why do writers…write?

 I’ve come across two quotes that seem to go hand-in-glove in describing writers.

The first is that of Anton Chekov, renowned Russian author. It was shared by http://www.livesimpletheblog.wordpress.com

…people who lead a lonely existence always have something on their minds that they are eager to talk about…

The second is a line spoken by Walt Disney to author P.L. Travers in the film Saving Mr. Banks.

Our stories are redemptive. That’s what we story tellers do. We restore order with imagination.  We instill hope again and again and again.

According to psychotherapist Linda Hoff-Hagensick at http://www.marriagetherapy101.blogspot.com,

Both P.L.Travers and Walt Disney found redemption and healing for their childhood pain through telling their stories through the magical lenses of their characters.

I think it’s fair to say that writers can lead a lonely existence given their need for isolation while getting in touch with their creative genius. I wonder how long C.K. Rowlings kept her own company while knocking off volume after volume of the iconic Harry Potter? 

Judging from my own experience, words can haunt a writer’s every thought. Not until allowed to escape the confines of the mind, will the words give a writer some peace, if only for a few moments.

So for me, it’s not that I seek solitude, it’s that my constant companions, my thoughts,  long to escape into print. They do not relish captivity; rather, they long for escape. Escape into the light of day. It’s my task to arrange them into some coherent story that others might want to read. And that, as every writer knows, takes time and…solitude. 

In recent months I’ve taken to having my laptop on the kitchen island so that I can write in between my other duties as a housewife. Of this relocation from the dining room table to my current station, my daughter lovingly commented “You really are a writer!”

I often wish I could ignore other duties and interests, and simply write the book that’s still on hold in my brain. Actually, there are a handful waiting to be written. For me however, life is too precious to let slip away for hours, days, weeks, even months at a time.

One day soon, I’ll see my way clear to balancing both. Until then, blogging remains an excellent outlet.

Storytellers come in all shapes and sizes. What they have in common is the desire to express their thoughts and feelings in a comprehensive manner. The icing on the cake is to capture the attention of an audience of readers or listeners. To bring them along on a  journey, whether it’s into familiar territory or uncharted terrain.

Writers are usually inspired by strong feelings about the environment in which they live. Whether it’s physical or psychological. Whether it exists in the past,the present, or the future. Whether it’s just a fantastical concoction of their imaginations. Or whether it’s a little bit of everything.

Like Disney I prefer writing redemptive stories, where chaos is banished, order restored, and hope is renewed. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of Tinker Bell and her magical fairy dust. I like to think it represents…

…never ending hope…

………hugmamma…and tinker bell.

...sprinkling fairy dust for hugmamma...

…sprinkling fairy dust for hugmamma…

 

 

“A Correction, From Carlton to Carleton”

…an inspiration for those of us who hope to write forever…
………hugmamma.

98 Years Old and Still Writing: Okie's Poems

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An experience Okie had, while in her 80’s.
(Okie is now 96 years old)
Okie prefers that her writing be shown and read in her own handwriting
(a typed up copy is far below, for those with smaller computer screens)

~

~

Okie, changing road sign from Carlton to Carleon

Okie changing the road sign

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Note added by Kathy: the post on that road sign was unusually high, probably so that the snow plow drivers could see over larger snow banks that get very high at that intersection. The sign post was much higher than normal road signs!….all the more remarkable to even have a tall enough ladder  and THEN to actually climb that high on it…particularly for a person in her 80’s.

~

Carleton Road Sanbornton NH

~

 here’s a computer created graphic, superimposed on a photo of CARLETON Rd.

Okie Carleton Road sign 4

~

A typed up copy of Okie’s writing, in case people are viewing on smaller computer monitors

Carleton Road, Meredith NH, changing the road sign

~

!wow!
Has anyone noticed…

View original post 34 more words

weekly writing challenge: dna analysis

I’m a comic.

