Saturday, October 31, 2015


Avi Kiriaty, though not born in  Hawaii, certainly has captured the soul of the Hawaiian landscape and peoples. He was born in Israel in 1957 but his journey through life has taken him from the Israeli Army, to a Greek Island, to a winter cottage in New Hampshire. Following the birth of his daughter Keytoe, Avi moved to Hawaii. His first year was spent on Kauai, where he experimented for a time with oil painting. From there he moved to the  eastern side of the Big Island, to begin to live “kama‘aina” with the land, farming and fishing. His son, Jazz, was born here on an old Hawaiian homestead. Avi then moved to the Puna Rainforest and began to live the life of an “artist”.

Father Damien of Molokai
While Avi has worked in many media... oil painting, linoleum block printing, lava and bronze sculpture, pencil and ink drawing, watercolors, ceramic platters, and serigraphs, my favorites are his oils. They are a feast of lush colors and bold lines,depicting the Polynesian lifestyle of every day events.  Here I present a few of my favorites, some recalling my years living in the islands.  "Kanaka Blues" reminds me of the many nights listening to the great slack-key artist, Sonny Chillingsworth  and "Soldier fish" of the many hours diving in clear blue waters as assorted rainbow colored fish swam by me.

 Here in Waimea, I visited the local museum and saw some of his paintings- colors amazing!  I could write a blog just on this museum but... the director is the aunt of my sheep shearer on Orcas  Island, and one of the artists in the permanent collection is the great uncle of our closest neighbor on Shaw. Small world!

Kanaka Blues
Soldier Fish


Avi Kiriaty

My big birding trip for the year was the Big Island of HAWAII.  I lived for two years in Hawaii- many years ago, doing some work at the Uni. It was one of those memorable times in one’s life, especially the people and the beauty of the islands. While birding was not at the top of my priority list, I could not but help notice the varied and colorful birds that visited our yards and the hills behind us.  Today most of Manoa Valley (Oahu) is developed and many of those fabulous birds are on the endangered list or have vanished.

Native Hawaiian birds are few - and dwindling. The best birding is on the Big Island and I was lucky to have two wonderful guides, one an old friend, the other new, plus my hosts Oblate Karen and her family.

Birders come from all over the world hoping to see three Hawaiian birds, in particular: the akiapolaau, a woodpecker wannabe with a war club-like head; the nukupuu, an elusive little yellow bird with a curved beak, one of the crown jewels of Hawaiian birding; and the alala, a critically endangered Hawaiian crow that's now almost impossible to see in the wild.

Hawaii Amakihi

The state of Hawaii has over 1/3 of the plants and birds listed on the U.S. Threatened and Endangered list, and is known as both the endangered species capital and the extinction capital of the world.  But now 28% of Hawaii's 93 native bird species are extinct and another one-third are listed on that dratted list!


Many birds  once filled the formerly thick forests of the Hawaiian Islands before logging, cattle ranching and feral animals introduced in the last two centuries - such as European boars, sheep and goats - razed and uprooted most of the birds' habitat.

The red and black 'i'iwi was once the most common of the endemic birds in Hawaii, but this vivid honeycreeper has disappeared from most of its former range. Their long, downward-curving bills are specialized for sipping nectar from tubular flowers, but they also feed on insects, spiders and moths.

To find native birds you need to find native habitats. Hawaiian forest birding is "jungle" birding so at times it's challenging to find or see birds. They're often in the canopy or thick understory and flit around and hide. Lighting can be terrible on overcast days- a problem we have in our own islands.

The main forest habitats are intact 'ohi'a-koa-tree fern rainforests at middle and higher elevations on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and the mamane-naio dry forest on the southwestern slopes of Mauna Kea. A kipuka is a remnant island of vegetated land surrounded by a more recent lava flow where primary forest often remains undisturbed. Other habitats include beaches, sea cliffs, grasslands, urban settings, golf courses, ponds, and roadside overlooks.
Pueo (Hawaiian owl)

Lower elevation habitats consist mainly of introduced vegetation containing mostly foreign finches, sparrows, doves, gamebirds and others. Many of these birds are concentrated on the leeward side, where they were introduced as late as the 1960's. There is also an elevational line around the island at about 4,000 feet corresponding to the mosquito belt and also to the range of early human habitation, below which native forest birds are mostly gone. An exception is the Hawaii 'Amakihi that may have developed an immunity to avian malaria and pox.

The Pueo (diurnal owl)  likes to sit on fence posts or the rocky outcrops of old cinder cones now domed and covered with tall grass. I was lucky to see them often.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Pope Francis will canonize  LOUIS and ZELIE MARTIN, the parents of  St. Therese of Lisieux during the world Synod of Bishops on the family on October 18th.

The new saints were married in 1858. The couple had nine children, four of them dying in infancy. The five who survived, including St. Therese, all entered religious life. Zelie Martin died of cancer in 1877, at the age of 45 and her husband died when he was 70 in 1894.

