Light of Life in the Lantern Ceremony
In our times, as we give more and more of our souls to our handheld machines, we humans are walking away from our core selves and the very existence of our being. Today, there are apps for grief, divorce, loss and love. However well intentioned, fast and convenient, this software takes us away from the tactile humanity of ceremony and community. That is why I think the Memorial Day Lantern Floating in Honolulu is so incredible.
The event affords great beauty. Every Hawai'i sunset is a masterwork. Six thousand golden lanterns are mirrored on a silky sea. On each gondola, people have written messages of love, heartfelt remembrances and dreams of peace.
I have walked along that waterfront, of locals and tourists, each with a memory and a heavy heart. Waiting for their right moment. They walk into the water. They pray. They light a candle. They say aloha and goodbye and I love you, as they push their gondola and their loss and their memories out to sea.
The Lantern Floating is a very powerful experience. One that technology cannot create or replace.
I came across a passage on Facebook, a father's lament, which offers the perfect summation of the Lantern Floating:
"Last night was the most emotional and beautiful night I have ever had. To be on the beach with 30,000 people, most of which were honoring their lost loved ones and knowing that I was also there to honor my two children, Mark and Leah, was absolutely the most special feeling that is even beyond explanation.
"As I placed our lantern into the water along with thousands of others, you feel the love and warmth of the energy around me, was the most nurturing and healing energy I've ever felt.
We were up to our thighs in the water as we watched Mark and Leah float away so peacefully. Together the two lanterns surged over a small wave and traveled off side by side.
"Mark and Leah, we miss you all the more everyday and the pain never gets any easier, but last night brought some peace to my heart for the first time since you've left us.
"Leah and Mark, Dad loves you and I know we'll be together again someday."
A Hawai'i Hippie Horror Story
Our hippie ghost story begins in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On the Hawai'ian island of O'ahu, there is a valley, a suburb of Honolulu that is a very special place. Manoa Valley is surrounded by tall, steeply dramatic mountains, covered in dark greens and blues. The valley is much cooler and often wetter than the city.
As a burb, Manoa is quiet, comfy and posh. As ancient lands, Manoa is very powerful. Hawai'i is a very welcoming place, but that does not mean that all places are welcome. Some are kapu. Forbidden. Not allowed.
Manoa Valley is where Paz and Tree, two American hippies, chose to hang their hammock. They know the area well. They have lived there before. It's their favorite place. They get hassled less and the weather is great. The funny and smart duo even got to know a few of their neighbors in a few of the spots. The security guard at the market would buy them a pie. Of course, as American roma, they knew they had to keep moving along.
Paz is a redhead, a sprightly color against the deep greens of Manoa. The twenty-six year old Portlander had been on the island a year and a half. So had Tree, but they met just five months ago for the very first time. And it was love at first sight.
Moving day is always a hassle. This was their second choice location, great, but not awesome. They staked their claim and feathered their nest.
Paz is used to sleeping anywhere, even in crowds, but the conversation woke her up on their first night in the new spot. Two young girls, like high school age, were laughing and talking, loud, as if close by. Paz sat up, as best as you can in a hammock, and looked around in the dark blue shadows. There were no two girls nearby, in any direction. And they sounded so close.
She nudged Tree in the ribs and spoke softly, "Are you awake? Did you hear that?"
Tree blinked his eyes open and replied, "uh, No and No."
As they both lay awake, breathing in unison, falling into slumber, they both snapped awake with a start, swinging the hammock wildly. A big man, Hawai'ian, was laughing. He was very close by. It was a happy, non-threatening laugh, but close and sudden.
Sometime later, someone far off was running toward them, through the loud brush. The even, breathless footfalls onto tall grass were growing louder and nearer. Friend or foe? The unseen runner passed them, through the high, brittle brush, and faded into the night. Paz and Tree looked at each other and then all around them through the dark. There was no tall grass for anyone to run through. The ground was fresh dirt and low grass.
Throughout the night, conversations erupted and ended. Laughter sparked an echo. The area was alive with happy strollers. Some in English, but mostly Hawai'ian and Pacific Rim languages. And the area was empty. The closest home was a quarter of a mile away. There were no strollers strolling. The night was shades of dark green, as Manoa only is at night. Paz and Tree lay wide-awake in the green dark.
The next morning, the hippies had much to discuss and they did this silently. When they met, it was more than love at first sight. It was a meeting of inner-compatibility. Paz and Tree could communicate through their Third Eyes. You know, the one in the middle of your forehead.
Over the course of the day, all conversation was about the spirits of the night before. Tree said, "That was..."
Paz finished, "Insanely mind-blowing."
"So in tune."
"We must be, right there, on this supernatural edge. Worlds within worlds."
"Do you think, like I was wondering, could that have been a message? Were they politely saying, 'This is a busy, overcrowded, noisy place. Have a nice night, but please be on your way?'"
"No. It's cool. They would have said something," Paz replied without moving her lips. She threw her head back and laughed joyously, "Everything is cool, Tree, my love. No stress. All good."
The first blow woke Tree gently. On their second night near the Chinese cemetery, Tree's synapses were not firing quickly; it took awhile for him to realize that he had been hit in the ass. From below. Their butts were easy hanging targets in the rainbow colored hammock. A mango had hit him in the butt and fallen to the ground. Tree knew this sound as well as he knew where all of the sweetest mangos in Manoa could be found.
This night was like the last. Throughout, conversations erupted and faded. These people or things were quite chatty. Everyone had an opinion. Most were laughing and enjoying themselves. None could be seen. Just when the hippies started to doze off, someone would walk by, blathering about something.
Another mango flew, bounced off Paz's back and dropped to the earth. Throughout the second night, someone was winding up and lobbing mangos at them. Not hard, but playfully, and impossible to ignore.
