>> Big Island
Lying atop his sleeping bag on the beach of this remote lava lagoon, sleep would not come for Cruz MacKenzie. Not with the stars so bright and demanding his attention. Not with those dark fins circling just offshore.
And Mano Kekai, who slept soundly, snoring softly on the other side of the campfire embers, for as he put it he was home, said Cruz would be meeting them in the morning, the "children" of the huge shark he called Father. So how do you "meet" sharks? Like, face to face? Howzit, brah? Cruz wriggled his backside, conforming the black sand beneath him to a new position, and thought back to their earlier conversation.
"So what's the point of all this: Mano, the chanting, the offerings to the shark? What do you get from it?"
Nursing a can of Bud, he smiled, tugged thoughtfully on his silver goatee.
"Is that the purpose of Western religion, to be rewarded by God? To get something from him?"
"Pretty much. It's either that or the eternal fires of hell."
"The Hawaiian way -- and I won't say it's better -- the Hawaiian way that I was taught is that we pray to Mano not just so that he will protect us, but to remind ourselves that we are all part of God, that God is part of all things. The connection is not just with Mano or the sea, but with all life, all creation, and the wisdom of nature. That's what our aumakua do for us. They are our pathway to that connection with all life. You know, in the old days, some families had 20 or 30 aumakua. My family has only Mano. He's enough."
"Aumakua are always animals?"
"Mostly. A few, a very few only, are Pele people."
"They worship the volcano goddess?"
"Some say they're descended from her."
Cruz, who had a thing for Pele, wanted to meet those people.
"And some," Mano continued, "like my cousin Francine in Makaha, her aumakua is the natural elements, wind, rain, earth, sea. She told me: 'When I'm at sea and it's rough, the wind blowing and rain coming sideways, to me it's a sexual energy.' Oh, I tease her, you dirty old woman! 'Maybe so,' she tells me, 'but I am never afraid on the water.' "
He looked out to sea through furrowed brow, added, "Because of Mano, I feel the same way. After tomorrow, well, we'll see about you."
At ease in this familiar and familial place, Mano fell asleep long before the fire died.
Cruz lay awake, shifting in the sand, looking up at the shouting stars, listening to his heart pounding a symphony for percussion, and was still far from sleep when he discovered a new constellation in the shape of a tiger shark poised to bite Mars.
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Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
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