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The Ranger & the Song

July 07 2016
July 07 2016

I once worked as a ranger. When I got hired by the Department of Land & Natural Resources I thought I'd reached a career pinnacle as a Hawaiian Man. After about ten years of listening & learning on the Land with Kupuna (Elders) & members of my family I felt I'd been handed "kuleana" or an important responsibility to care for Oahu's sacred & saturated burial grounds.

One of those kupuna would later warn, only half-jokingly, when Hawaiian Airlines' in-flight magazine made me the focus of an article about Kaena, that I'd unwittingly become DLNR's "poster-boy!" If you want to get things done in a place that's been in use for a hundred generations and you just showed up, get you one "token-native" and you will have automatic rapport. The title of the Hawaiian Airlines article was, ironically: "No Man's Land." Indeed the Land of Kaena "belongs" to no one but the Dead and those who frequent the Otherworld. If your mind is set on this world; fishing, conservation, recreation, even culture--Beware.

The boss' first tour of duty for "the Ranger" included a daily spin up the most remote, wild landscape Oahu has to offer, ending each day in a satisfying pull up to the Makiki Forestry baseyard and culminating in Brent finally handing me the keys to the OJ (a bronze-colored 4x4 Bronco) and a "Go boldly, Jedi-Cowboy!" I rode those mountains like a Purdy at a Wyoming Rodeo every day and a few spooky nights for two years solid. As Uncle Wade once told me as we ate Kaena dust, "I may not know much, but what I know, I know really well."

Certain that it led to my eventual DLNR demise none of my time was spent in an office cubicle gloating over reports. In the field you listen to...the field; not grand poobahs slowly but surely dying in Government buildings, taking their lunch breaks on government grass, dreaming of atolls, wearing albatrosses around their necks.

I came to see Kaena through the eyes of the Ancestors. It was there I learned that our feet, and sometimes bronze Bronco's, carry us along in search of things we really can't explain; things felt deep in the bones and in the trees and stones around us. And inside of me I've always known that every place has its own song. We are truly Descendants of our Ancestors and Ancestors of our Descendants.

That which we cannot comprehend may just give us the strength to hope and "range" beyond what we know and otherwise take comfort in. By hope & design, this blog takes its steps in the audacity that we can speak as rangers not quite attuned to the song in which we find ourselves and that's--okay.


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June 28, 2016

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