Earth Patriot: Origins
Earth Patriot: Origins is a young adult novel that will be released on Amazon's Kindle eBooks on Earth Day. The story involves the interaction within a Native Hawaiian family and how they incorporate the best of Hawaiian and Western culture into their lives.
Below is a preview from the book.
Many nations and peoples have legends which tell how, when they are in grave danger, a hero is born. When her tribe was threatened by the Romans, Queen Boudica took up arms. When England was in dire need, King Arthur drew Excalibur. Cheng Tang rose to meet China’s need. Jeanne d’Arc rallied France. But when the world, itself, is in danger, who shall rise to its defense?
When danger threatens the entire world, the hero must be someone who can pledge allegiance to the mountains and the sea, to stand for all living things, to defend the stones and streams, to seek justice for the cloud forest. That person is born to be the Earth Patriot………….
Manu woke drenched in sweat. He sat up, still shaking. He hadn’t been there, but he’d read the police report and the stories in the newspapers. Sometimes he was in the car. Sometimes he was standing on the roadside. Sometimes he was silent. Sometimes he screamed. He begged his dad to slow down, to turn around, to not get in the car in the first place. But the crash always happened. And the dream always ended with the drunk guy who caused it laughing as he walked away.
Manu listened for his grandparents, but there was no sound of footsteps coming toward his door. His screams must have been silent this time.
Despite the open windows, the bedroom felt airless. Manu stood. The old wood floor was smooth against his bare feet. The planks were built from trees that had grown where the house now sat. Manu stepped quietly to the door and took a flannel shirt from the knob. The evening was chilly. Sweatpants and a t-shirt were not quite enough. Pulling on the flannel, he quietly slipped outside.
Night breezes whispered in the trees that clung to the valley walls. A drizzle floated above the rim of the valley, illuminated by a moonbow that hung over the headwaters of the now-calm river which had patiently carved its way through weathered mountains. Ho‘omanawanui. Patience. The valley was patient. It had seen generations come and go. It would see more. Manu sat on the cool grass and leaned against the tree his parents had planted to celebrate his birth.
Manu felt closer to his parents here than at the cemetery where they were buried. Their bones were at the cemetery, but that wasn’t them. Not really. The waxy face in the coffin didn’t look anything like Dad. And the ashes in the koa box sure weren’t Mom.
This was where his parents were. The trees scattered across the farm marked the lives of his ‘ohana. The koa tree planted when his dad was born, the ‘ōhi‘a lehua planted for his parents’ wedding. Tūtū Kai’s hala had been planted to represent forgiveness. His marriage to Tūtū Maluhia was represented by the fragrant miulan that grew by the front door.
Manu squeezed his eyes shut gainst the tears that stung them. He felt his fingernails dig into his palms.
“I’m sorry Dad.” He should have been with them. If he’d been there, another pair of eyes watching the road, maybe they could have avoided the other car. Or if he’d been there to testify as a witness, the killer wouldn’t have walked away. Or maybe if he’d been there they’d have stayed home with him and not even been on the I-5. No. His parents were headed to Washington to testify at the GMO hearings. They’d have gone no matter what. But if he hadn’t argued with Dad on the phone that afternoon, maybe Dad wouldn’t have been too distracted to avoid the oncoming car. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so, so sorry.”
The soft rain continued its journey mauka and the moonbow faded. Shadows shifted as the moon continued west. “I’ll be Tūtū Kai’s son, like you wanted. But I’ll be your son, too.”
Manu fell asleep with his back against the koa tree, the branches angling back and forth above him, tiny yellow pompon blossoms falling like stars.
Just before dawn, Manu slipped back into the house and climbed back into bed. He needed at least a little sleep before going to school.
The trade winds blew gently through the lush valley. Light mauka rains created a misty rainbow over weathered mountains. There was a sense of peace and agelessness here. The world beyond this valley with its fast paced lifestyle and its constant need “to be connected” seemed so out of balance with the flow of nature. Here the spirits of those who worked the land with loving respect still permeated the soil, the water, the air. Aloha could be felt here, in every breath taken, in every sight and sound.
School clothes traded for his old army surplus camo pants and a stained tank top that had once been olive drab, Manu jogged up the path to meet his grandfather. Tūtū Kai heard the footsteps, stopped, and turned toward Manu to wait.
The kupuna’s rugged features told a story of his many years working in the sun, rain and wind. His back was not as straight as it once was, and he needed to rest more often than in his younger years. But he was still strong in body, mind and spirit. His gray hair and beard did not make Manu think of age, but of wisdom.
Manu knew that others considered the man a cultural treasure, his wisdom acquired through listening to his kumu, his kūpuna and learning the inner meanings of the stories and history of his people passed down from generation to generation. Reverence for his ancestors and their traditions, traditions that kept a culture thriving through many years and many struggles, provided the foundation of his life and the lessons he tried to teach Manu.