No. Not the Sunday news kind or the Superman kind, but the stand up kind. My daughter threatens to follow me around with a video, recording me as I mouth one-liners. And, of course, you know what comes next? She wants to share me with the world by uploading the video to YouTube! Yeah, right! Like that’s ever going to happen.

Superman

It’s not what you’re thinking, that I’m shy or humble. Heck no! It’s because neither of us knows how to upload a video onto YouTube. We’ve got the brains…we just lack the motivation. 

Funny thing about being funny. It just comes naturally, for me at least. I can’t remember anyone else in my family being funny. With 9 kids to raise after my dad died, funny was probably the furthest thing from my mom’s mind. Most likely she was thinking…life sucks…those stupid kids…I gotta get me some…I need a drink.

My siblings can be funny, when they’re not reminding me that they’re older and smarter. My brother Ed never does that though. He knows I’m smarter. I’ve got a college degree to prove it. Even though I know diddly-squat about computers, something at which Ed’s been working for 40+ years, only retiring a couple of years ago. And when it comes to being funny, he just had to open his mouth and cackle, and I was on the ground laughing my head off while holding my pee. A couple of missing teeth in his wide grin was enough to set me off.

Adolf Hitler, head-and-shoulders portrait, fac...

Talking about toothless grins. My once exuberant smile is nearly nonexistent now, unless I’m with close friends and family. That’s about 4 people.  You see, I’m in the midst of a tooth implant. Since it’s a couple of teeth back from the front left side, my smile is the length of Hitler‘s mustache. Get the picture? I could wear the retainer which the dentist made for me. It’s got my old tooth where my new crown will be. I’d have my old smile back, but then I’d have to take the retainer off every time I ate. You can see my dilemma…smile or eat…smile or eat…smile or eat. My ingenious solution? I eat during the day…and I smile when I go to bed at night. My husband likes my smile, although he wishes I wouldn’t wake him up to look at me…smiling.

It could be said that I cornered the market on funny because my siblings beat me to everything else…beauty…brains…brawn…booze. Being the youngest, I had to settle for the leftovers. Except there were no leftovers. So I went outside my family and found…funny. 

I probably caught the bug when black-and-white TV was invented. I learned funny from the masters…Laurel and Hardy…The Three Stooges…I Love Lucy…The Honeymooners…Abbott and Costello…George Burns and Gracie Allen…Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter, Milton Berle, and Jack Benny

Lucy watches Little Ricky's birthday party fro...

Lucy watches Little Ricky’s birthday party from the window ledge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or maybe I decided to be funny as an attention-getter. My friends and classmates thought I was hilarious when I fooled around, making goofy faces and spinning tales that were only half true. 

Once during elementary school I told a fib that back-fired. I did it to gain popularity among my classmates but wound up making enemies instead. I don’t remember what the lie was; I only remember crying and sweating…profusely. I forgot to mention one minor detail…I was in Catholic school where the nuns taught us…not to lie. I must’ve been MIA during those lectures. 

I was cured of fibbing, but I went on being funny. Like the time I pulled a papaya tree completely out of the ground. I didn’t plan to, of course. It just happened while my best friend and I were taking a breather from hunting down a litter of stray kittens in a neighbor’s backyard. I leaned against the skinny fruit tree, wrapping my arms around its trunk. When I moved to leave…the tree came with me. We had a hard time “replanting” it, especially since we were laughing so hard. We finally leaned the papaya tree against another one nearby, and ran like the dickens before the homeowners found us trespassing on their property. The hard-working Japanese couple might have beaten us with their shovels! Can you blame them? Of course I never did tell my mom. She would’ve beaten me for sure.

My daughter thinks I’m at my funniest now, when I’m on a rolling laugh. It only happens with her. One of us starts laughing, then the other. Then it’s as though we’re hitting a ping pong ball back and forth over the net. It’s even more hilarious when we’re on our cell phones. Using TANGO, we get glimpses up each other’s nostrils or deep inside our cavernous mouths. Jiggling our phones as we rock back and forth with uproarious laughter, we catch site of pimples…blackheads…”crow’s feet”…snot…drool…perspiration…smudged eyeliner. Not a pretty sight, I guarantee you. But one worth all the gold in Fort Knox

…a 27 year-old daughter cracking up at her 64 year-old mother’s…funniness.

