Hello Friends and Family,

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Moloka`i Seeing Deeply #2

On the second day of our workshop, Eddie gave us our two week-long assignments. The first was to do a study of something — with multiple images of the same thing but seen from different perspectives. Those limited instructions left a lot to the imagination and ingenuity of the workshop participants. The second assignment was to showcase the multiple qualities of light found on Moloka`i.

As was the case each day, the afternoon was for shooting photographs. I already had an idea for the first assignment — a bit quirky but one that amused me. So I headed uphill from the Hui and strolled through this Ironwood forest to my subject, a rock — but a most unusual rock. However, I will hold further discussion of that and my efforts to satisfy the two assignments until a later issue.

What I do want to say is that most people think of Hawai`i as a tropical place full of typically tropical plants. However, for those who have never been there, you must learn that it is much more diverse than that. Ironwood trees are an example of that fact — a tree that resembles a pine tree with very long needle-like leaves. It is not native to Hawai`i but originates in the South Pacific. It was introduced to serve as a windbreak.

One curious aspect of these trees is the seed pod which is generally small — about the size of a dime — and oblong, rather like a grape. It has a rough exterior and surprisingly, resembles a tiny pineapple. In fact, some people use the Ironwood seed pod together with a small sprig of plastic grass to complete that image of a miniature pineapple, selling them to tourists at craft fairs.

Nearby is the overlook for Kalaupapa — the small town on a peninsula that juts out from the sea cliffs along the north side of Moloka`i. These cliffs are the highest in the world, making it quite difficult to travel between Kalaupapa and the rest of Moloka`i.

Thus it became an ideal location to isolate people from the rest of society — in this case people inflicted with leprosy (now called Hansen's Disease) during a time when it was not treatable and people feared contracting the disease from those already suffering. Unfortunately, the isolation was done rather cruelly — victims were taken by boat to the peninsula, kicked off and made to swim ashore. There was no government there — it was, quite honestly, anarchy. In 1873, Father Damien settled there to minister to the residents, eventually contracting the disease himself. He was Canonized by the Catholic Church for his sacrifices.

As time passed, treatments for Hansen's Disease improved and eliminated the need for isolation. In 1969, the State Legislature repealed the law requiring mandatory isolation and the residents were free to leave. However, for many this was their only home for so many years that they chose to stay.

The area is now a national park. No new residents are permitted and the population is declining as the older residents die off — my understanding is that only a handful of residents remain.

You can visit Kalaupapa in several ways. One of the most colorful is riding a mule down the switchback trails. Their web site says that "2.9 mile trail, with 26 switchbacks, leaves most folks absolutely speechless". I fully expect that is true.

I have visited Kalaupapa about 15 years ago — but I flew in. It is quite an interesting place to visit with a tremendous sense of history. I highly recommend it, regardless of your choice of transportation.

After visiting the overlook, I decided to continue my exploration of the beaches on the west end. Some of my fellow students had planned to go down there and I fully expected to encounter them after I arrived and started wondering about. However, I didn't see anyone I knew but that was not a deterrence.

This is the beach at the now-closed Kaluakoi Resort. It is a beautiful spot even if the golf course is all brown and the grounds of the resort are in disrepair.

Of course, a surfer doesn't much care how the land looks as long as he can find waves like this. You may note that it is getting later in the afternoon and the sky is beginning to exhibit a trace of sunset colors.

However, there was enough light left to continue to explore the less-traveled beaches — this one just north of the Kaluakoi Resort. Interesting, not many footprints — just a double set leading across the beach. Oh, maybe these are some of my fellow students.

So I wondered over and nope — don't know these folks but it looks like they are getting well acquainted with some humongous waves.

I continued my exploration to the next beach beyond and WOW, it was breathtaking! No footprints in the sand. A huge sheer cliff. It was like I was the first person to ever see this scene.

Intellectually, I knew that was not the case — but it sure felt that way. I could have stayed here for hours — or even overnight — but, since it was late in the day, I decided it was best to turn around and head back to the Hui.

On the way back, the winds must have picked up because I was privileged to observe some incredible waves.

Near the end of my return hike, I caught this beach scene with a solitary person watching the sun go down. I particularly like this photo because it almost looks like the old sepia tone prints — even though it is really modern digital color (and not altered in Photoshop). Way cool — and a wonderful conclusion to a great day of photography.

Life is good.

B. David