Sunday, July 2, 2017

Walking the Iliau Nature Loop Trail - Kauai, Hawaii

Warning: Novice blogger at work. Just overlook anything weirdly spaced or kapakahi.

The Iliau (ill-ee-ow) Nature Loop Trail is a short, fairly flat, loop trail at the beginning of the much steeper Kukui trail that leads down into Waimea Canyon, dubbed by Mark Twain the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
sign at beginning of Iliau Nature Loop Trail
Matt asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day this year. There are always a lot of buffets with food we don’t necessarily want at prices we balk at paying. We were already days into the kitchen cabinet remodel, days and nights on which we ate out, or brought home deli and ate it off paper plates. I wanted to go up to the iliau and take a simple picnic and enjoy it outdoors. We ended up going up there 2 weekends in a row.

The first time, we did not have the camera and got only the pictures I could take with my cell phone, which does not zoom. We went back the following weekend and took many more pictures. 

I wasn’t sure where the trail was and I’d googled it on maps – which gave me a totally erroneous picture of where it was. We went all the way up to the lodge at the top, almost 20 miles, looking for the trail signs all the way. (It is just past mile 9.)There is a small museum/shop up at the top and they have great topo maps, with all the trails marked.

They also have one of the best selections of Hawaiian books on the island, so we browsed books and ended up coming home with several.

Back down the mountain we went, and found the trail. What a wonderful place! It’s a common trope that words can’t describe something, but really true of this place. It has a special intense energy of its own – these cosmic plants combined with the energy of a 3,000-foot-deep, 10-mile-long, ancient canyon. It’s really mind blowing.

I’m leaving the iliau pictures for last, to view as a group. The trail has many endemic and indigenous plants with educational signs with text and line drawings identifying them. The text next to the pictures here is from the signs, which did not photograph well.

Indigenous = originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native
Endemic = a plant or animal native restricted to a certain country or area

Gahnia beecheyi
Endemic to all Hawaiian Islands except Moloka’i

This large sedge has brown feathery seed heads, which are used in floral arrangements and wreaths. The long slender leaves are barbed have miniature hair-like spines on the surface. The leaves were used as an inner lining for the walls of the ancient Hawaiian hale (house).

Dodonea viscosa

This widespread shrub has clusters of seed-bearing capsules ranging in color from yellow-orange to bright red. The Hawaiians used the ‘a’ali’i’s colorful seed capsules to produce a fine dye for kapa (bark cloth, also known as tapa in other parts of Polynesia). Today, the capsules are also used for lei making. This tree has a taproot, strongly anchored, which is expressed in the following olelo (proverb).
He ‘a’li’i au, ‘a’ohe makani e hina ai.
I am an ‘a’ali’i shrub, no wind can push me over.

Eragrostis variabolis
Endemic to all Hawaiian Islands

This native perennial grass has a wide ecological range, found from sand dunes in coastal areas to cliff sides in the uplands. It was sometimes used as a substitute for pili grass house thatching. The waving of kawelu grass in the breeze is said to be the inspiration of a swaying hula step. Kawelu is also mentioned in many Hawaiian chants and poems.
Viola Chamissoniana
subsp. tracheliifolia
Endemic to all Hawaii Islands except Hawaii
This rare branch shrub of the violet family can grow 3 to 6 feet tall. This species can be recognized by its shiny bright green leaves which are heart shaped and elongated. The delicate white flowers, which bloom from May to November, are about twice the size of common violets. Also notice how pamakani is a much woodier species than the herbaceous common violet.

Styphelia tameiameiae
Indigenous to main Hawaiian Islands
This shrub has tiny stiff leaves which were used medicinally for colds and headaches. The red inedible berries as well as the flowers are used in lei making. In the old days when an ali’i (high chief) wished to mingle informally with his people, he would walk through the smoke of burning pukiawe and thus free himself of the kapu.  

‘Uki ‘Uki
Dianella sandwicensis
Endemic to Hawaiian Islands
This member of the lily family grows from an underground stem, or tuber, sending up long sword-like leaves. From the center of the plant arises a cluster of white or bluish flowers. The Hawaiians utilized the leaves for thatching houses and making rope and twine. In addition, they used the blue berries, which appear in the summer to make a dye for their kapa.
Pukeawe and 'uki 'uki

Wilkesia gymnoxiphium
Endemic to Kauai
This striking botanical species, found only on Kauai, is the feature plant of the loop trail. It is an ancient member of the sunflower family and is a close relative of the silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense) found on Mount Haleakala, Maui.

