Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Walks

Here's a recent satellite image of the area of Schofield Barracks where I would find Lani and Lono. North is up. It doesn't look like much has changed.

I met up with Lono the first day at Canby Field to the west. This image shows about two-thirds of the field, which is altogether almost twice as long and twice as wide as a football field. We met at a point beyond the edge of this image. Later I would learn to look for them at the northern end of Morris Road, or a little further northwest from there along Leilehua Road, somewhere between the points marked with the Xs on the map. Leilehua was the avenue my Mother taught me not to cross. We lived a few houses off it on a side road about five or six blocks southwest of the meeting point, about a third of a mile distance.

Much later I learned that with my little legs that third of a mile took me around twenty minutes when I hurried. I'm sure I didn't hurry much on the way home though.

As green and pretty as the neighborhood was with all its plantings and fields, the walk was not always a pleasure because there were mean older children who would push me around and threaten me. Also many people at Schofield let their dogs run free and a few of them were threatening.

As I learned Hawaiian the walk transformed. The world changed for me. Hawaiian is very different from English in many ways. For one, words are run together. In English, words are clearly separate in speech. In Hawaiian, it can be hard to tell where one word ends and the next begins. It creates a feeling of all things being connected.

Adding to the sense of connectedness is the fact that so many words have multiple meanings, making it a more context dependent language than English..

Also, there's no verb "to be". "Is" is understood. A thing is, if we're talking about it. This means it is less natural to imagine emptiness. The world is full everywhere you look. It also helps prevent mistaking predicates for identities. Qualities of things don't become the things and take them over, so there is more room for more qualities. In English, once you say the barn is red, you can easily be fooled into thinking you're done. That's what it is, right?

As I started thinking in Hawaiian, colors became brighter for me, and things around me swirled and tangled with one another. In English, there were things and not-things, good and bad. In Hawaiian there were things and more things, good and different good, and the boundaries were not straight lines.

Gradually, those times when I was alone and not being threatened, my walks became richer. I noticed, and I was grateful.

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