Take Me Back to Dakine

Sunsets Over the Ocean.jpg
Home, home, home

When you live in two places at once, culture shock is inevitable. Every time I’m home, whether that’s at Saint Martin’s, or in Kula, Maui, I re-adjust to a different way of doing things. Sometimes the differences are obvious, like remembering to grab a jacket on my way out the door, and sometimes they’re more subtle, like thinking that the TV is too loud after months of listening to everything at the lowest possible volume.


In both cases, it’s the little things that take me by surprise. Like how the smell of jasmine tea reminds me of the tuberose I used to have outside my bedroom window. Or how durring summer, I still end up wearing red on a Wednesday.

Since I’ve been home, I have been enjoying re-acclimating to my Maui home once more. The Jacaranda trees in full bloom, the Jackson chameleons crawling on the trees, every vista and view that I am privileged to take in, all remind me of how lucky I am that every year I get to see Maui with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here are some of my favorite things to come home to every year, and along the way, enjoy some of my favorite views of Maui…

You can tell it’s going to rain, not by a smell, or by looking at the sky, but by the feeling in the air…

Iao Needle just before the rain came down

The first week I was home, we saw nothing but rain. I woke up to sunny blue skies, but by noon, the sky darkened, and rain fell for the rest of the day.


But when you grow up in a tropical environment, rain is different. Instead of a perpetual downpour, the rain is gentler. It sounds like windchimes as drops patter over the leaves of the banana trees, and it smells like fresh flowers, subtle but sweet. Just the feel of the moisture in the air is enough to have us waiting outside for a misty blessing from the heavens.


Seeing people who you grew up with everywhere you go and reminiscing, whether for five minutes or for hours, about the good ‘ole days…

A meeting of the minds. Those two cows with the white faces are my two babies Leila and Loli

I always think of myself as someone who blends into the background. I observe what happens around me, but I don’t usually put myself in the center of a situation. And yet, whenever I first come home, I can’t go anywhere, whether it’s to the beach or to Costco, without seeing someone who greets me with a big hug and a “Welcome back!” Even when I went to fill out paperwork for my summer job at Maui County PALS, I lost count of how many people said that they were happy I was back for another year.



Playing Puka Shell Tour Guide for all your guests…

The coast off of Front Street, Lahina

One of my favorite things to do is sharing the natural beauty of my island with friends and family. Any time my parents invite an old friend to stay with us, or whenever my brother brings home someone from Montana, we make a point of taking them around the island and showing them a few of our favorite spots. My dad and I take turns telling stories, legends, and jokes about anything and everything along the way. As a storyteller, I can’t resist the opportunity to share the narratives that have been passed down to me that talk about the land, the legends behind each flower, or even the mythical heroes of Hawaiian culture.



Hearing a song on the radio and realizing it’s one that you sang for May Day in grade school. And yes, you know all the words, and even the dance that goes with it…

Iao Stream
“O Iao, ka ‘aina o na ali’i…” From a song my friends and I wrote and composed about the water diversions in Iao Valley

This usually goes hand-in-hand with playing Puka Shell Tour Guide, since most Hawaiian songs talk about a place, a person, or a plant. As we drive around the island, The Brothers Cazimero, Sean Na’auao, and Bruddah Iz circle through the radio among other voices. No matter who or what is playing, I am reminded of the songs I grew up learning for Ukulele performances and for school May Days.


As soon as we reach Kahakuloa on the opposite side of the mountain, I’ll start belting out, “Ohu `o Kahakuloa i ka pua lehua…” at every bend and blind turn. I’ve forgotten some of the worlds with time, but just singing it takes me back to being on a stage with a crowd full of proud loved ones in the front row taking pictures, smiling at us, and enjoying the music that they too grew up with.


Placing all our dried leis from graduations and special occasions on the graves of our loved ones…

Maui Tropical Plantation, where they use former sugar plantation materials as part of the landscape

In local culture, we do not believe in throwing away a lei. A lei is a sign of appreciation and is used to show someone’s pride. You can’t throw away appreciation, and you can’t discard pride, so every lei that we receive, we either hang to dry somewhere at home, or we take it to the graveyard to honor our ancestors.

As we place each lei on a loved one’s grave, we reminisce about what each person was like, and all the memories we shared with these people. Sometimes, we come across a person that we never got to meet, like my great-great grandfather, who sailed from Portugal to work in the sugar plantations in Hawaii. We wonder what their life was like way back when, and we thank them for everything that they have done to get us to where we are.

All these things make me smile whenever I’m home, and I feel like this summer I’m seeing it all with new eyes. I want to take everything in as if it’s for the first time, with all the wonder of childhood, but with all the wisdom of a life well lived.

The lavendar farm in upper Kula

It’s similar to when spring rolls around in Washington, just as the flowers begin to bloom. Somehow, we thought the world couldn’t get any brighter, and then the next minute, there are more colors around than anyone could count, and more life than anyone could imagine.

At home, when we can’t think of the word we want to say, we say, “dakine.” It’s used to fill in the gaps when you can’t find the words to describe what you’re thinking of, a catch-all for everything and then some. Maybe that’s what home is; something that I can’t really describe but know all the same.

It’s that feeling when I stand in the sunshine and feel the warmth on my skin. It’s the sound of rushing water across smooth river rocks. It’s the wind that blows through the branches of the trees and through every blade of grass. It’s knowing that I can return again and again to rest and recharge for as long as I need it. That is my dakine.

One of my favorite things to come home to: Jacaranda trees in full bloom

2 thoughts on “Take Me Back to Dakine

  1. Aloha from Kihei, my other home. Other other home is Seattle/Bainbridge Island. Very enjoyable read!
    Rob Keefe, SMC 69 grad and student of legendary English Lit teachers Mike Contris, Les Bailey and of course Fr Kilian.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s