Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bon Dancing

Arrigato Aloha!
Welcome to MultiCultural Hawaii
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Summer Time is Bon Dancing Time in Hawaii. . .
Some Buddhist temple somewhere on the Islands is hosting their annual event most every night of the season. This ancient Japanese custom invites the ancestors to come join us in the dance under the lanterns & moonlit sky.
I wanted to hear the traditional music and experience it all for the first time (!) so we drove into Manoa Valley (Behind Waikiki) last Saturday night. A tower (above) is constructed for the musicians, and everyone dances around it. Gay lanterns and finger food make it anything but a solemn experience. I knew that here in Hawaii everyone is welcome to dance; But still I was glad to see that we didn't stand out in the large varied & happy crowd. It was more like a fair than a ceremony. We saw the mayor dancing in a kimono (He's a tall ethnic Samoan but had the moves down ;-). Neighbors of every age and ethnicity danced in kimono and street clothes. Some just watched and swayed. Everyone was smiling and EATING. My kind of crowd!

Though there was drumming (including some amazing TAIKO drumming) the music was mostly recorded. This musician had time to look down and enjoy the pleasure of the crowd. Everyone may not have been local Japanese, or a member of the temple, but being there meant that we were all Hawaii people sharing one of the special things that make us so unique.

Many of the dance moves were thousands of years old. I thought I recognized hoeing and other gestures. "Towel Dances" perhaps recall the joy of the FURO bath. Then, a Line Dance was announced, and everyone danced to the country classic "Elvira" in perfect Texas Two-Step!!
Only in Hawaii!!

Some say that the ancestors actually dance with us, that they are sometimes momentarily glimpsed across the happy crowds. When you are a kid, ancestors are ancient history, possibly including a grandparent you knew, but they are all old. As you pile up the Summers, there probably are more and more of your friends and family who have gone to join the ancestors. There is some comfort, and more than a tint of immortality, in dancing with them. Maybe they will catch our eye momentarily in the frenzy. Maybe it's just some resemblance or living memory that we see in the colored light - maybe not. . .

As we left the temple and walked up the gravel driveway, we said good night to the special duty police officers outside.

The night was quiet and perfect as we walked past big old houses and a few unfortunate Mc Mansions lining one of Honolulu's oldest and stateliest residential streets. The fairy music from the temple wafted sweetly in the scented air.

Suddenly a very old Local-Japanese man with white hair and an old fashioned Aloha Shirt was walking the same direction with us. We greeted him. He seemed friendly but in his own thoughts. We exchanged a few aloha words and walked along the quiet, empty street.

When we neared my parked car I offered to drive him home. He just walked on and said that he didn't have far to go, just a "few cars down" and thanked us. I said that I would watch him safely up his driveway but lost sight of him beyond the streetlight.

Perhaps this local man was once a Manoa resident, many many years ago, and on this one night every year he walks her beloved Summer sidewalks again, enjoying his memories. I hadn't see him at the dance. . . perhaps he'll walk Oahu Avenue again next year, when the moon is high, and ancient music echoes from the dance at the temple. . . . I wish him well on his walk. . .

PS: Driving past the President's Punahou School at the mouth of the valley I could see the Night Blooming Cereus glowing on the old rock wall.