The couple was beatified in 2008. They are believed to be the first parents of a saint to be beatified, highlighting the important role parents play in their children's human and spiritual upbringing.

According to the Lisieux shrine's website, a miracle being studied for the couple's canonization involves a little girl in the Diocese of Valencia, Spain. Born prematurely and with multiple life-threatening complications, Carmen suffered a major brain hemorrhage, which could have caused irreversible damage. Her parents prayed for the couple's intercession. The little girl survived and is healthy.

With Therese
Pope Francis has a special devotion to St. Therese. He used to keep a photo of the 19th-century French Carmelite nun on his library shelf when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has said that when he has a problem, he asks St. Therese "not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it." As a sign that she's heard his request, he said, "I almost always receive a white rose."

Before opening the October 2014 meeting of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis venerated the relics of St. Therese, her parents and another couple, Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi (see Blog 2/4/14). The relics were brought to Rome specifically for prayers during the bishops' discussions about family life.

Louis Martin was a successful watchmaker by trade. He also skillfully managed his wife's lace business. Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at various French military posts. At twenty-two he entered  the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. The blend of courage and charity the monks and their famous dogs manifested in rescuing travelers in Alpine snows appealed powerfully to Louis Martin. But the rigorous studies failed him and he became ill and dispirited, abandoning his hopes for the monastic life.
Zelie's lace

Zelie Guerin was one of Alencon's more talented lace makers. Born into a military family, she described her childhood and youth as "dismal." Her mother and father showed her little affection. She too entered the religious life but learned the Alencon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft. Starting her own business, she too became very successful.  

Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin eventually met in Alencon, and on July 13, 1858, Louis, 34, and Zelie, 26, married. Within the next fifteen years, Zelie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. "We lived only for them," Zelie wrote; "they were all our happiness."

Belita William (Courtesy of Artist)
Sorrow stalked their happy life as the two baby boys, a five year old girl, and a six-and-a-half week old infant girl all died.  Though Zelie was left numb with sadness she kept her strong faith. In a letter to her sister-in-law who had lost an infant son, Zelie remembered: "When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through....People said to me, 'It would have been better never to have had them.' I couldn't stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above."
The Martins' last child was born January 2, 1873. She was so frail that doctors feared for the her life. The family, so used to death, was preparing for yet another blow. Zelie wrote of her three month old girl: "I have no hope of saving her. The poor little thing suffers horribly....It breaks your heart to see her." But the baby girl proved to be much tougher than anyone realized. A year later she was a "big baby, browned by the sun." "The baby," Zelie noted, "is full of life, giggles a lot, and is sheer joy to everyone."  This last daughter, named Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin, would later be known as St. Therese, the "Little Flower".  She once wrote in a letter: "God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth." 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


In a past blog we wrote of a neighboring tribe, the SAMISH. Our connection is from the early days of our foundation when  a friend donated a working copy of  The 'Maiden of Deception Pass': Ko-Kwal-Alwoot.

It is an unusual  carved wooden statue of an Indian maiden holding a salmon above her head with both hands. The pole that became the "Maiden" was carved of old-growth western cedar more than five feet in diameter and it depicts the maiden on one side, and on the other her transformation into a mermaid. The salmon she holds aloft is a gift of the sea!

The carving was done by artist Tracy Powell of Anacortes, working with Bill Mitchell, another Anacortes artist, and with Samish Indians, following consultation with members of the Samish Tribe, elders and tribal members who adhered closely to ancient tradition.

What started out as a totem estimated at about 12 feet soon doubled in size when it was discovered that the U.S. Forest Service would donate a cedar from a recent Baker Lake cut. 

In regard to objections that a non-tribal member was selected as carver, Powell said: “...I came to an understanding that I would follow tribal instructions, images and techniques. For me to do other things on my own, such as miniature totem poles – that would be wrong.”  The Maiden was completed in a painstaking carving process that took about a year.
Ko-kwal-alwoot commemorates 100 years, celebrated in 1983, of changing relations toward understanding between Indian and non-Indian communities in Skagit County.

30'x5' log
According to Samish  tradition, this maiden risked her life to save the tribe from starvation. 

Ko-kwal-alwoot, a beautiful Samish Indian girl lived in a village at this site. Her raven-black hair shinned like obsidian, and reached below her waist. One day, as she was gathering seafood near the shore, a young man from beneath the sea saw her. He was very handsome, and his skin shone like silver. His eyes were large and luminous. He immediately fell in love with the young woman. But when this man of the sea asked her father for her hand in marriage, he refused, for fear she would try to follow her suitor, and drown.

The young man warned the maiden’s father that he held great power, and that the seafood would disappear unless permission was granted for his daughter to marry. Her father was a chief, and not disposed to succumb to threats, especially from a fish, so he refused.