………hugmamma. 

Papaya trees

Papaya trees (Photo credit: 4nitsirk)

let your spirits…soar

Storytellers abound. All we need do is pause, breathe deeply…and listen.

Sometimes it also helps…to open our eyes.

As with the story of an 80 year-old, deaf Canadian whose canvas is the sky and whose paint brushes are…kites.

His “artwork” draws applause…in the form of hands held high…so he can see and know…that an appreciative audience is thrilled by his artistry.

One kite in each of his hands…and one tied to his waist…the “artist,” skin leathery from hundreds of hours in the sun…”paints” like the great master he is.

The accompanying music combines to create…a beautiful ballet, whose movement…even my daughter would relish applying to dance.

…simply…breathtaking…

………hugmamma.

changing things up…2013

Now that a dusting of snow has settled upon us like a wintry blanket, and holiday memories fade into the background, the time has come to think of new beginnings.

Of course some things never change. We can only hope to manage them better. Such as the arthritis in my lower back and at the base of my right thumb.

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarenc...

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarence Odbody in It’s a Wonderful Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s about aging gracefully…until “a bell rings”…and this broad’s wonderful life becomes…heavenly. I’m thinking of George’s guardian angel, Clarence, of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Having saved George from committing suicide, Clarence is finally awarded his wings.

I’ve so much more of life to sample. Older age is not…a death knell.

However doing nothing to revitalize ourselves can deprive us of sunshine and passion. And I’m not referring to citrus fruits. Although I’m hell-bent on downing more of them each week.

Promises! Promises!

With the advent of the New Year, however, I have kept one long-standing resolution.

I’ve gone back to college! Who’d have thought?!?

Yesterday was my first Creative Writing class.

I must admit to being slightly intimidated, uncertain as to the level of writers I’d encounter. Fortunately I met a fellow classmate in the hallway prior to entering the room. She calmed my nerves considerably.

A fixture in the class for 15 years, 74 year-old Gail assured me that I would be nurtured, not judged, by our instructor Doris and the other students.

Two hours flew by, unlike my younger years in a classroom. I can remember watching the clock in those days, willing its hands to pick up speed.

Interesting how age reverses our perception of things.

Listening to others read what they’d written, was akin to feeling the rush of cold, fresh air bursting through unlatched windows.

Yanna, a musician, wrote the most soulful piece about her beloved dog, the surrogate child unto whom she pours all her pent-up, maternal feelings.

Helen, who recently returned from visiting her native South Africa, shared intimate memories of a 95 year-old friend who died. Through Helen’s writing, we came to know a woman whose life had resembled a precious gem…preserved in its natural beauty, not having yet been mined.

I have deep admiration for an 88 year-old who has been Doris’ student for the last 5 years.

Pat is writing her memoirs, hoping to publish them in a book. Her story promises to reveal her family’s hardships and heartaches in the aftermath of their mother’s death, and the subsequent inability of their father to parent.

To write is to tell one’s story. We are all storytellers. We are all writers.

…resolve to write your story…make it your new year’s resolution

………hugmamma.   🙂

in the spotlight…stories

Regular readers to my blog will have noticed that I’ve recently been reblogging posts from around the Word Press community. These are from folks…friends, really…who have generously spent time visiting  hugmamma’s, mind, body, and soul. I’ve returned the favor, as often as possible, to read their stories.

Spotlight on The Shadows

Spotlight on The Shadows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been moved to spotlight some of them here. I’m sure you’ll agree…they’re worth reading…or watching. Hopefully they touch you in some way. Whether they inspire, tweak your funny bone, are thought-provoking, or just plain…entertain.

