Oh dear reader, Kaua’i was a risk, and there were moments when I almost skipped the journey altogether. I didn’t have a show scheduled when I made the flight plans, but I knew my song-sister SaraTone would be there. I’m always happy when SaraTone is around! I knew we could sing for Aletta Little Dove at her birthday party, and I knew I could attend Singing Alive, February 14-16. Singing Alive is a gathering born in the Northwest which focuses on sharing circle songs that lend themselves to group singing, harmony, sacred songs, rounds, chants, and multiple parts of a song sung by groups within groups. Fun! And Mila and Aletta, our Singing Alive organizers, assured us that they would support a Diane Patterson and SaraTone Concert on the island during the week following the larger gathering. Fantastic! Thank goddess for the kind donation I received that set it all in motion ! On Feb 11th, SaraTone, Katrin, and I flew from Big Island to Kaua’i.
Katrin took the whole Hawaii tour with me this year, starting in California and ending in Oahu. She is my deep sister, a German lass from Hamburg who moved her family to Southern Sweden 14 years ago. I have stayed with her family on their 50-acre goat and potato and goodness farm, in the summers of 2008, 2011, and 2013. This winter I had the blessing of her gracious and giving presence with me in Hawaii, and with many more friends who she now has good strong connections with. Thank you friends! Sisters and Brothers across the islands invited us into their homes, fed us and transported us, sometimes hosted concerts, and generally joined in on the musical journey. I’m glad Katrin was met with such open-hearted aloha here in the islands, because at her home in Sweden, she and her husband Bo greet their WOOF-ers and exchange students and friends and visitors with full aloha love and open-hearted welcome.
But back to our arrival in Kaua’i . . . This was only my second time to tour to the Garden Isle, so I just don’t have a whole base of community there yet. Thank goodness, Snow Marks hosted us when we first got to the island. We got a ride to her home, where she fed us amazing healthy mama food and drink. She gave us her own bed, her whole two-bedroom cabin! and went to sleep at her sweetheart’s house. Wow. Thank you Snow! We had planned to go directly to the site of the Singing Alive Gathering, which would begin in four days, but the exquisite sacred site and park-like setting was sooooo wet with days of rain, and continued rain, that it was not inviting us in to camp quite yet. (I really feel like that power spot, called Anahola, dictated to our group exactly when and what She wanted of us throughout our time there. More on that later!) Snow also loaned me her sleeping/camping gear for my week and a half on the island. Thank you Snow! It was really sweet to wake up at Snow’s place, nestled in on a hillside, with a stream flowing noisily by on our first morning there, having tea and talking story and generally catching up. Turns out, there was so much rain, that the stream below the house was running for the first time that year. Flow flow!
Our second night in Kaua’i, Aletta’s birthday fire at the Anahola site was the intimate pre SA gathering, with most of the presenters and organizers present, celebrating and . . . Singing. SaraTone and Morgan and I gave a triple effort to light the fire pit with damp wood and damp paper. That’s what lighting a fire in Hawaii is. But we hear from a good source that the Hawaiians use a propane torch! I totally get it. . . SaraTone’s presence with the fire throughout the evening made it a truly beautiful, sacred fire, blessing up Aletta’s birthday celebration, and raising the vibe for the gathering to come. There were songs, new and old. I shared a couple songs and a couple chants throughout the evening, doing my best to share in a way that invited others to sing along, offering a couple of my chants rather than my more Joni Mitchell-style story songs. I also shared a Shekhinah Mountainwater chant, Power Spot. I would go on to share several more of her chants throughout the weekend, especially with Karly Loveling, who carries lots of women’s chants and sacred songs.
The rain continued the next couple days, and we visited Anahola but kept our sleeping spot at Snow’s. One night the wind blew the rain so hard that it all burst through the screen wall of Snow’s upstairs bedroom, lodging leaves into the altar across the room, and getting the entire floor wet with rain. Wild tropical storms are not so rare to experience in Hawaii. All one can do is witness the strength, allow the wet, and surrender to slowing down.
