Kapa log search hinges
on its song

"The Song of the Kapa Log"


"My kapa shall be clear as the light of the moon,
White as the snow on the mountain."

A woman of Kahuku was chanting in time to the strokes of her kapa beater. Down, down, down came the beater, and at each stroke the kapa log rang with a clear, sweet sound. Oh, how the woman loved that sound! Her kapa log was almost as dear to her as a little child.

The eyeball of the sun sank behind the mountains and she must put away her work. She gathered up her strips of kapa and laid them beside the beater, ready to take home. But the heavy log she would leave in its hiding place close to the spring. As she pushed it in among the ferns, the log slipped on wet moss and disappeared. She reached for it, but it was gone. She felt in the pool below the spring. She did not feel the log but found a place that seemed to have no bottom. A stream, she thought. The water of this spring flows away underground and has taken my log with it. Somewhere nearer the ocean the stream must flow out, and I shall find my log upon its bank. She went home, sad yet hopeful.

Next day she went about Kahuku searching for the stream, and as she searched she listened to the songs of kapa logs. Many women were at work and every log had its own ring -- some low, some loud, some high and some deep-toned. Perhaps some woman had already found her log and she would hear its voice -- the voice of her "dear grandchild."

She wandered on. She followed a stream up toward the mountains. Perhaps the tiny stream from my spring flowed into this, she thought. She looked and listened. Then the trail ended in rocks and bushes and she turned back.

On and on she went, farther from home. She followed many streams but neither heard nor saw her log. Darkness was coming. She was tired and discouraged. I must go home, she thought, but home is far away.

Suddenly, she heard a greeting. She had not even seen a house but kind strangers had seen her. "Aloha!" they were calling. "Come and eat."

Very glad of the kind welcome, the Kahuku woman rested and ate. There were shellfish and seaweed and poi as well. When the meal was done, men and women sat in the moonlight sheltered from the wind. It was good to rest in a friendly group listening to the wash of waves on sand. The woman watched while the old grandfather played a string game and another woman twisted a cord. "Where are you going?" someone asked, and they all stopped their work or play to listen to her answer.

"I am hunting my dear 'grandchild,'" the Kahuku woman said.

"A child? A child is lost?"

"My kapa log," she told them. "I have had it many years. I love it as a grandchild." She told them how it slipped away and how she hunted for it.

"You will find it," the old man told her. "You will find it by some stream or you will hear the song you love."

The woman of Kahuku felt comforted. "Yes, I shall find it," she said happily and began a mele about her log. As she chanted, her hands showed in a hula how she used the log in kapa-making, her love for it, how it was lost and how she hunted.

The family watched her in the moonlight. "You will find your log," they said once more as they led her to the sleeping house.

Before dawn, the Kahuku woman was ready to depart. "Do not go yet," the others said. "You do not know the way and cannot see the trail."

"I shall not need much light," she answered. "I shall listen. Today I'll hear my 'grandchild's' voice."

But she did not hear it. She did not hear the clear ring of her log that day or the next. For days she hunted. Each night, she found food and rest in some welcoming home, but each day her hope grew smaller.

At last, she was near Waipahu. I have come too far, she thought. I must return. Never again shall I hear the voice of my dear "grandchild." Then she saw an owl flying overhead. It is a sign, she told herself. An owl flying by day is a good sign. With new hope she went on.

The sun was high and the trail was hot. She had not found her log and her hope once more was almost gone. She stopped and ate a little food to give her courage. As she ate, two owls flew above her in a great circle. She thought of words spoken long ago by her own grandfather. A very good sign, she said. Today I'll find my "grandchild."

As she came into the village of Waipahu, she could hear the sound of many kapa beaters. They rang on logs with many notes, some loud and clear, some soft, some sharp. She stopped and listened. One log seemed to speak, another answered, but nowhere did she hear the voice of her dear "grandchild." Yet I shall find it, she said happily as she walked through the village.

One by one the sound of kapa beaters ceased. The workers must have stopped to eat or rest. In the stillness she heard very faintly the song of another log far up in the valley. The woman stood still to listen. That was it! Though far away and faint, she knew it was the voice of her dear "grandchild."

Eagerly she took the valley trail. It was rough and slippery but she climbed fast, for her heart was full of hope. She stumbled over rocks. She caught her foot in a vine and fell but got up and went on.

Now the song was nearer and more clear. She rounded a turn in the trail and came upon a woman beating kapa.

The woman stopped with beater lifted. "Aloha, stranger!" she exclaimed. "My husband has called me to come and eat. Company is welcome. Come share the food with me."

But the woman of Kahuku hardly heard as she stood looking at the kapa log. "Your eyes are on my log," the other said. "The gods have brought it. It is a strange log, one that I never saw until this morning. I found it there beside the stream. Listen to its sweet clear song."

"Yes," answered the woman of Kahuku speaking softly. "Its song is clear and sweet. It is like the song of the log I lost five days ago." She told how her log had slipped into the spring and of her search.

"This log is yours," said the woman of Waipahu. "The water flowing underground has brought it from Kahuku -- a long strange journey. Stay with me to eat and sleep. Tomorrow I shall walk a little way with you, for the log is heavy and you have far to go."

The next day, the Kahuku woman started for her home. The way was long, but the log did not seem heavy, for she was glad to have her "grandchild" in her arms once more!

Next week: Makahiki

"The Sound of the Kapa Log" is from "The Waters of Kane," compiled by Mary Kawena Puku'i, retold by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Oliver C. Kinney, published by Kamehameha Schools Press, ©1951 and 1994 by Kamehameha Schools. Reprinted by permission.

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