…my gift…to you…wonderful stories…worth retelling…

………hugmamma.   🙂

…life is but a dream…

I never know what I’ll find when I venture forth into the wide world of WordPress. Actually, much of my wandering is prompted by visitors who find me, or my blog…hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul.

Storytellers abound in the blogosphere; many of them wonderful writers to boot. One such is “based on a true story” at http://currierose.wordpress.com. On a recent visit I learned that Currie Rose is taking a sabbatical from her blog. I’m certain many of us question the authenticity of our lives from time to time.

Am I doing what I should be doing? For whose benefit, mine or others? Am I being honest with myself, or am I revealing what I think others want to hear?

It’s good to step back, and reassess where it is one stands. I’ve done that, not so much as a preplanned decision but more as the result of other things that needed my undivided attention.

Whatever the reason it’s good to live life, seeing where the next bend in the road takes us.

In bidding us farewell for a time, Currie Rose offered up a goodbye song on youtube. As it turns out I found another song more appropriate to my feelings as I continue wending my way through life. Though reminiscent of childhood days long gone, its message is timeless. See if you agree…

The Carl J. B. and Olive Currie Rose Fund assu...

The Carl J. B. and Olive Currie Rose Fund assures that all patients receive a red rose upon admittance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Carl J. B. and Olive Currie Rose Fund assures that all patients receive a red rose upon admittance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…go with the flow…life will lead…………hugmamma.

braggarts???

Mother-Teresa-collage

A very telling article appeared in today’s copy of the Wall Street Journal. It probably applies to all of us who weren’t created from the same mold as Mother Theresa.

While the writer has a point, it’s my humble opinion that we talk about ourselves as a means of ensuring our legacy. If not us, who? Ninety-nine percent of us will never do anything to see our names lit up on a Times Square marquee.

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th ...

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A trait  we inherited from our prehistoric ancestors, storytelling is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. And that we get to be the protagonists of our own stories…hey! everybody’s got a chance to be the star. So like I tell my daughter when she prepares for a performance, “Star in whatever role you’re dancing.”

Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much
by Robert Lee Hotz

     Talking about ourselves–whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter–triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money, researchers reported Monday.
     About 40% of everyday speech is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think. Now, through five brain imaging and behavioral experiments, Harvard University neuroscientists have uncovered the reason: It feels so rewarding, at the level of brain cells and synapses, that we can’t help sharing our thoughts.
     “Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Ms. Tamir said.
     To assess people’s inclination for what the researchers call “self disclosure,” they conducted laboratory tests to see whether people placed an unusually high value on the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. They also monitored brain activity among some volunteers to see what parts of the brain were most excited when people talked about themselves as opposed to other people. The dozens of volunteers were mostly Americans who lived near the university.
     In several tests, they offered the volunteers money if they chose to answer questions about other people, such as President Obama, rather than about themselves, paying out on a sliding scale of up to four cents. Questions involved casual matters such as whether someone enjoyed snowboarding or liked mushrooms on a pizza. Other queries involved personality traits, such as intelligence, curiosity or aggression.
     Despite the financial incentive, people often preferred to talk about themselves and willingly gave up between 17% and 25% of their potential earnings, so they could reveal personal information. “We joked that this was the penny for your thoughts study,” Ms. Tamir said.
     In related tests, the scientists used a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which tracks changes in blood flow between neurons associated with mental activity, to see what parts of the brain responded most strongly when people talked about their own beliefs and options, rather than speculating about other people.
     Generally, acts of self disclosure were accompanied by spurts of heightened activity in brain regions belonging to the meso-limbic dopamine system, which is associated with the sense of reward and satisfaction from food, money or sex.
     “It rings true to me,” said psychologist James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin, who studies how people handle secrets and self-disclosure, but was not involved in the project. “We love it if other people listen to us. Why else would you tweet?”