“E! Manu! Aloha mai!” The deep lines in Ikaika’s face enhanced the smile that lit it when he saw his grandson. “Nānā ka ‘io! Look at the hawk!”
The raptor’s feathers rippled slightly as the bird caught thermals rising from the black sand beach where the valley opened to the sea. “She looks like a surfer on a big wave,” Manu replied. “Look at her take off! What a steep drop!”
“‘Ae,” his grandfather replied. “Yes. And a nice bottom turn.” With a final shrill cry, the bird headed into the valley shadows. “She’s always been a blessing to us. She fledged and took her first flight the day you took your first steps. That’s how you got your name. You were playing in the yard, and when she fell out of her nest you ran toward her yelling, “manu!”
“That would be me,” Manu felt his face rise into a grin that matched his grandfather’s. “Run before I can walk!” But the grin didn’t stay. “I’ve known her my entire life. I feel like she’s part of me. Like she’s the part of me that connects me to this valley. We’re seventeen, now. . . That’s as long as an ‘io lives.”
The older man and his grandson stood side-by-side, silent in the comfort of not needing to speak. Manu felt the air in his lungs, cool salt breeze flowing in and out of his being like the wind in the valley or the waves on the shore. They watched the wind stir the leaves of the ‘io’s nesting tree. The changing shadows reminded them that there were chores to finish before nightfall. The older man picked up his five-gallon paint bucket of tools and Manu did the same.
“So, how was school today?”
Manu set his work bucket on the ground and rearranged the tools for better balance. “I’m glad I transferred to ‘Ike Ag. Mr. Peterson, that’s the science teacher, he’s pretty cool. Kinda like that science guy on TV. Really funny,” Manu replied with a short laugh. “And everyone from this valley goes there. I know it doesn’t have any accredited college prep stuff, but once I get into college I can always try and test out of the hundred-level classes, instead.”
“I like being able to help design my own lesson plans. And I really missed the cousins while I was in my other school.” The muddy path they were walking on suddenly seemed especially interesting, and Manu stared at his rubber work boots, fascinated by how the mud sparkled as it rose over the toes. “I feel bad about leaving, though.”
He felt, more than saw, his grandfather glance at him. He didn’t know if he wanted his grandfather to ask what was going on, to pull his words out like a bottom fisherman hooking kumu, or if he wanted the silence that let him form his own questions and hopefully find some answers. Manu paused and splattered the mud with the toe of his right boot.
“Well. . . well, there’s these guys that like to push around the geekier kids. There’s just three of them, but it’s like they run the whole school. Even the teachers act scared of them. Most of them do whatever this one guy, Clay, Clayton, wants. One time they all got detention and Clay’s mom and dad came to the school and were in the office yelling at the principal that the teachers were out to get Clayton They even threatened to sue the school. . . man. . . The guys were even worse after that.”
Tūtū Kai pulled a sickle from his bucket and cut some overhanging brush back from the path. “Mālama every day. Clean the path a little bit every day and it never gets overgrown. Pull weeds every day, the garden never gets overgrown.”
Tūtū Kai was old school. He rarely said anything negative, but found other ways to express his opinions - like pulling weeds.
“I didn’t like it there.”
Tūtū Kai stopped and looked straight at Manu. “They bother you?”
“No, no. I’m bigger than any of them. They pretty much stick to hassling anyone they figure won’t fight back. And they know the teachers can’t really get physical with them. That’s why I feel bad about leaving. They don’t make trouble with anyone I’m hanging out with.”
“Maopopo. I understand. You know how your Tūtū-lady is so good on the Internet, she started subscribing to the newspapers on-line. She showed me some stories about bullies in the schools.” Tūtū Kai pursed his lips.
Manu looked down. “Yeah. Sometimes the bullying gets so bad that the kids commit suicide.”
“Um hmmm. Yeah. You feel bad about leaving, but you can’t be there to save everyone. . . What do you think can be done?”
Manu sighed in exasperation. “Everyone’s gotta step up. I think people kill themselves when they feel alone, like there’s no one to turn to. Teachers, parents, your friends. . . everyone needs to get over themselves and look around, say something! Every time those guys get away with it and no one says anything, it’s like telling them it’s ok.”
“So,” Tūtū Kai replied, “You think it takes more than just not being a bully, yourself? You think everyone has to step up and let people know it’s not ok?”
“I think you’re right. That school needs to figure out how to get everyone on board before someone gets hurt. But for your situation, there will always be bullies, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to help other people and deal with them. But for now, focus on your education. Education is important! Whatever you do. If you’re a scientist, if you’re a farmer, you need a good education.”
Manu could tell the family’s traditional lecture on the importance of education was coming, and prepared his ears.
“Hawaiian people have always valued education. You know, learning doesn’t just happen between four walls! Real education is when you apply what you learn.” Tūtū Kai was on a roll now.
