An essay I wrote in response to a scholarship application question that went something like: “what career do you see yourself in, 10-15 years from now?”…………………praying for God’s favor. In the meantime, enjoy.
Five years from now, I can imagine myself entering a most untraditional workforce that society has to offer me. Most likely I will be securing a well-paying job under a local company, since I have vowed not to work for any multi-million dollar mainland corporation, related to or in the field of Agriculture. Five to ten years from then, and twenty years thereafter, I envision myself entering a most traditional workforce that society does not have to offer me, but rather I will have to offer to society.
Many years ago, when my tutu wahine was still alive, she owned and operated a flower shop across the street from the Pake chop suey in Waimea town, Kaua’i. Besides what I consider flawless workmanship and meticulous attention to detail in her art, there was one thing that truly separated her from any other flower-provider on the island. She would take the green leaves of the autograph tree and, with a toothpick, engrave a message that suited the customer’s order, (Birthday, Wedding, Baby’s 1st Lu’au, etc.) carefully placing it in the final arrangement. In time the leaf would eventually fade to a yellow, but the ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Congratulations’, written in the most beautiful cursive, would never diminish.
Grandma taught me how to pay attention to details and make my labor one of love, but most importantly she showed me that I need to be a master in my craft, whatever it may be, for others. This did not mean outdoing those around me, it meant being humble toward nature, the environment, and people, because those are my teachers. Her influence in my life has led me to study Hawaiian Studies at Kapi’olani Community College and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, and now Agriculture and Hawaiian language at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
Ten years from now I will not only have a flower shop, not only carry on the autograph leaf tradition, but I will perpetuate a sustainable farm that practices permaculture, takes in people of the community to learn about aina and our role among it, and produces food and goods for Hawai’i. I will raise my children on this aina and we will hold cultural workshops on the premises such as hula, lomilomi, and kapa-making. When you visit, on your own for a day or with a group overnight for a healing retreat, you will see intercropping of la’au plants, hula plants, tropical fruit plants, native flowers, honey bees for pollination, lo’i kalo, canoe plants, beds of vegetables, aquaponic and hydroponic systems, shade houses with seedlings developing under them, and much, much more. You and your friends might enjoy lunch or high tea at the farm’s hale aina where ‘ai pono and nutritious dishes will be made by my family with our farm products in cooperation with neighboring farms.
As you leave this traditional workforce, one that strives to mirror the concept of ahupua’a in all its sustainability, you will be inspired to eat differently, buy differently, and hopefully think differently. If I and those beside me, the kupuna behind me, and the keiki before me, are able to influence change in such detail, as the autograph leaves did, the next ten years will be even better.