I’ll bet Ms. Tamir and Mr. Mitchell smiled broadly when they saw their names in the Journal this morning. Instead of being buried in some musty scientific archive, their research results are national news. I cheer them, along with their colleagues, teachers, friends and family. After all, they’re only human…

…just like the rest of us…

 

………hugmamma.   😉

 

Twitter 6x6

Twitter 6×6 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)

 

daily post challenge: what prompts me to create…to write?

I’m a storyteller. Aren’t we all? I think what I have to share is worth sharing. I don’t know of too many people who feel differently about themselves.

Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great ...

Image via Wikipedia

I want my turn at the soap box on the corner, where I can spew nonsense, or platitudes, or gut-wrenching experiences. Who doesn’t do that, every day?

I’m looking for an audience, beyond my immediate family, who’ll nod in agreement, offer sympathy, or call me a genius. Don’t tell me you don’t have those same fantasies?

Escaping the reality of housework, endless meal preparations, weekly laundering, tending the garden…other good reasons…to create…to write. Surely you have your own list of reasons to seek some respite in more pleasurable past-times.

We’re human beings, after all. We’re not mythological gods who manipulated fate on a whim. Nor are we members of the lesser species whose only business is to survive. We must carve out our own legacies…with our own hands…with our own creative juices.

My professional career was spent behind a desk, several in fact, from Hawaii to Washington D.C. to Boston to New York. During that entire time, the artist in me lingered in the shadows, while my more practical side set about to conquer the world. Well, maybe just a fraction of it.

Now the only desk I enjoy sitting at is the one on which my laptop sits. And any desk will do…

…as long as I can write………hugmamma.

365 photo challenge: touching

We were out and about yesterday, “making hay while the sun shone,” as the saying goes. Here in the Seattle area we have to take advantage of every sunny day. We don’t get that many. I think our summer season began a few days ago. At a local mall, I stopped to snap this photo. My subjects were a little reluctant…until they saw the finished product. They agreed it was touching, after I told them the story that went along with it.

I remember a doting father who would proudly hoist his precious, little daughter onto his broad shoulders, carrying her everywhere we went. And when we visited the zoo, any zoo, he would eagerly show her the animals pacing back and forth in their habitats…including the long-necked giraffes. With broad smiles and laughing eyes, father and daughter would be lost in a world of their own making…whether gazing at wildlife…or playing “Pretty, Pretty Princess” when dad would dress up in hat, jewelry and purse…or building an igloo in our front yard in frigid, Connecticut temperatures…or swimming like fish in the warm Hawaiian waters during visits with family.

Sitting side-by-side today, painted giraffe looking down…a knowing smile upon its lips, daughter and pops, with their cheshire smiles, still share their own secret world…where mom can only guess what they’re thinking. Are they saying “cheese” for the camera? Or are they agreeing that…mom’s a goofball?

and will i ever know?…or are they too loving…to say?………hugmamma.  😉

freshly pressed…i nominate

I’ve made peace with never making “Freshly Pressed.” There are hundreds of thousands of blogs from which to choose, and WordPress has its guidelines. It’s likely that my blog doesn’t meet their expectations of the best. And I’m certain readers have a say in what topics appeal. Nonetheless, I will continue to blog as long as my passion for it persists…and my words make sense to the readers who frequent hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul. So heartfelt thanks to those of you who still find value in my stories.

PhotoHowever, if I were able to nominate a blog for WordPress’s highest award “Freshly Pressed,” I would select murphysrun. Relatively new to our community of bloggers, its writer brings, what I consider, a unique twist to storytelling. A professional photographer, with representation in an art gallery, he is taking a turn at raising his 3 young children. A considerable asset to his wife in that respect, my new friend brings poignant insight into child-rearing from a man’s vantage point. And what a perspective it is. A witty writer who is not afraid of inserting sentimentality wherever appropriate, he is a good person, doting father and loving partner.

Equal Parenting Alliance

Image via Wikipedia

Murphysrun is crisp, engaging, fun, happy, introspective. He writes for everyman…who is a husband…and a father. But I must admit…he even writes for everywoman…who is a partner…and a parent. We have formed a bond, he at one end of the age spectrum, me at the other. He is facing the challenges of raising children; I’m an empty-nester. His life experiences are different from mine because of our gender, our geographical and cultural backgrounds, and our professional career paths.

What hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul and murphysrun have in common are the telling of stories, life stories, about loved ones and the values instilled in us, and which we hope to instill in our offspring, and which we also share with others in support of their own lives. My blogging friend and I speak with passion and compassion, fervor and hope, and positive voices that might be heard above the din of negative ones.

i highly recommend you visit http://murphysrun.wordpress.com/ …stories of everyday life…which might also be entitled…life with father…or is that too vintage?…more my time?…hugmamma.

each with a story to tell…

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a favorite jazz station, the music playing in the background. I remember nothing else the deejay said except that each of us is looking to tell our own story. Those words have stayed with me, coming to the forefront when I listen to other people speak, whether in person, on TV, on the radio, or read what they’ve written, or what’s written about them.

It’s as though I’m watching a larger-than-life screening of “This is your life!”, a TV reality show from the 50’s, hosted by Ralph Edwards. Using a scrapbook with photos from the person’s life throughout the years, Edwards surprised the person whose life was featured, with people from his or her past. While not exactly the same, I tend to listen to someone’s story as though I’m looking through a View Master…one slide at a time…click, click…click, click.

I think perhaps we’re all looking for legitimacy. We want to make sure we’ve made our mark, before exiting this life. We want someone to remember that we were here. So we tell our own story…every day. The trick is getting others to listen. And the only way we know for sure is if they engage in conversation…telling us their story. And so it goes…back and forth…round and round.

The main characters of the show. (Background, ...

Image via Wikipedia

While most of us engage in modest storytelling, there are those who have taken it to a whole other level…on reality TV. The Kardashians have allowed us to move in with them, and as a result we’re privvy to their successes, and their foibles. In The Biggest Loser the challengers look to us for support and compassion as they wage a desperate fight against obesity. Even in the sitcom Everybody Loves RaymondRay Romano encourages us to laugh at his display of idiocy. I’ve heard much of it is reflective of his true self. Maybe he loves playing the fool. Nothing wrong with that. It’s his story, after all.

Blogging is a very good example of storytelling. We’re all telling our own life stories…in our own way…on our own terms…in our own good time. I don’t think we intentionally write to be validated; but we like it when we are. Storytelling is like reruns of our favorite TV show, mine being I Love Lucy. We never tire of telling our favorites. If you’ve read hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul from its inception, you’ve heard me relate some of my stories…

time………and time………again………hugmamma.     

“big aunty” levitates, “trick-or-treat?”

As Halloween’s ghostly hour draws near, prepare yourself for some true-to-life, Hawaiian storytelling. Granted, it’s from accumulated memories, some mine, some my mom’s, and some from my older siblings. A very superstitious people, belief in the supernatural is inherent in our culture. While native Hawaiians today may not speak of the religion of our ancestors, most, including myself, won’t dispute what we were told. I’m certain it’s the same with descendants of other native people, whose beliefs were so closely intertwined with nature.

When I was a pre-teen, I met “big-aunty” for the first time. I’d heard tales about her, so I imagined she’d look and act like a mean, ugly old woman, a hag, a witch. I dreaded having to look at her, scared to death that she’d cast her malevolent eye upon me. I didn’t want to touch any part of her, not even shake her hand. I was baptized a Catholic, but as a frightened kid, I wasn’t sure my religion was going to protect me from a relative imbued with supernatural powers. In truth, I don’t think we children even spoke of “big aunty,” fearful that even our words would draw her attention, and bad luck would befall us.

With great anticipation, and some anxiety, I looked forward to finally meeting our family “Kahuna,” the witch doctor. At a cousin’s high school graduation reception at his parent’s home, my mom introduced me to “big aunty.” If my memory serves me right, my mom’s attitude seemed reverential, as if deferring to someone of higher standing. 