“You know, in the old days, there was no difference between the word for a workplace and the word for a school. You learned where you worked. These days, people say things like ‘hālau hula’ is a hula school. But it was really a place where you did the work of the hula. Just like a hālau wa‘a. It was a place to do the work for canoes. And you learned while you worked. You learned your ‘āina, you learned your kuleana. You learned to take care of your land and be responsible for your actions.”
“But you cannot only learn in your own hālau. That would just make you very narrow minded and one-dimensional. That’s why the haole style education is good. It’s a different style of learning. It brings information from other ‘āina. Remember the ‘olelo no‘eau, ‘A ‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi. ‘All knowledge is not taught in the same school.’ You can learn from many sources.”
By the time Tūtū Kai, wrapped up his talk, they were at the lo‘i. As they pulled out the tools they would need for weeding the young taro in its water-filled paddy, more advice came from the older man. Manu knew it all by heart, but as he worked he listened respectfully. Tūtū Kai’s voice was rhythmic, like the bass line of a song, and the melody was the sound of birds flapping their wings and singing in the forest. To be Hawaiian was to savor each word of the kūpuna, and Manu felt most Hawaiian when weeding the lo‘i, the source of kalo, the food of his ancestors.
Manu’s earliest memories were of the lo‘i, making piles of weeds at the water’s edge as his parents waded out, singing, laughing, pulling weeds, replanting any kalo dislodged by the work. Every day they had come to take care of the broad paddies filled with kalo in various stages of growth. Manu’s favorite were the paddies in their final year before harvest. Hide and seek was made for the lo‘i.
Memories: Manu held as still as he could, completely hidden by the huge leaves of the kalo. ‘O‘opu tickled his legs with their pectoral suckers, exploring this new surface in their domain. He could hear the splash of water and slurp of mud as his parents stepped through the lo‘i looking for him. Peering under the leaves, he could see their reflections in the water. With each step they took, the mud gave a squelchy burp and released an earthy fragrance, wet and rich, and filled with the gaseous interactions of the millions of microscopic beings which maintained the health of the lo‘i. Dad gently began to pump one foot slowly up and down, then suddenly lifted his foot out of the water, bringing with it all the fragrance of the lo‘i’s fermentation process, and an appropriate sound effect. “Swamp fart!” Manu’s fit of giggles immediately gave him away and he was dragged from his hiding place into his father’s arms. The first memories of Dad were much better than the last ones.
Funny how memories changed. He remembered the lo‘i as smelling sweeter in those days. Mom had said it smelled like silage, fermented alfalfa fed to the dairy cows her grandparents had in California. Now, it smelled faintly rank.
Lost in thought, Manu had not noticed how large his pile of weeds had grown, but his grandfather had.
“Little bit, every day, every day.” Tūtū Kai’s musing kept pace with his movements. That’s how you get things done. Try to do it all at once, you make mistakes. Worse, you don’t notice the mistakes, so you make more, and they pile up. Little bit, every day, every day.” They continued to work accompanied by the gentle splashing sound of weeds being pulled from the lo‘i and tossed to the embankment surrounding the taro paddy. When the deep shadow of the valley walls made it too dark to easily see the weeds, Tūtū Kai and Manu gathered their tools for the walk back to the house, and dinner.
“Aue! The hō‘i‘o! I’ll catch up with you!” Manu stepped back into the water to cross over to the trees on the hikina side of the lo‘i. He heard a splash, and looked around, but saw nothing out of place. He continued on and found what he had almost forgotten.
On the ground, under the trees, ferns grew, fibrous rhizomes lying thickly across each other, or rising from the dark moist earth. Glossy deep green fronds with thin purple veins decorating the midrib unfurled in abundance. Manu stepped carefully through the fern patch, quietly chanting as he headed for the opposite side. “Noho ana ke akua i ka nāhelehele.” Respect, it was all about respect. Showing respect to the plants and the forest that nurtured them. He would gather the tender and tasty fiddleheads of the fern on his way back out. “Pūpū weuweu au e ke Akua e, o kona weuweu e kū ne,” he chanted as he harvested. Maluhia, his grandmother, would be pleased that he remembered to bring back hō‘i‘o to eat with the ‘ōpae, the little river shrimps, she had salted the day before.
Just before stepping back into the water, he heard the strange splash again. He paused. Ripples undulated from under a kalo leaf. He slowly reached down to lift it. A flurry of wings launched into his face, beating at him and quacking! He jumped back, almost losing his footing in the deep mud! A soggy koloa struggled weakly, trapped in rotting cattail leaves. His mate returned, frantically tugging at the leaves, trying to free him between furious attacks on Manu’s boots. Manu pulled off his t-shirt and caught her, wrapping her carefully in the fabric so she would not injure herself while he freed her mate. As he worked, a stench of rotting vegetation and dead fish bubbled from the water. An ‘o‘opu, belly up, slowly floated away.