Pohu: The Hawaiian Word of The Week
A calm to remember
This past weekend I went to the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life, hands down. When we anchored the boat and the engine stopped, I sat for about 5 minutes in total awe, tears rolling quietly down my cheeks. Nearly everyone else was off the boat in the first two minutes, but I had to make myself get into the ocean because I was nearly paralyzed by the mind-shattering gorgeousness of it all. But it wasn’t just the place, it was the calm windless conditions, the pohu of that day, that really allowed the natural beauty to shine unhindered.
Huli ʻole ka waʻa ke holo i ka pohu – The canoe does not overturn when it goes in the calm (Ke Aupuni Mōʻī / Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 30 May 1868)
A whole day of those kinds of conditions doesn’t happen often in our islands of prevailing tradewinds – especially during the summer months. The smoothness of ocean and clarity of sky were incredible. In order to remember it wasn’t a dream, I had to pinch myself. I thought about how much less we would have enjoyed it if the winds were high and the ocean was rough.
A ike o Kuapakaa, ua make na enemi o kona makuakane o Pakaa, alaila, popoi iho la ia ia Laamaomao, o ka malie koke iho la no ia a pohu haalele loa. (The Legend of Kuapakaa, Fornander Vol. 5) – And Kuapakaa saw that the enemies of his father, of Pakaa, were dead, then he closed Laamaomao (the wind gourd) and things quickly calmed and the wind quieted completely.
After I got over my shock, I enjoyed one of the best days of my life with a group of wonderful people. It went something like this: Swim in the ocean to a waterfall. Swim in the pool by the waterfall. Eat a mango while swimming in the pool. Stand under the waterfall and get a lomilomi (massage). Bask in the sun on a rock like a moʻo. Swim in the ocean some more. Jump off a rock into the ocean (repeat 5 times if you are a keiki). Eat lunch. Pick ʻopihi. Eat those. Swim some more. Pinch yourself. Marvel, again, at the windless, cloudless pohu that is the unbelievable magic of the whole day…It still seems like a dream.
Ou mau makua i ka poko i ka loa,
o Hamakua poko a me Hamakua loa, i ka
nome a ka la i ka pohu o Maliko.
My parents in the short and long,
Hāmākua poko and Hāmākua loa,
where the sun gradually consumes the calm of Māliko.
(From the story of Kamiki, Ka Hoku o Hawaii, 11 March 1915)
The biggest gift of that day is how soothed I felt inside after experiencing the outer calm. I really want to know how to have that kind of pohu without having that epic of a day (like while parenting my arguing kids, or driving in traffic, or…). I feel so thankful, though, to have had an unexpected moment of inner peace triggered by an equally unexpected adventure on one of the nicest days this year. And the pohu stayed with me as I transitioned, reticently, back into suburbia (sigh).
I think Kekauʻōnohi said it best in her closing lines in her paukū (section) of a mele for Lunalilo (to which many chiefs contributed) that was bequeathed to Kalākaua and published in the book Na mele aimoku, na mele kupuna, a me na mele ponoi o ka Moi Kalakaua I (Dynastic chants, ancestral chants, and personal chants of King Kalākaua I). Her wisdom reads (approximation mine):
Maikai ka nana ana i ka pohu, e—ilaila, – It is good to observe the calm – there
O ka pohu lai’a o ke kanaka, – It is the peaceful calm of the person
O ke kumu ia e maikai ai ka manao, – It is the reason the thoughts are well
Her sage words are still relevant today – inner calm is the key to clear thinking and a healthy mind. Any ideas on how to maintain that on a daily basis? Leave a comment below! And take a couple of modern examples with you:
Ua nui wale ka pohu o ka Lāpule – Sunday was SO calm!
Ke noho nei lākou i Kona, ʻāina i ka pohu. – They are living in Kona, a calm place.
E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!