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Archive for the ‘Hawaii’s Volcanoes’ Category

I gave the following speech in my freshman class at the University of Hawaii while my home town Kapoho was being destroyed by Kilauea Volcano.  Yesterday I heard of someone from Sacramento who hired a private helicopter to see the “beautiful” once in a lifetime eruption. This is from my book Kapoho: Memoirs of a Modern Pompeii.

“Kapoho, my home town, is being destroyed by lava as I stand here. In the snack bar downstairs, in the media, and in conversations among many of you who have taken helicopter rides to view the eruption, I hear you saying things like “spectacular”, “awesome”, and even “inspiring.”  The camera lens, the first hand sightings from low-flying helicopter rides only show Pele’s  fire. That  can be awesome. Spectacular, even,  if Kapoho were just a piece of dirt, a nowhere place that nobody cares about. But Kapoho is where I grew up.

            My family has evacuated to my aunt’s house. I was there last weekend when my father’s name shrieked  from the radio to identify the next house that was destroyed. My father’s response made me feel  afraid for him as I watched his disbelief. I was  afraid that his mind could crack like the  land beneath our house, cracked wide open by earthquakes.

            My father looked at us and said,   “That can’t be me. That must be another Sadame Kakugawa.” It was spooky to hear him say that.

            My father is a simple plantation worker. He earns minimum wage to support our family of seven and send me to school. We depend on our thirteen acres of cane land  to pay off our   debts.  Losing our home would just kill him

            When my mother told him, “It is your house. There is no other Sadame Kakugawa,” my father just sat there. I could see him looking for some way out. The hardest thing I had to watch that sad day was his resignation. He said, “If Pele wants my house, she can have it.”

And that’s just one story, mine. There’s a village full of stories like this, and the saddest part is,  there isn’t even a village anymore. You want spectacle? There’s a spectacle for you.

I sat abruptly down. At least one person had heard me that day, because for the rest of the year, my purchases were paid for at the snack bar.  All I knew about my benefactor was that he was a veteran.

We knew we  were living on top of  a live volcano. The steam rising from small fissures that were under our house would rot some of my father’s fish nets.

“I think Pele lives under our house,” my father would say. Scientifically, it was a canary.

Pele was warning us, but we never gave it a thought. We took it for granted, the dampness, the smell of rotten eggs, it was an normal and natural as the wrigglers or the tiny fragments of stones caught in the Bull Durham tobacco bags that hung around our tap to filter water from the wooden water tanks.

My father’s relationship with Pele was personal. He often went fishing at nights and returned in the early hours of the  morning. When he returned within an hour, we knew there was a story that he would tell us later.

“I was about to throw my net when something told me to turn around.  I saw this old woman with long white hair, standing behind me on the rocks. She had no feet. I know it was Pele warning me that the waves were too rough and dangerous,  so I picked up my nets and said, ‘thank you, Pele,’ and came home.”

My father is not the only family member who respects  Pele.

 

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Thank you for asking about my Kapoho book: Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii.

I was 18 when our town was covered by the same Kilauea Volcano who has returned to the same area.  Book is available on Amazon, Watermark Publishers , Barnes & Noble, and other local bookshops. The  cover shows the main part of Kapoho: The pool hall, the Nakamura store, and the theater which used generators to show films. My grandmother’s house was one of the first to be totally covered by lava.

3 by 4 kapoho cover

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The Sea Meeting Pele*

 

He explodes

Into a million

Molecules

As her fiery tongue

Laps into

His undulating loins,

Sizzling and burning

Every ecstasy.

frances kakugawa

* Hawaiian legendary Goddess of Fire

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