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Beneath The Banyan Tree

By Father Pat Killilia, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

Legend says that “trees are the record keepers of the earth. They are busy gathering information and holding volumes of wisdom and knowledge. Branches layer themselves with information and their leaves capture your words and actions as you walk by them.” It is also written that “the banyan tree represents a time of going within and becoming self-aware through reflection, meditation, silence and a quieting of one’s mind. In the stillness of our awareness, we can begin to hear the voice of our soul’s calling.”

It should be no surprise then that on the morning of Aug. 11, we, the Kalaupapa community, gathered in the shelter of the banyan tree on Staff Row to listen to our great Dept. of Health Administer Ken, and to be updated on our situation in regard to the pandemic. Some of us were seated in socially distanced chairs, some sat on the grass, while others stood in the background or leaned against their vehicles. Then Ken appeared before us with folder in hand, like Moses back down from the mountain. He stood on the grassy knoll in front of us and we knew he was about to give us the business as well as the latest COVID-19 directives. It was like a replay of The Ten Commandments without the presence of the golden calf or the camera crew.

The main thrust of Ken’s speech was on the practice of wearing our masks and observing social distancing. He said that it is possible that some of us could actually have the virus but not have any symptoms. He emphasized that wearing a mask is more important than social distancing and also more effective than facial shields. In answer to a posed question, he said that no testing is possible here in Kalaupapa and that trust in us by him is essential and vital. We may visit Topside Molokai and return here to work, but if we go to Oahu, we will be required to quarantine for 14 days on our return here to Kalaupapa.

The annual barge is due on Aug. 22 and plans are in progress to do the unloading and loading safely, since we will have workers here from outside the settlement. Erika and Leanna also spoke in regard to Barge Day. Emily and Glauco are currently conducting census-taking in Kalaupapa and encouraged us residents to sign up. I have already done so… lest I get evicted. All of this took place in the course of an hour in the shade and the shelter of the wise old banyan tree. Aloha.

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