Sure enough, clams, crabs and other edibles from the sea became scarce. The nearby sweet spring water dried up, and no longer trickled down the beach. Villagers protested that they were hungry for seafood. Under pressure, the maiden's father granted permission for the marriage.

They were married at the sea's edge. Once again seafood became plentiful, and icy, clear water gushed from the nearby spring. Her father demanded that his daughter return annually so he could check on her well-being.  She returned to her people once a year for four years. Barnacles disfigured her once lovely hands and arms. Her long raven hair was intermingled with long, stringy kelp. Chill sea winds followed wherever she walked, and she seemed unhappy out of the sea, away from her husband.

Legend says her hair can be seen flowing with the tide around the Pass (not to be confused with bull kelp). She lives eternally underwater and ensures that the area has an abundance of food for her people.  She has became immortal in the hearts of her Samish people!

The Princess
Visitors to Deception Pass may look into the currents of Deception Pass and be fortunate enough to see, along with her own people, in the waters, the Maiden's hair, drifting gently with the tide!

Maiden of the Sea

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Canoe Journey
"For 500 generations they flourished until newcomers came... much was lost; much was devalued, but much was also hidden away in the hearts of the dispossessed...

...Their voices insist upon a hearing and the cumulative wisdom of their long residence in this land offers rich insights to those willing to listen. The challenge now is to find a way to make knowledge of the ancient traditions, the experience of change and the living reality accessible and available..."
                                Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction by David M. Buerge

While we are surrounded by many tribes in the Pacific Northwest, we have no record of them on our small island.  Middens (old dumps for domestic waste consisting of animal bones, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics, and other artifacts) have been found on other islands, but not here.  In spite of this we heavily "feel" the culture- past and present- of our native brethren. Due to the wealth of the area and the climate, they had an easier life than their relatives in other parts of the country.

While I was still living in CT "Native American" was the politically correct term to use when speaking of the native peoples of our country. Yet when I came back to these Western shores, I found the people themselves used the term- which I grew up with- Indians.  When I asked a native woman, she laughed and said:  oh, those Easterners- so political!  Always dreaming up something".  So in this blog I will use the term still used often in the Pacific NW.

 The Swinomish (our closest tribe- in Anacortes where we catch the ferry to Shaw Island), Tulalip, Lummi, Skagit, Nooksack, Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Duwamish, tribes were known to have the most wealth. They lived on the western side of the cascades in Washington. The reason why these tribes were "so rich" was not because they were ornamented with gold or built gold statues, but it was their abundant food, and secure shelter.

The Puget Sound Indian supposedly, by cognition, could tell that there was so much salmon in the water, that they could pass the water by walking on their backs. Their environment was very heterotrophic, meaning there was natural food resources preserved.

Drying Salmon- note cloak made from bark
 The types of berries that were most familiar were blackberries, raspberries, and salmonberries. On Shaw they collected camus- with it small potato-like bulb. In spring the bright blue flowers cover the mesa the monastery sits on.

 In the waters, there were various salmon and other types of fish, such as halibut, flounder, and cod. They ate clams, crabs, seals, sea otters, sea lions, fish, herring eggs, and mussels, shellfish, sea urchins, fungus, and seaweed.

 The men hunted land animals including bear, caribou, deer, elk, and moose. The Nootka/Makah and to a lesser extent the Haida also caught whales. While most tribes lived on the coast during the summer months, when winter came many moved their camps to a more protected area like up a river or inlet.

Salish man- Tulalip tribe

In addition, cedar trees were landmarks to the region. The wood had a wide range of applications. They used it in everything from construction of houses and shaping canoes to carving out crude tools. Clothing such as blankets, toweling, and shoes came from softened cedar bark.

They did not have the methods or level of technology that was present in other parts of the world but they knew enough and were able to make it through the harsher exposure to the elements of nature. They developed a way to safely store food by drying it. Once that process was done, they took a vacation over the winter months, without having to face a renewed struggle in the fall so as to maintain their relatively rich lifestyle.

The Northwest Coastal tribes occasionally gathered together for a potlatch. The person hosting the potlatch gave away as many gifts to his guests as he could. This showed he was wealthy.  These ceremonies could last for days. Singing, dancing, and story-telling were part of the celebration and they wore masks and head dresses for ceremonial purposes.

When I first came to the islands, I attended at potlatch on the Tulalip Reservation. It was an amazing event marking the one year anniversary of a young woman who was killed.  This ceremony was the re-activating of her drums which had been silent that year.  I was given  many gifts- among which is a lovely prayer shawl I still use.  I felt like I had been given a whole department store!

Arriving for the Potlatch
The Northwest Coastal Indians took slaves which were also a sign of wealth. Children were kept close to their camp for fear that they would be stolen by another tribe and become a slave.  While much has changed since those early days, and the wealth of the native peoples is more distributed, the greatness of these people has not changed in our NW.