We moved over to Anahola on Friday and Saturday nights for Singing Alive. Since our world was oh so wet, we only brought the bare necessities. . . guitar, ukuleles, sleeping gear. Tents were provided by our sweety pie organizers, Mila, Aletta, & Forrest, so we had what we needed. We arrived in time for the beautiful opening ceremony. One Anahola Hawaiian Elder Puna Kalama Dawson led us in beautiful chant, dance, prayer, while standing in the light rain, with her halau members demonstrating the moves so we could join in. (A halau is a Hawaiian chant/dance/culture/music study/community group that meets regularly to practice and learn together, with a respected teacher. That’s my definition, so perhaps looking further into it if you have interest, would be the thing to do . . . .) And the Hawaiian traditional dance and chant forms are oh so connected to the earthly elements, oh so beautiful in their depiction and praise of those elements, that I generally find myself coming to tears before any true presentation of them is through. Puna Dawson graciously told us that we are all just as Hawaiian as she is. As I understood it, it is our connection to the land and spirits, to each other, and our Aloha, our breath of life, our love for ourselves and each other, which makes us Hawaiian. Deep. Thank you, Puna.
That evening was full moon. Karly Loveling presented full moon women’s song circle. She shared and taught chants and then opened it up for others to share. We were under a tarp tent in more rain, feeling blessed by candlelight and songs that carry us all the miles to be together, to connect our hearts in these sacred songs. And the songs themselves celebrate seasons, cycles, abundance, healing, friends, plant medicines, teachers, guidance, forgiveness, certain deities and the blessings they bring, oneness, rivers, oceans, birth, death, life, intuition, family, friends, and more. “For what you sing is what you are. You’re wise in the ways of the woman by far.” —by Lena Moon.
The songs and chants shared at Singing Alive all seemed to celebrate and uplift, teach and recognize, connect and heal. And so it is no wonder that we grew closer and more open and more connected to the place and each other throughout the weekend. The song circle that Morgan led was all icaros, the ancient songs that come with the ayahuasca prayer circles from the Amazon rainforest where that plant medicine is traditionally grown, processed, and used. The chants were mostly in Spanish or a language that predates conquest, and seemed to be all about spirit connection and cultivating love, presence,healing.
Laurence Cole provided for me the biggest inspiration of the Singing Alive weekend. An elder from Port Townshend, Washington, he too traveled to Kauai with his great gifts to share. And as an elder, his finely-honed crafts of poetry, composition, and chorale direction had us all singing in staccato harmony to Rumi poems he had set to beautiful melody, simple enough to sing along, with complexity to inspire and transform through sound. Bliss! Laurence Cole’s work will forever affect my writing in such a good way. There is, you see, dear reader, the melody that is simple and obvious. And then there is the melody that is just one shade darker, or brighter, and further outside of the box, and closer to the source of wildness and liberation, and further away from shame.
On Sunday morning SaraTone made her musical offering. She invited and inspired us with breath and words that welcome. Her realness, her way of simply being who she is, gives her listener permission to play and dance and be just who we are. And that, my friends, is one of the most important permissions we can receive. I personally need no coaxing when SaraTone is at the musical helm, for there is where I find a great ease and joy and innate readiness to respond to the music, the flow, the freedom of movement, the ingenuity, which comprise my dear, musical com-madre. SaraTone also invited me to share a chant with the group, so I taught the Grandmother Pele chant, celebrating the birth of the islands from the lava which pours forth from that “fire in the center of the earth.” “Earth, fire, wisdom. . . Sea, air, freedom,” the chant says.
SaraTone finished her offering with River Back to the Ocean. She invited us to all stand and move out from under the tarp structure, closer to the Anahola river there running by, some fifty feet from where we sat. This was especially significant because that very morning, we had received a flash flood warning for the little Anahola neighborhood. Over night there was so very much rain that the Anahola River had swelled and risen several feet beyond its usual borders, and any sudden movement in the river bank debris above us there could have brought an instantly massive widening of the river, that has been known to sweep away people and cars and even move houses. I got the notice on my iPhone at about 6:50 am and thought I should wake up Mila and Aletta who were camping nearby me there. They then circled throughout the early morning with the other organizers and with John Pia who has owned and managed that beautiful land for over 30 years, all taking responsibility for the group’s welfare there and reading the signs to stay or go. I found myself inspired to take out my little medicine bundle of copal tree resin and palo santo wood, light a charcoal, and speak to the spirits of the river through the sacred smoke. I recognized her strength and beauty in my most humble and poetic words. I acknowledged the power she had in that moment to destroy any little farm or home or animals that might be in an unlucky riverbank swirl, should she decide to flood and crush. I asked her to flow her graceful power, without eating us alive. I thanked her for that demonstration of gentle wildness. I walked to the bend in the river there and prayed into the magic of the bend, the change in direction, the medicine of change for all humanity and the goodness that change can bring when inspired by health and wholeness and rising consciousness, natural like a rising river, flowing strong as we evolve into higher states of humanity. I stood in the taro patch, with Jennifer and SaraTone, and we prayed for the pure seeds, for the plants and foods that nourish us deeply, that they remain pure and whole, untainted by laboratory genetic modification. Jennifer and SaraTone each spoke their prayers. So by the time we took SaraTone’s singing group to the Anahola River, it had already subsided quite a bit, but was still in flooding glory, listening to the voices mingling in love and respect, “Yes I know we will be freeeeee.”
