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Ancient Traces

When Johnno Jackson and his team built Kona Village on an ancient site at Ka’upulehu, they didn’t rush in with bulldozers to rip up what was there and plunk down a new playground, but instead, they carefully and respectfully honored the traces of the old village.

They left original homesites untouched:

They were careful not to disturb the natural spring that had supplied water for drinking and cooking and was kapu--taboo--for all other purposes.

They left alone the spring that had been used for washing and bathing.

A romantic story grew that this spring (right) was the queen's bath, its royalty established by the fact that the rare red pandanus grew out of it. Alas, there's no evidence to support that notion, but there is an indication that it was used for washing clothing--kind of a laundry room--for one and all.  Too bad.  I rather liked the queen’s bath notion.

That pandanus tree, left, is much rarer than the yellow blossomed ones.

They set aside the Holua Slide, which was a form of recreation and a test of skill as well.  After building the slide, the ancients  covered it with smooth, water-worn stones, (‘ili’ili), filled the cracks with mud, and covered the whole with grass.  They built sleds with long runners. Then, with a running start, they’d flop on the sled, or they’d stand on it, surfing, as it were, down the hill.  Most slides were upwards of 100 feet long, but the longest on the island was 1500 feet, and sliders would reach a speed of about 30 miles per hour.  Fun, to be sure, but I’d hate to take a spill and fall off the edge of the slide.  Auwe!

The lagoon served as a fish farm, and the areas were kept separate.  When Johnno took over, it had been untended for years and overgrown, but when they cleared it out they maintained its original character.

The old village was still very much a spiritual part of the new village.  For me, Kona Village was an unusual place on two levels.  It was a wonderful place to unwind and remember what it’s like to just be.  But sometimes, when I was there and in a reflective mood, I could open my mind a crack to life’s deeper mysteries and feel that the setting offered a wispy and not-quite-visible entryway into a Hawai’i of long ago.  While the feeling could touch me at any time, it was particularly likely when I walked alone at night in the petroglyph fields or out on the old runway looking at the stars.  I sometimes fancied that I could hear the whispering of old spirits, as if out of the corner of my ear; I imagined that I sensed their presence because the village, with its soft aloha, allowed them to be felt, and the mana--the spirit of the land--was very strong here.