Life at the Center: Love of the Land, the Sea and Hamilton, Vol 39, October 2016

I grew up singing patriotic songs with a glad heart. I loved Presidents Day, with the stories of Washington’s honesty and his winning our freedom from the British, and of Lincoln’s setting the slaves free and his brave words about our new nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Free, independent, at liberty, I was born an American in 1955, not long after the USA had played such a major role in defeating Nazism and totalitarianism in World War II. I learned from my parents and teachers that we were fortunate to live in a country where not only resources, but, more importantly, FREEDOM was abundant.

As a Political Science major in college, I learned about the original, unique structure of American democracy, with its system of checks and balances, its independent courts, and our free press. Those institutions largely ensure that we live under the rule of law instead of under the whim of whoever is in power at the moment. I believe those are still pillars of our existence as a free society.

Within my lifetime, however, America lost some of its innocence, involving itself in wars we did not win and probably never should have been part of. With a self-incriminating assertion of everyone’s right to free speech and equal opportunity, we began to acknowledge that we had not shared our material, political or social abundance with African Americans or Native Americans. Both of those developments cast us upon something less than moral high ground.

Given the inexcusable lapses of some of our presidents in my lifetime, there were moments while traveling in other countries that I was ashamed to admit that I was an American.

Coming to Hawaii – where local people proudly sport emblems of the islands on their car windows, on their clothing, and even permanently tattooed into their skin – was curiously heart-warming to me in my forties.  I loved their love of ka ‘aina – the land.

Just as in my childhood I had enacted scenes from lives of the pilgrims, our Founding Fathers and the pioneers, when I arrived here on island, I watched Hawaiian residents enact scenes of their last Queen’s reign.  And just as I had sung songs about the beautiful and free country to which I had been born, I listened to people here in Hawaii sing rapturous songs about their island paradise and their brave ali’i (kings, queens, nobility).

The people of Hawaii feel a sense of closeness and connection to the land, its culture and its history that I had had as a child growing up in mainland USA. I adore participating in our hula halau, dancing love songs to these radiant islands and the adventures of their dearly beloved queens. I miss feeling that way about the United States as a whole.

Last week my mom flew from her current home in California to her childhood home in Ohio.  The description she sent of her flight across counrty rekindled in me the deep, deep love that we share of our homeland and its ingenious and independence-loving people. I’d like to share her letter with you:

“Dear Family,
Terrific direct flight from Oakland to Columbus… clear skies with cloud cover only as we neared the Mississippi River.  This is such a vast, glorious country we have, and so little of the land has human inhabitants. Initially after leaving the ocean, the western mountain ranges keep the landscape below exciting. Natural and dammed blue lakes are occasional gems in the mountain terrain. Roads amble haphazardly, it seems, hugging the mountain sides.

“Then, the Great Basin. Farmed fields near the mountains follow the contours –  it’s like looking at a topo map. The flatland farms are lily pads of colors; some are green or gold; harvested fields are grey or brown. I know they plant in gigantic circles for irrigation; don’t understand how these circular fields get watered after the crops gain height – are there sprinklers, and if so, how does that work?

“Occasional fields of various colored rectangles and squares interrupt the pattern. Farmers seem to live miles from the nearest neighbor. I wondered about the long bus trips students must take to and from school; maybe they have Wi-Fi. One gigantic solar farm was plunked down in the middle of nowhere… no irrigation, desert.  Does someone have to live there tending the farm?

“Then the Rockies…

“The Prairies… endless. I marveled at the courage and fortitude of pioneers, seeing only flatness, no trees, no relief to the eye. Then having to ford rivers that meander here and there, who knew where. The river patterns resemble trees-of-life throughout the landscape. Today’s roads – the traveler probably sees their route become a vanishing point and would welcome a curve anywhere. Circular fields disappear and the landscape resembles a gorgeous quilt of other geometric shapes in their early autumn colors.

“Farms become smaller, roads more frequent, and rivers meander and wiggle along, often determining the boundaries of fields.  Windmills dot the countryside.

“Finally…Ohio. Good place to have grown up….

– Love, Mom”

Quite an ode to her birth land, eh? And yet Mom’s letter is about more than the physical beauty of the land. She looks at it from the perspective of the people who have lived and traveled here, people who have crafted their livelihoods upon the ‘aina.

My 83-year-old mother is a childhood survivor of The Great Depression, who sent her brothers off to fight for global freedom in World War II. She is the one who taught me the dream of our American kupuna, our ancestors: the golden dream of a land where peoples of every color and creed can live peaceably.  A people of hard work and heroism who stand up for what is right. The vision of a land where everyone is welcome, where each person is equally protected by just laws, and where there is plenty for all.

Thanks, Mom, for reminding me of what it is that I love about this country.

Mahalo Hawaii, for showing me – in a microcosm – a harmony of widely diverse cultures living together, creating a singing whole of interblended parts living on these gloriously beautiful isles of land. You have helped to renew my idealism.

