Friday, May 16, 2008

Hawaii Story 3

When I was seven, my Auntie Maggie and Uncle Clarence Ho'opi'i came to visit us in North Dakota. They were from Hawaii and they brought three of my cousins who turned out to be a lot of fun and a hoot to play with. One summer afternoon while seated gracefully on our living room floor, lovely Aunt Maggie told all us girls it was time for a dance lesson. My cousins knew a lot already about the basics even though they were five, four and two years old respectively. My four year old sister, Frances, and I knew nothing, even though we had heard all our dad's hawaiian records for as long as we lived. My six year old brother, John, sat down on the living room couch, ready to make fun of our show. Dad sat next to him, admonishing me and my sister to listen and remember everything our Auntie Maggie taught us, that she is one of Maui's best.

I was excited, I had no idea what we were doing. There was some dancing when we visited Maui when I was five, but I wasn't paying attention. So I had a vague idea where this might be going. What surprised me is that Auntie Maggie had us start with our feet. Our feet? I remembered in the island that there was a lot of arm and hip movement, but nothing about feet. Auntie Maggie explained all hula grows from the position of our feet. So she had us silently standing straight with our feet pointing forward, wanting us correct our posture and hold our heads upright. No looking down at our feet.

She had us take one step to the side, then bring the other foot together. Then back again. We practiced this a lot. Then two steps to the one side, then two steps to the other. Slide. She then showed us how hula grows from the position of our feet. As she took her two steps sideways, her hip slowly followed forward, then back, rolling like the ocean. At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. Auntie Maggie had a talent that I could not see me ever having. And for the first time, as she concentrated on me more than my younger sister and cousins, I felt the pressure of having to be the eldest and do something perfectly.

The next lesson was about the arms. The arms! My favorite part. She showed us two basic movements, one depicting a coconut tree and the other gentle waves on a beach. The hard part was putting the arms and feet and hips in a dance together. After awhile, I finally caught on, but it wasn't easy. With my dad sitting there, my sister and cousins following me, my brother ready to laugh at me and Mom watching, it seemed like a whole lot of pressure. I was not famous for being co-ordinated. But Auntie Maggie seemed to like what I was doing, and was extremely patient until she got the result she wanted.

She then broke out in a demonstration of what hula was about. In our living room, dressed in white slacks and a pale pink sleeveless collared blouse, looking like a very contemporary 1960's young slim Hawaiian mother, she became the expression of what Hawaiian culture is all about. It was about love, nature, history and family. Nothing was hurried, she took her time and time stood still. Even in the muggy heat of a Dakotan summer in our living room, we were back in Maui as I discovered the possibility of actually being in two entirely different places at the same time. One you carry in your heart.

Being a Christian is a lot like this. We live here, but we also have a different spiritual kingdom ruled by God that we co-exist in.

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