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Beachcomber Of Kalaupapa

Community Contributed

By Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

I approached the huge log with caution and a degree of awe. There was something majestic about this massive piece of tree, something almost mysterious. How did it get here? When did it get here? Had it been floated from some other location in ancient times, destined to be shaped into a wa`a, a Hawaiian canoe? I stood there looking down at its great length and enormous girth and I thought, “God only knows.” Then I stepped around it and continued to explore the beach.

It was a beautiful sunny and windy Sunday afternoon and I had decided to leave the quiet of Kalaupapa village and explore the outer fringes of this Makanalua peninsula. The road, or rather pathway, takes one from the airport uphill past the Kalaupapa lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the U.S. Pacific, which has cast its beam on this settlement since 1909 when it was commissioned. Then it is downhill to the white sand beach called Ho`olehua. No, I did not take Bailey the cat along, since Babyface might have decided to go surfing and the only surfing I do is the Internet.

Many residents of our settlement love to go out to this stretch of beach to “get away” for a few hours, to enjoy the rugged beauty of this area and to listen to the roar of the ocean as the waves crash against the black lava rocks. They walk the white sand beach and look for any treasures that the Northern Pacific may have washed ashore. On this afternoon I found myself alone on the beach marveling at the tremendous quality, as well as quantity, of dried driftwood which has accumulated on this beach. Now, while some people with artistic touch would probably like to decorate their homes with some of this wood, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be just great to gather the residents out here and sit around a giant evening bonfire.”

If I had had some form of fire lighter with me that afternoon, I might have been tempted to start my own little fire, but thank the Lord I did not. Otherwise Park Ranger, Dynamic Dan, might have happened on the scene, taken me away in handcuffs, and locked me up in the old slammer now occupied for many years by spiders only. Then the headlines in The Molokai Dispatch as well as the Maui News might read, “Kalaupapa Priest Jailed For Lighting Fires.” That would not be good print for a budding beachcomber. I wonder what Father Damien would have thought of such a caper? God only knows.

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