I trust that our bravery, our commitment to self-guidance and the impartial rule of law – all this light – will outshine our fear, our sense of impotence, and our misguided wish for security – all this darkness that can cause a people to willingly put themselves in the hands of tyrants. Through all our stumbling, I maintain faith that our country’s internal compass will guide our way. In the fog of our confusion, I encourage us all to sing out the gospel song my brother and I sang as young children, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

PS  Am I just a soppy patriot? Please push Reply to tell me how YOU feel.

Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center for teaching mindful movement arts from around the globe. She is inspired by the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and by the lifelong learning shared at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. She intends that Still & Moving Center always be filled with laughter and friendship!

Celebrating Magnificence

Martina Kamaka

Keiki O Ka ‘Aina & Fit Physician 

Dr. Martina Leialoha Kamaka is a Native Hawaiian physician from Kāneʿohe, Oahu, who works as a Family Physician and Associate Professor in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawaiʿi at Mānoa, John A. Burns School of Medicine.  She currently serves as the President of the ‘Ahahui o nā Kauka, the Association of Native Hawaiian Physicians.

Martina just celebrated her one year anniversary with the Still & Moving Center ‘ohana.  Even as a busy doctor, teacher and active community member, Martina sets an example of leading a healthy lifestyle by regularly attending our Nia, Pilates and Dance Fitness classes. She also brings her daughter Kalei to Still & Moving for private instruction from May Del Rosario.

As a physician, she believes that we cannot have healthy populations without healthy ‘āina (land, environment).  Much of her work at the medical school centers on this concept as well as the important role of culture in the patient physician interaction.

Martina has had the privilege of twice serving as the medical officer on the Hōkūleʻa voyaging canoe. Her first sail was in 2009 and most recently, in 2014 on an Aotearoa (New Zealand) leg of the world wide Mālama Honua voyage. Martina treasures the Hōkūleʻa because it symbolizes cultural renewal, mālama ‘āina (caring for our environment), and is a source of pride for Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders. She hopes that the Hōkūleʻa’s voyaging reminds people of the incredible wisdom and science of the ancestors and inspires us to apply that wisdom today.

On a final note, Martina sends this message to Still & Moving Center’s Fitness Specialist, May Del Rosario: “Mahalo, May, for helping me to prepare physically for the voyage!”

Ngon! Vietnamese Restaurant 
941 Kawaiahao St, Honolulu

In the bustling global village of Kaka’ako, Ngon! Vietnamese restaurant is a proverbial hidden gem just a block from Still & Moving Center.  The food is delicious, fresh and authentic.

Walking past a new little Japanese rice factory (more on that in another letter!), you arrive at Ngon! During any given lunchtime, you can hear a number of different languages around Ngon’s tables. It’s as if you’ve walked through the door and stepped into another land.

My favorite is their amazing Vietnamese crepe, vegetarian style with tofu and bean sprouts. It’s an all-hands-on-deck dish if you eat it Vietnamese style: Use a piece of lettuce leaf as a wrapper for a piece of your crepe. Add a leaf of basil or mint for extra flavor. Dip your wrap  into the fragrant sauce with carrot and daikon shreds. Pop the tasty morsel into your mouth for an exotic eating experience, right here in Honolulu!

Owned by the Huynh, with owner Anh, her brother Quoc and mother Buom, Ngon! has been in business for three and a half years, always providing cheerful service with seemingly effortless efficiency. The place is spotless and the kitchen happy.  You’ll find me here a couple days a week!

Healthy Life Tip

Float your tension away Contributed by Mālia Helelā, Kumu Hula

I discovered this effective relaxation therapy when I was a young mother working full time as a massage therapist in Waikiki. Unable to afford regular massages myself, I started swimming in the ocean on my lunch break. My Dad had taught me how to float on my back as a child, and I now found myself naturally rolling to face the sky as I rested on the sea’s surface. As I tipped my head back and dangled my legs downward, I began realizing that I could let go of all the tension in my body. I could sense the slightest of waves rippling through my bones. The sensation was amazing and did wonders for my tense muscles. I remember leaving the ocean refreshed, feeling that my body had been supported and rocked by the waves.

Nowadays, I get regular massages from my fellow Still & Moving Center therapists, who are wonderful…and I still love to float in the ocean, as does my daughter, Ilana (in the photo).

Recipe for Health

Bright Autumn Salad

3-4 multi colored carrots – orange, yellow and purple

1 large beet

1/2 cucumber

5 sprigs of mint

1 T balsamic vinegar or lemon/lime juice

2T olive oil

Shred fresh carrots and beet. Quarter cucumber slices. Chop mint, except for decorative sprig top. Mix in dressing. Top with mint sprig and pine nuts – optional.

Video Fav
Hamilton the Musical

"Hamilton": A founding father takes to the stage
Isn’t it great that the rap musical Hamilton has inspired a generation of people to memorize catchy lyrics about this remarkable piece of the American Founding Fathers’ history!

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