November 17, 1999   Home  Teahouse   Features    Commentary    Poetry  Horoscopes   Ad Info

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Yin and Yang:
Balance and
Opposites
in Asia Pacifica

Natural Wonders
on Hawai`i's
Big Island

 

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Natural Wonders of Hawai`i's Big Island
 

Hawai`i, the island from which the island chain get its name, bears the marks of the volcano goddess Pele. Also, know as the Big Island, Hawai`i is an island of remarkable contrast. 

 Large sections of the land are covered in the solidified black lava that has issued from Pele’s home at Kilauea and from other volcanic hotspots on the island. In contrast, there are lush and bamboo forests and most of the place wafts with the scent of fragrant flowers. 

 In Hawaiian legend, the Big Island was the scene of a battle between Pele and Kamapua`a, the pig-man demigod. Kamapua`a represented almost the exact opposite of Pele. 

While the latter was associated with fire, eruptions and destruction, the pig god was the deity of agriculture and the fertilizing rains. 

 Kamapua’a was also associated with the sea, and the meeting of Pele’s hot lava with the seawater symbolizes both the conflict and eventual mating of the deities. It turns out that after a battle caused by Pele’s ignoring the advances of the pig deity, the two finally agree to get married.  In a sense, the story of Kamapua`a and Pele is the story of the natural history of Big Island. 

At Kilauea, one pays homage to Pele at 
Halemaumau, the crater home of the goddess and her family. From this area of utter desolation, one can see smoke issuing up from the earth. When Mark Twain visited here, the crater was full of lava. One feels here the great power stored within the earth. 

 But not far away one is able to hike in fairly well preserved forests which Kamapua`a has been able to protect. In the big battle, the pig god used his various plant forms to stop the lava flows of Pele. The opposition of the natural forces of growth and destruction are interlaced into the great Hawaiian epic. 

As one heads north and passes the city of Hilo, which has barely escaped destruction by Kilauea on a few occasions, the stunning Akaka Falls reside.  Here one finds spectacular bamboo forests filled with flowers along the trek to the sacred site. 

 Akaka Falls is sacred to Kamapua’a and generally was considered “kapu” to the god.  The term kapu refers to a place that is forbidden to some due to spiritual sanctions. 

 When one compares the lush greenery of Akaka to the craters of Kilauea, the contrasts become yet clearer. 

 And throughout the islands one sees this meeting of opposites, which so often results in vivid surroundings. In Waipi`o Valley, a place sacred and kapu to the god Lono, green mountains bedecked with necklace-like waterfalls are lined by black sand beaches.  The black sand, of course, is a product of Pele’s hot temper. And the battle continues. 
 
 

 


Hawai`i's Waipio Valley
 
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