It’s Elemental

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Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn | Photo by Nina Kuna

Diane Haynes WoodburnMud puppies!” exclaimed my husband, Jamie, as our six-month-old Australian shepherds ran to greet us. We had been in town, but rumors of a storm and darkening skies had convinced us to abandon our plans for dinner and a movie, and head back up the hill to Kula. By the time we reached home, the wind was wailing and rain had begun. “We’ll have to bring them in,” I said. The puppies, Buddy and Paka, joyously clamored into the house, covering us, and everything else, with muddy paw prints. Moments later I was toweling down the grateful beasts (and much of the furnishings), while Jamie stoked the wood stove. Warm and dry, we all hunkered down in our toasty abode, awaiting the oncoming storm.

“Torrential” would be an understatement. As night fell, horizontal rain carried by winds of fifty to seventy miles an hour hammered our windows and devastated the landscape. Friends texted of massive fallen trees blocking country roads; we lost electricity, ate by candlelight, and brought out board games for entertainment. “When was the last storm like this you can remember?” I asked my husband. “Not in forty years,” he replied. “It’s romantic,” I smiled. He looked up, his eyes uncharacteristically solemn. “Not for olive trees,” he said.

Of all the things I thought I might someday be, a farmer’s wife was not among them, yet over the last four years I’ve watched my husband move from gentleman gardener to “Jamie Olive Seed,” planting and nurturing thousands of olive trees around the island. He has battled weeds, wind, insects, drought, axis deer — even pigs. And he has prevailed. We expect our first harvest and oil pressing this November.

Might a storm change all that? With all our technology, we humans are still subject to the elements — to fire, water, earth and air, the elements of life — which, as this farmer’s wife notes with renewed respect, is the theme of our annual environmental issue.

In these pages of Maui No Ka ‘Oi, we revere and celebrate the elements that shape our island paradise. From the fury of Pele’s fiery volcano, to the gentle tug and pull of lunar tides, Hawai‘i is a study of beauty and contrasts created and continually carved by the forces of nature.

Our cover story on ‘Ahihi-Kina‘u invites you to explore a hushed and protected landscape that mirrors the beginning of time. Here, amid the gnarled black-and-umber fingers of sharp, inhospitable lava, blue tide pools and anchialine ponds reveal their treasure of rare and fragile sea life.

Then, from the ruins of molten lava flows, cast your gaze to the heavens. In “Planting by the Moon,” we introduce you to the age-old attraction between the Earth and her nearest companion, and explain how Hawaiians followed the swelling and waning of that lunar body to reveal when to plant, harvest, fish — or do nothing at all.

Doing nothing at all is just what some Mauians want for the Earth. Shannon Wianecki reports on a Maui law that would prohibit any new GMO crop until an independent study first proves no harm.

Fire, earth, water and air . . . In “Elements of Style,” our playful look at fashion, we invite you to decide which you are most made of. Eastern culture teaches us that the more we are in balance, the greater our life force, or chi. In Hawaiian culture, harmony with nature is life itself.

By morning, the storm had passed. Jamie and I walked our property to assess the damage. It looked like a small war had taken place, and the elements had won.

It took Jamie three more days to muster the courage to inspect the mountainside olive orchard just a mile from home, where more than 2,000 trees had been subjected to the formidable winds. To his surprise, the trees survived.

The power and miracles of nature shape our island every day. It could all change in a moment, as any farmer’s wife would know. But what won’t change is the beauty that abounds and the awe we carry in our hearts. It’s elemental.

A hui hou!


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