Iliau is a monocarpic plant, meaning the plant flowers and bears fruit only once and then dies. The average life span of an iliau is 2-10 years until it blooms into an immense flowering stalk with yellow daisy-like flowers. This spectacular display can be seen from May to July.
There were hundreds of them in bloom, in all stages, and many keiki (babies) coming along.
They look like crazy alien pods before they open
Little buds starting to come out

Partially open with seedpod

Seedpod, Ohia Lehua, fully opened iliau
The seed pods have a stark beauty of their own
This flower head got so heavy it fell over and was at ground level. The individual flower stalks were furry and sticky. Iliau architecture just slays me.
Fairies surely dance here
Iliau gazing at the waterfall
Iliau gazing at the waterfall, way across the canyon

Unusual multi-stemmed iliau
Matt gazing at the iliau
Orange and green lichen
We had a pleasant picnic at a little developed picnic area about 5 miles back up the mountain. They did a nice job of not over-developing it. There is a large covered pavilion with many picnic tables attached to the restroom house, and some distance away, 4 of these little individual pavilions. The big pavilion was full of little boys – maybe cub scouts or a school class - when we got there.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lei Day, 2017

Happy May Day to you!

White-flowered shrub with dark purple leaves was next to a lime green hedge at the Marriott – very striking!
From Wikipedia: “Lei Day is a statewide celebration in all of Hawaii. The celebration begins in the morning of May first every year and continues throughout the entire day and even continues onto the next day. Lei day was established as a holiday in the year of 1929 and continues to this day. Each Hawaiian island has a different type of lei that is used for the celebration and for its people to wear.”

Photo credit:

That’s pretty accurate. I think the lei for Kauai is maile, which is a sweet-smelling vine that grows in the forest. We get it on special occasions, like our wedding or to honor a special teacher. Schools typically have May Day celebrations with hula and song. The private school I used to work for would prepare for about 3 months in advance and each grade performed a hula or song in full costume.

On Kauai, Lei Day is put on by the Kauai Museum and is a lei-making competition. It’s been more or less fun over the years. Last year was kind of bogus because they put the lei on silent auction and folks were taking them as they won, so many were missing by the time we got there. This year the leis could not be taken until 4 p.m.

This year the museum courtyard is under construction, so they held it over at the Marriott. WOW! So much better all around. The Marriott has wide open spaces, great organization, a fabulous garden, and welcoming staff. They also have an outstanding collection of oriental art and sculpture.

  We used to hold final class dinners at the Princeville Hotel in its baroque days and one of the German ladies got sniffy about how decadent and bourgeois it was. (And it definitely was! but it was pretty funny because we were all lapping it up.) The Marriott is completely decadent and bourgeois and I truly enjoy going there.

In general, the judges tend to favor these fluffy multi-flower lei. 

My friend Jennifer Pomroy is the granddaughter of Irmalee Pomroy, a noted floral designer and lei maker here on Kauai (now passed). Her son Ka’ohu won an award for this distinctively different lei. He is 15 now. This hala seed lei is rarely seen or worn – usually associated with funerals, but occasionally used as an adornment for hula.

  Hat lei are a special category of their own.

Ti leaf lei – the one at the top is a very old type – instead of narrow pieces of leaf woven or tied together, it had larger end pieces of the leaves, bound on raffia. I was very taken with that one.

White. The pikake buds in the bottom lei were smaller than my little fingernail and it was a solid round cord lei. They smelled divine.

These lehua buds were even smaller than the pikake buds, and it was made up of multiple strands. These are sewn with a needle.

I was really taken with this one, because it was so different from the others. Made from the calyx (calyxes?) of gardenias, very fluffy.


Many people got dressed up and were wearing flowers. These ladies and their lei were so pretty, I asked them if I could take their picture. The lei were all made by Sandy Takaezu, the lady on the left. They are blue jade flowers from her property in the Wailua Homesteads. The part that looks like a purple-blue bead is the calyx of the individual flower. These are needle sewn.

She was the most gracious lady. I made her laugh because I kept checking behind me to make sure I wasn’t bumping into anyone when I was taking the picture. I learned from the Dragon Dance!