For Sunday night there was another Flash Flood Warning, so I went to sleep at John Pia’s place nearby. What a gem of a man he is, giving and receiving and trusting the group of us there in that sacred place. There are many gatherings there, but still I hear that it is not everyone who is allowed to rent the Anahola park space for a gathering. Our wise young lady organizers set a beautiful, calm, slow, loving tone to the whole gathering. I was glad to be a part of it, and my sometimes business-like capricornian nature was slowed to a deeper presence. Of course the rain also slowed me, made me surrender to slow, made me walk slowly across the muddy lawn and be ok at times with simply being. No where to go and nothing to do. Just be.
John Pia is in his 70’s. He is of Hawaiian descent, has seen his community there through all kind changes and comings together and splittings apart. He said he bought Anahola taro patch site when it was completely grown over. It had been lost to the jungle for some time, and he slowly worked his way in, discovering the sacred stone people there, the high temple lookout spot, the kukui torch navigation rock, the singing rocks. One night there he hosted probably seven of us ! sleeping over in the living room and side room, amidst the beautiful art he had commissioned or created himself from wood or on canvas. His living room wall hosts a huge mural of Waimea valley, epic colors of sunrise, 3D effects, blacklight highlights, deep beauty. John Pia rocks. A young woman from Ohio named Odessa was staying at John’s also. She had been guided to Anahola to help on the land. Odessa is a super bright youth. . . the kind that make me excited about the future!
And now our concert was coming into focus! Upon our arrival on Kaua’i, Snow had supported us in finalizing the rental of the beautiful Church of the Pacific in Princeville, so we could then print and hang posters and generally spread the word among our various community connections on the island, including the posse that we had come to know and love at Singing Alive. We had over $300 invested in the concert by the time the day came, so I was in yet another state of beautiful surrender to the divine abundance flow! I thought, “Spirit, I trust your flow. I know you’ve got me. I feel you.” I was reminded of Martín Prechtel’s story about Holy Boy, a ceremonial deity in the Guatemalan village where he lived and studied. “Empty out for Holy Boy,” he was told, as he used every bit of money in his wallet to buy flowers and incense and alcohol to celebrate and give offerings to that deity, who would then return all that abundance and more. And we were so very blessed up that night in Princeville with a big, joyful group there to experience the music and each other! There were offerings of chai and raw pies for sale, and a general state of peaceful exuberance in the whole place. SaraTone and I gave our mighty musical offerings, sharing the microphones and the songspace and supporting each other with full musical expression. Jackson Nash showed up like the amazing brother that he is, solidly supporting us by helping to set up, tear down, and run the sound equipment the entire night. We laughed a lot, We did our best. We soared. We gave thanks. After a flurry of cleanup and goodbyes, we dropped the key and the cleanup checklist in the mail slot and went back to John Pia’s to rest. Hallelujia!
A couple of beach/fun/laundry/song/friends days brought us to Saturday morning, time for Katrin and I to fly out to Oahu for the last leg of my Hawaii Tour 2014. But first, an ocean kayak adventure! Thank you Niko, wonderful new friend, stellar papa of two, creator of all kine fabulous goodness —- maker of delicious raw pies, provider of coconut water and ride to the beach when Katrin and I were stuck in town for hours one sweet Kauai afternoon. Niko took me out on my first ever ocean kayak trip. In a way, there are no words. We sat in the open ocean near the mouth of the Anahola River, continuing of a wonderful new relationship with that river and its watershed. I can still hear the nearby whales breathing at the surface of the sea, as we sat on the kayaks in the water, just beyond the shelf of the island, where the water gets deep deep blue. A sea bird landed right on Niko’s kayak as he worked on one of the three fishing lines he had in the water. We marveled and spoke with the bird for a few minutes as he checked us out, and we looked into his sharp eyes and silver face. We were on the water for a couple of hours. Niko sang to the whales, who jumped and spouted in the distance. In the last moment before heading back to shore came our closest whale visitation. A great breach and huge dorsal fin wave said, “Aloha sister and brother! Fare thee well and come back soon!” Even the great John Pia said, “Hey, when you come back to the island, come over and visit!”
Unforgettable goodness! Thank you Kauai! Thank you friends for all the support and good times and encouragement. Big love!