen's Disease, homes and buildings were left untended.

A very fine house. Like many places in Hawaii cats roamed wild here.

The National Park Service is taking over a lot of the upkeep of an entire small town and has done restoration work on some buildings. This is the town's bookstore.

Before there was leprosy in these islands, there were heiaus used by Hawaiians for their spiritual practices. On Molokai, the island known for magic and sorcery this heiau on the stronghold of the Kalaupapa peninsula could have been a stage of power.

Looking towards Kalawao from the center of the peninsula.

This is where the right hand of Father Damien remains. His body was returned to Belgium in 1936 and his hand was returned to Kalawao in 1995.

St. Philomena Church that Father Damien helped build.

Looking east from Kalawao at the dramatic pali and narrow fertile green valleys of Molokai.

This experience is drenched in religious imagery from an earlier time. That deserves it own post.

In reviewing and editing the 127 pictures I took I noticed that most of the religious iconography is crooked, slightly off true vertical. I have to wonder about my eyesight. I have to wonder about my leanings.

In 1969 the order of quarantine for people with Hansen's Disease was finally lifted.

Time to hike back out. Follow along the shore to the rising half circle of the distinctly lighter colored Kukui Nut trees, then 26 switchbacks and nearly 1700 feet in that green section without the vertical ridge lines to the left of the grey faced cliffs on the right side of the picture. It is only a two hour climb.


Annie in Austin said...

When our family spent a week in Washington DC, back in the early 1990's, we went to the Statuary Hall, and saw a statue of Father Damien
that brought tears to my eyes.

What a stunningly beautiful place you've photographed, Christopher. Your ar is definitely still connected to your ticulate.


Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

The statue of Father Damien is very unique in its stylized form.

Anonymous said...

A fine and informative post.

I can't believe you're thinking of moving from there, though I know that you have your reasons.

I'd move from SW Fla (and plan to, in time) - and many would wonder why?

You'd have to live here, and know Florida "before the great decline" to fully understand. Any other attempts to articulate reasoning for abandoning State fall short.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I feel an incredible comfort when I go to Florida and see the land and forests where I grew up. The trees in particular seem to speak to me. I want to live under trees again.

At the same time I do see "The Great Decline". St. Augustine to Crescent Beach and further south is now one big strip of developement. Gainesville has created a whole new city west of I-75. Jacksonville reaches to Middleburg. I couldn't live there anymore. I don't think I'd survive the humidity now and flat never really appealed to me.

Still WNC where I am moving is experiencing the same thing. You can't really move away from it. Human population growth is a worldwide issue.

At least there I will have a sizeable piece of land on the fringes for now and a good long while I hope of developement.

I wonder how long it will take me in NC to run out of room for my garden?