On the way out, we saw these doves, nene geese, and a swan (or a duck? not sure) feeding by one of the ponds with koi. They were not at all afraid of us, we walked right up to them. The doves were flicking seeds out to the koi.

I’m not sure if this was a swan or a duck. It came right up out of the water to eat these greens. I was imagining that part of the chef’s duties: “cut greens for water birds.” The nene geese are the endangered state bird of Hawaii. These were truly tame. Usually they hiss if you get too close to them.

Ah, the Marriott, built on a truly grand scale. The columns are about 4 feet in diameter and 2 stories tall.

Matt always sneaks in a picture or two of me. I was neither dressed up nor wearing flowers, but at least I was clean. This is a characteristic pose of mine, with my handbag safely tucked under my arm. The oriental painting in the background is at least 10 feet tall, stunning.

I didn’t take any of him, but here’s one from a while ago, when he said to me, “Look honey, it’s the Bead Hut.” This is where we had lunch afterward. It’s one of our favorite local places, really good burgers and very consistent over the years.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Tale of 2-1/2 Tails, or Possessed by a Different Mermaid

Last year I started a new mermaid, inspired by a beautiful face created by Darcy Rosner of Sweet Bananaberry. Mermaids are known to possess one or all of three outstanding attractive features: long and luscious hair, large tatas (breasts), and an enticing tail.

I usually start with the tatas, but Leilehua started with her face. Once the face is attached to the doll, she comes to life and begins to share opinions about how she should look and what colors she likes. Even though the face is securely bezeled with 24K gold seed beads and tiny crystals, it will remain tied down until the front is completely finished. I've had too many faces pop out of their bezels while I was working on the rest of the body.

leilehua beaded mermaid dollWhen I finished her upper body, I wasn't happy. I thought to myself, "This doll is really derivative. There is nothing original about her. " Derivative of what? Well, ME, and a dozen other mermaids I've made. Definitely recognizable as my "style" - pretty face, unusually small but flashy tatas, mixed fiber hair embedded with freshwater pearls, plenty of 24K gold. She's pretty, and other folks liked her, but I was really discouraged and felt like I was just repeating myself, which is essentially boring

So she sat in a ziploc bag for a while. She's sat in a bag a lot over the last year.

I switch back and forth from more-or-less improvisational bead embroidery to doing highly structured and counted bead weaving, often from another artist's pattern. Each process can be done with focused intention, and each is a relief from the other. I've always like Chinese lacquered and articulated fish ornaments and Linda Richmond made a pattern to bead one. It was great fun, I made it in a couple of different colorways, adapting it to the beads I had on hand.

I tested some original designs for a beaded pinwheel and made two Kaleidocycles.

 Every once in a while I'd get Leilehua out and feel stymied by how "derivative" she was. Talk about your inner critic! We are our own harshest judges. My husband recently suggested I could think of her differently, perhaps as being the culmination of a long series of increasingly accomplished dolls. OK, maybe.

One day I was thinking about - all right, PRAYING for inspiration - what would make her different and more interesting. The obvious answer was an articulated bead-woven tail. And off I went, starting with a top "skirt" around the body. That looked a bit scruffy at the back, so I gave her a chiffon veil to tie it in. I then made five more "skirts," decreasing in size.

In Linda Richmond's original fish pattern the tail end was flat, done in brick stitch. It looked great with her fish, but I'm not fond of brick stitch and decided to design my own tail using peyote stitch and make it 2-sided to increase its depth. I finished half of one side and decided it just didn't go with the body.

My final tail fin is livelier and has more dimension. It's a lovely tail.

When I tried to put the tail segments together, they didn't work at all! They completely nested together instead of rising in tiers. I was almost in tears myself at that point. I tried various ways of tacking the tops to narrow them, none of which worked. Back into the bag she went!

A few weeks ago I took her out again. She was prettier than I remembered and I decided to make her a new tail, bead embroidered instead of woven. Starting from her hip size, I drew out the new tail and laid it out. I didn't have any felt the same color as the body, so I decided to make it fuschia and tie in the body colors. It seemed a bit large from the beginning, but Leilehua kept saying she liked it.

When it was done, it was obviously out of scale and belonged to some other mermaid. Back into the bag with Leilehua and the new mermaid began to come into being.

                                                The story continues with Sophia...