by Kahikāhealani Wight
trade paperback original
color, 230 pp
Ka Honu Press
distributed by Bess Press
Kahikāhealani Wight grew up in a time when Honolulu society did not value Hawaiian language, culture, or landscape. Like so many post-colonial indigenous populations, Hawaiians internalized the feeling of inferiority. Kahi’s Hawaiian father always emphasized learning Western ways and would not directly teach his daughter about their genealogical roots, although he couldn’t help but transmit to her his indigenous sensibilities and wisdom. Her New England mother, like most parents at that time, discouraged her daughter’s interest in her Hawaiian heritage.
Kahi grew up conflicted. She loved Hawaiian stories and songs and wanted to learn Hawaiian language and connection to the natural world, but she was discouraged from doing so. Then, in the 1980s, she bought a cottage near the erupting summit of Kīlauea in a native rainforest in Volcano village on Hawai‘i Island, and lived there for five years.
Rainforest Pu‘uhonua is her eloquent and moving memoir of those years of awakening. She found pu‘uhonua—sanctuary, refuge—in the endangered Hawaiian rainforest ecosystem, and she shares with us the feeling of being in a landscape alive with ancestral voices singing through mist and fire, native birds and insects, plants and ferns. Discovering the fullness of herself in these sacred uplands, Kahi Wight inspires us to find our own healing places, to connect more fully with the intuitive knowing that springs out of ancient awareness embedded in our land, and continues to be chanted on the wind. Kahikāhealani Wight’s rhythmic prose along with 62 exquisite paintings and photos by local artists, convey the depth and magic of the Hawaiian rainforest and bring the ancestral songs to life.
Kahikāhealani Wight has taught Hawaiian language for more than twenty years. She is the author of Learn Hawaiian at Home and Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary.
“Kahi Wight’s words spring out of an authentic Hawaiian voice and a specific, beloved landscape that became and remains her spiritual puʻuhonua, her refuge, her connection point. It is written from her naʻau, from all the years of repression her generation went through and the emotional pain we Hawaiians hold. Kahi’s writing heals.”
—Manulani Aluli Meyer, author of Ho‘oulu: Our Time of Becoming