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The Ranger & the Song

June 28 2016
June 28 2016

The best story-tellers have a certain wildness about them. J.R.R. Tolkien bore such a wildness that I'd rank him pretty high among writers. When he introduces us to the mysterious "Strider" we, along with the hobbits, find ourselves being poked in the back toward the wild edge!

"In the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, to know and understand the languages of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen. When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends of them."

I've always been drawn to story-telling wanderers and can sit for hours, losing track of time, with Kupuna (Elders) as they tell their stories. When you get right down to it every People has their story-tellers and their times of gathering around the fire, remembering & being reminded who they are as a family. Don't get me wrong, I like the everyday, mundane intersections of life at the office or places of community but it seems harder to find true spaces for wild-eyed storytellers to make themselves at home.

I often say, "You're not really part of a community until you find yourself in the middle of a good ghost story" and I truly believe this. Maybe my family was just weird but when my mother passed I remembered sitting around a fire that my brothers and I kept lit for three solid nights & days. Around that fire we remembered. Yah, we told lots of the same old stories of growing up as Hawaiians in a migrant laboring town called Planada. But we also discovered a lot of untold stories as folks in our small town drove by, saw the fire & pulled over to grab a chair, breath the smoke, laugh & shed tears.

My mom, Pearl Kuuleimomi Kealekupuna Mix, was the kind of person it seems many Hawaiians become. They get married, have keiki and for whatever reason whether the rising cost of living Pae Aina o Hawaii Nei or, in our case, moving to have grandparents in our lives--Moving to be raised with my dad's Arkansas folks planted us smack dab in the middle of a Merle Haggard song! However we see it as a Nation, it may not be long before more of us Kanaks find ourselves living away from Hawaii than touching the ground day to day with our feet.

Mom was one of those Hawaiians. She comes from the island of Niihau which, of all the Hawaiian islands, proudly speaks the native tongue as a first language and then English only as a second. Back in the '40's & '50's "Momi" was the only woman to bodysurf Makapuu and Sandy's. She worked all her married life as a teacher's aide and became "Auntie" to every kid that ever scrapped the playground at Planada Elementary School. When she passed, generations of white, black, brown, whatever-kids came to pay their respects to Mrs. Mix.

Now, I'm telling you a ghost story because she's been gone (from the body) a few years. And in our Hawaiian family we take time during the last week of June to reflect on those we loved who can no longer sit next to us at church or buy us a beer at the gig. It's the Summer Solstice. We call it "Kumanomano" where "the thousands" come to stand with us for a single day. You might have seen them if you were passing by a Waianae beach last week around sunset--families posted in beach chairs with BBQ's blazing & ice chests just waiting, waiting, waiting for the Sun, the Maka o Kane & Eye of the Creator, to leap into the ocean with the souls of the righteous. They was talking stories last week.

I always loved that scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Keira Knightly doesn't believe in ghosts and she's pushed out on deck under the moonlight. Everything changes under its light. She's being tossed up in the air on a sheet by all those sailors and Jeffrey Rush shouts, "You better start believing in ghost stories,'re livin' in one!"

Surely there are places where stories are still "performed" & not just read or recited. But Ghost Stories? When was the last time you found yourself in the middle of one?


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