The eyes that greeted mine reminded me of the sea as it washes up onto black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. While her stare seemed able to penetrate right through me, I felt as though I were gazing into eyes that were dull, dead. I think she was in her 80’s at the time. But I was captivated by my “big aunty’s” small stature, and soft, gentle countenance, framed by thinning, white hair, cut short. By comparison, her younger sister, my mom, was broader, towering over her older sibling by several inches. At that moment, I feared my mom more than my aunt. Strange, I thought, how different the real person, from the one I’d imagined all those years.

Caught up in the celebration, and wanting to hang out with my boy cousins, Lincoln and Martin, whom I rarely ever saw, I didn’t engage in much conversation with “big aunty.” She, of course, spent most of her time mingling with the other adults. From time to time, I would seek her out, just to be near her. Her charisma was evident, even when she was still. In her presence, I felt no evil, only goodness. But I knew from my mom that “kahunas” possessed both; they could cast good spells, and bad ones. They could also remove spells cast by other “kahunas.”

An older brother and sister were favorites of  “big aunty,” from what I’ve been told. Because there were so many of us, she would have them spend the summers with her in Kahakuloa on Maui. While tourists are able to visit that coastal village today, roads were almost nonexistent in the old days. Of packed dirt, they were difficult to travel, especially when heavy rains eroded the soil, leaving behind deep ruts. Electricity did not exist, so nights were lit by kerosene lamps. I can remember only a couple of occasions when I visited the home built by “big aunty’s” oldest son. Being the youngest in my family, I always went with my mom. Thank God! Nights in that house by the beach, scared the living day lights out of me!

There were no screens on the windows, so I’d lay awake watching the flimsy, homemade, cotton, print curtains gently swaying in the breeze. Humid, the still air would make falling asleep difficult, especially with one whose imagination was as active as mine. I’m sure I lay there bug-eyed, anticipating what might happen at any moment.  Listening to the smooth pebbles that blanketed the nearby shore, tumbling over one another as the waves washed over them, added to my insomnia. On one such night as I’ve described, something did happen.

I was but a child, not allowed, and probably not inclined, to witness as much as the adults. But I still remember the overwhelming sense that things were not right, not good, not holy. We were awaken by “big aunty’s” children, whom we kids called aunty and uncle because they were near my mom’s age, even though they were her nephew and niece-in-law. I’m not positive, but I think my two siblings directly above me in age, were with my mom and me.

As the kerosene lamp cast eerie shadows in the darkness, I could hear the adults speaking in hushed, frantic whispers. Beads of sweat appeared upon my mom’s brow; fear showing in her eyes. Uncle left the room, as mom and aunty continued talking in barely audible voices. “Big aunty” was mentioned throughout the conversation. It seemed something was happening that involved her. I think we kids were told to go back to sleep, when they left the bedroom. Easier said than done.

Other than seeing the adults’ reaction, the only picture framed in my memory is the one I have looking out the window at a shack set back towards the edge of the property, which belonged to “big aunty.” I don’t think she lived there, but she would ensconce herself in the shack for days at a time. On this particular night, I could see images walking back and forth inside the shack. For some reason, the light emanating from within was bright, not like the dimly lit rooms in the main house. I don’t know who the figures were. I don’t think they included my mom, aunt and uncle. It seems to me they were watching from elsewhere in the house, that they were not with “big aunty.” My sense was they were staying clear of what was occurring in the shack. The only other thing I remember before finally succumbing to sleep, is hearing wails coming from the shack, ungodly cries. Now, in the comfort of older age and the safety of my home, I can wish I’d been a “fly on the wall” of the shack. Back then I wished we would have gotten the h— out of there.

The next morning at the breakfast table, the adults were still speaking in quiet voices. From what they said, I gathered “big aunty” was exhausted, worn out from the previous evenings occurrences. I don’t remember if we saw her before leaving Kahakuloa later that day. In fact, we may have driven off after breakfast, my mom not wanting to remain any longer than necessary.