They scouted all around them but Paz and Tree saw no one or no thing. Tree noted the ground below them was littered with mangos. Paz and Tree did not get any sleep the second night, hanging in their rainbow colored hammock from the Banyan Tree.
In the morning, Paz sat up and gasped. In the bed was a twelve-inch hunk of a white-blonde dreadlock with a bead on it. Tree woke up wide-eyed and freaked out. His fingers started to search through his head full of waist length dreads. Their discovery of the phantom limb was shocking. Someone or something must have snuck in close and cut a dread last night. It was a clean cut, requiring a knife. Paz and Tree looked at each other and dropped their jaws. Their eyes were as wide as hibiscus flowers.
Through their Third Eye, the conversation was excited and lively.
"Is this a good thing or a bad thing?"
"We have all of these beautiful mangos. And I've been violated!"
"Gifts! From nature! From the universe!"
"What about the dread?" Tree was heated, "That's kinda violent. You don't cut a guy's dread!"
"But they left us all the mangos! Maybe it was a trade!"
"Non-consensual. Do you think, like I was wondering, could that have been a message? Or maybe, goodbye gifts, like 'It's time for you to get going. Now pack up and go. It's too damn loud around here to get any sleep anyway. Here's some food for the journey.' Maybe it was a candy-coated warning? A polite but direct way to say 'Get the hell outta this spot!'"
"Maybe. Nah. It's cool. Everything is OK. It's all cool. I'll take a coupla those Somas."
Paz and Tree had a wonderful day. They saw a few friends in the valley. They took a few naps and talked endlessly and wordlessly. They made love. They resettled their camp. They had chosen this spot for the easy hammock hanging and for the safety of a very clean and very dry tunnel, where they kept their stuff, at least 200 pounds of stuff. Clothes, books, art supplies, food, a walking stick and a small table were some of the items.
The third dark night at the Chinese cemetery found Paz and Tree asleep in the hammock, suspended by two vines of the Banyan. Unlike the loud clamor of the last two nights, it was quiet and hushed. Tree woke up with an urge to pee. Even before he opened his eyes, he was aware of the gentle hush and whirl of quickly moving water.
Tree gasped in shock, stretching out to stabilize the hammock. Everywhere around them was moving water. They were trapped.
Their lowest point, their butts, was four feet off the ground, calculated Tree, which meant that the flash flood was three and three-quarters feet deep. Slowly, they realized their situation. This was stony. Paz had garnered enough flash flood savvy while living in Santa Fe for six months: Never go into moving water.
In the dark blues and greens of the valley night, Paz saw a chair far down the new creek bed. The water had taken their belongings, their possessions and their things and threw them, pulled them and hurled them down the creek. Fortunately, the drug bag was safe in the hammock with them, as it always is.
There was nothing to be done except smoke a joint, in the dark. They fell into a sweet sleep. Together, they lay and napped above the quietly raging waters.
Awhile later, they shared one of those moments that they often told over the next fifty-seven years. The hippies had to pee at about the same time and they were marooned on the hammock. Prior to this, their budding relationship had been familiar, but not yet that familiar. It's a funny story, with a lot of acrobatics.
When they woke in daylight, the ground beneath them was dry. Dusty dry. Dawn comes late in Manoa Valley, as the sun must climb high over the blue range. The sun did not dry this earth. All around them, it was as if the flood never had raged. Paz and Tree stepped down slowly from the rainbow hammock. The ground was warm.
Tree was too stunned and too stoned to speak, even through his Third Eye. Paz started off down the creek. She found a halter-top. A walking stick. Soggy crackers. A spatula. A painting, a self-portrait of her, hung crooked on a tree. She soon gave up the search. All 200 pounds of their stuff had been forcibly removed. The universe had spoken.
"We're outta here," he said, "This is bull, man. I got the message. Where's the aloha? Eh?" Tree raised his arms in victory and surrender.
"No. It's cool. Everything's cool. They just want us to chill out."
"Are you crazy?! They just took our shit! Destroyed it! That's a message!"
"We can move."
"Like, better move."
"Like, spirit eviction. So, who gave us the message? Who's the landlord?"
"Who knows? The other side is big... Menehunes?"
"No. They're fun. This is darker."
"No, they don't mess with your stuff. They just march. It's like, something else."
"Like maybe the cemetery next door might be a thing? A factor?!"
"Well, it's cool," she shrugged, "All worlds as they should be. Everything is cool."
"No, not always. Everything is not always cool."
"Attachments. We're free now. No more shit. No more possessions."
"The shirt on my back," grinned Tree.
"Want a mango?"
Tree cut mango slices with his pocketknife. As they ate, Paz said, "I was just thinking about Gore and the mango tree. The thinking and feeling of the tree."
"The hurt feelings of the tree."
"Knowing it had caused a man's injury. Caused a man harm."
"And the tree felt bad."
"It wasn't the tree's fault. Gore fell out of the tree."
"And broke an ankle and the tree felt responsible. He broke his ankle, couldn't work, got poor, popped pills, drank, disability. The tree saw it all. That's why the tree stopped bearing fruit. It was mortified."
"What made him hug it?"
"When he told the story to some chick at AA, she told him to hug it. And to apologize for damning the tree when he broke his ankle. To stop blaming the tree."
Tree smiled, "And then it started producing again. The finest mangos. After eighteen years!"
"Do you believe it?"
"I believe it. All that stored energy."
"Yeah. In that direction."
"What are you thinking of?"
"Freakin'! So was I!"
Several days later, Paz and Tree took advantage of the airfare offer of the Hawaii Homeless and Hippie Authority. They flew back to Portland at half price.
Aloha says Hello and Goodbye.