Announcing the beginning of the end, boys sound pu ohe (bamboo trumpets) at the commencement of the Ho'olaule'a at Waikoloa School.

If you’re reading this, then you probably weren’t snatched up to heaven in the Rapture that was forecast for last weekend. And while the world did not end on Saturday as some had predicted it would, there are enough “wrath of God” events taking place these days to make even the most dyed-in-the-wool skeptics a little nervous.  Deadly tornadoes.  Oprah going off the air.  Could the end of the world be far off?

For many with school-aged children, this time of year brings its own, hopefully less menacing, chapter to a close:  the end of the school year.  While school doesn’t officially let out until tomorrow, Waikoloa held its year-end celebration last Friday with an event called Ho’olaule’a.  During the month of May, many elementary schools in Hawaii celebrate Lei Day (May 1st) by organizing ho’oluale’a (celebrations of friendship and goodwill) that showcase student performances of traditional hula (dances), mele (songs), pule (prayers) and oli (chants).  At Waikoloa School, the Ho’olaule’a performances of each class not only celebrated Hawaiian language and culture, but also revealed an important legacy:  a profound reverence for the natural world.

First graders perform a hula using 'ili 'ili (small stones).

Using flat, smooth, water-worn stones clicked together like castanets, Carter’s class performed a seated hula ‘ili’ili.  The percussive movements accompanied a chant called Ke Ao Nani, meaning “The Beautiful World”:

I luna la i luna  (Up, up above)
Na manu o ka lewa  (Birds fly in the sky)
I lalo la i lalo  (Down, down)
Na pua o ka honua  (Flowers of the earth)
I uka la i uka  (Upland, up in the uplands)
Na ulu la`au  (The grove of trees)
I kai la i kai  (In the sea, the sea)
Na i`a o ka moana  (The fishes of the ocean)
Ha`ina mai ka puana  (Tell the refrain)
A he nani ke ao nei  (Of this beautiful world)

He inoa no na kamali’i (In honor of the children)

In preparation for the ho'olaule'a, parents and students were instructed on making kupe'e (wristlets) and lei (necklaces) from braided ti leaves.

The hula performed by Jack’s fourth grade class celebrated another natural phenomenon to which the ancient Hawaiians were keenly attuned, the phases of the moon:

Kamali‘i ‘ike ‘ole i ka helu po  [Chidren who do no know how to count the nights]
Muku nei, muku ka malama  [Here is Muku, cut off is the moon/month]
Hilo nei, kau ka Hoaka  [Here is Hilo (Faint streak of light), the Hoaka (Crescent) rises]
‘Eha Ku, ‘eha ‘Ole  [There are 4 Ku days, and 4 ‘Ole days]
Huna, Mohala, Hua, Akua  [Huna (Hidden), Mohala (Blooming), Hua (Fruit), Akua (God)]
Hoku, Mahealani, Kulua  [Hoku (Full Moon Night), Mahealani (Full Moon Night), Kulua (Trickling away)]
‘Ekolu La‘au, ‘ekolu ‘Ole  [There are 3 La‘au (Plant) days, and 3 ‘Ole days]
‘Ekolu Kaloa, Kane, Lono, Mauli no  [There are 3 Kaloa (Kanaloa) days, Kane, Lono, and Mauli (Life-Spirit). Kanaloa, Kane and Lono are three major gods of ancient Hawai‘i.]

Scott and Jack with a braided ti leaf lei he made for his hula performance.

Perhaps it’s the slew of catastrophic weather events that’s got me thinking about man-made climate change and our planet’s ability to support life, but I can’t help hoping that the nature-centric ethos reflected in those ancient hula and mele might find a foothold in our children. While I’m not ready to accept Harold Camping’s new doomsday prediction for October 21st, I do believe that Kurt Vonnegut’s suggestion, made in a 2005 post-Hurricane Katrina interview — that “our planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of us” — could be close to the truth.  So it’s time we start giving our Mother Earth the respect she’s due.  Because if the end of the world comes, Oprah’s not going to be there to talk us through it.


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