Whether I overheard or was told, it seems a woman had visited “big aunty” in the middle of the night. Looking to enlist her help, the woman asked that a curse be placed upon her husband, or the woman with whom he was having an affair. Evidently “big aunty” consented, and what took place involved her levitating off the ground.

From what I understand, “big aunty” derived her powers from the devil. They were “held” within a “special, blue rock” secreted away in a cave in the side of the mountain, overlooking her shack. There was one particular story which my child’s imagination could vividly picture, when it was told to me.

During my childhood, tsunamis seemed commonplace. As my older sister, beloved by “big aunty” told the story, the sea had rolled back toward the horizon, exposing the ocean floor, a normal phenomenon with tidal waves. When the waters thundered back towards the shoreline, they split in time to spare a cow tied to a palm tree in front of my uncle’s home and “big aunty’s” shack. The waters circumvented the buildings as they continued thrashing forward, wreaking havoc everywherelse. I would liked to have been standing alongside my relatives as they witnessed the extraordinary event, from high atop the mountain.

Before “big aunty” died, she attempted to pass her powers along to her beloved nephew, my older brother. My older sister, of whom I’ve spoken, had called my mom from Honolulu, where she and my brother lived in neighboring apartments. He was sick with cold sweats and fever. At night when the moon was full, he claimed to see a spirit enter through an open window, coming to rest on top of his chest. He felt its full weight as it tried to squeeze the life out of him. I think this happened more than once. With the break of dawn, the apparition disappeared. When my mom heard this, she called “big aunty’s” family right away. From them she learned that her sister was very sick. Phoning my sister with the news, she was ordered not to let my brother return to Maui.

My mom felt that “big aunty” wanted my brother by her side before she died, that she wanted to tell him where to look for the “special” rock, wanting him to carry on as “kahuna.” A devout Catholic after converting to my father’s religion, my mom had no desire to have dealings with the devil, or have any of her children involved either. When my brother did not fly home to Maui, I think “big aunty” got better, and so did my brother. I’m not certain when she died, but she did so without passing her powers onto anyone, that I know. Unless she found someonelse, the rock remains hidden in the cave to this day.

I’m as dedicated to my Catholic beliefs, as my mom was when she lived. But like her, I’m a native very respectful of my Hawaiian heritage. As I get older, my roots seem even more deeply embedded in the soil of my culture. When I visit sacred grounds or spend the night lodged near sea cliffs, the hairs on my neck stand up, and I sense, and feel things that others don’t, not even my husband or daughter.  It’s as though spirits of my ancestors know I feel their presence, that I’m sensitive, a potential “medium.” It may be my imagination playing tricks upon me, but my family history makes me feel otherwise.

“Big aunty” wasn’t the only purveyor of curses; my mom would herself seek the help of “others” when she felt someone had put a spell on her. I’m not sure if they were “kahunas,” but they had influence over my mom for sure. I recall that she would refer to those she saw as “holy” people who would “lay their hands upon her,” blessing her, removing any evil.

There were times when my mom would drive to a lady’s home in Iao Valley, after picking me up from school. She’d disappear into the house for hours, while I waited in the car doing my homework, eventually curling up to take a nap. When my mom returned, she’d either recovered from whatever ailed her, or murmured worriedly that it would take time for things to sort themselves out. I never asked what she meant; I don’t think I really wanted to know. Taught by priests and nuns, I couldn’t reconcile my mom’s superstitious practices with my Catholic school upbringing. But the passing of years has a way of altering one’s perspective.

Maturity, motherhood, and a lifetime of experiences changed my perception of what was, and what is. I can accept, in fact cherish, being a native Hawaiian, and all that encompasses. Yet I can still worship God who, in His generosity, created all of us to live our best lives with what He has given us, including nature, its inhabitants and their habitats. God did not tell us how to live, just that we live. He gave us “free will;” and he will determine if we did the best we could.

proud of my heritage, including “big aunty”…hugmamma.