Vagabond's House
Aloha, Don Blanding

Columns published in the Hawaiian Life magazine section of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April - June 1954

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
April 3, 1954

There's a sight which is fairly common, if we are on the alert for it, here in the Islands. It is awe-inspiring in its unearthly beauty. And yet, few tourists and an astonishingly few local people seem to have seen it.

It is the "Flyer's Halo."

It is available to passengers in inter-Island flights on any sunny day when the plane is flying low over flat-surfaced clouds somewhere between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Look down. There you will see the sapphire blue silhouette of the plane on the dazzling samite whiteness of the clouds, and circling completely beyond the wing-tips will be the halo of a complete rainbow, with colors so vivid that it seems we might dip a white scarf in it and bring it out dyed in multicolored radiance.

Flyer's Halo

Over the vast white snowfields of the sky we sped.
The earth below, so distant; gold sun overhead
A pilot's young wise hands and watchful eagle brain
Guiding us through the wonders of the gods' domain.
Slitting the chiffon gauzes of a misty cloud . . .
Heart of a moonstone . . . heart of silence. Only the loud
Monotony of motors, muted thunder in our ears.
Awe and wonderment stilling all our puny fears.

No wonder gods are gods who look on beauty such as this.
Beauty that lives with stars and feels the moon's chill kiss.
World of the sun, birthplace of the healing rain.
It was ecstasy that mimicked throbbing pain.
Flesh was forgotten . . . hands and lips. Only one sense
Held us in thrall . . . our thirsting eyes drinking the intense
White wine of glory spilled into our dazzled gaze.

It was high noon. The zenith-sun brushed gilding rays
Over the sculptured clouds. The Pilot turned.
"Look down," he said. We looked to where a rainbow burned
In virgin-blue, spring green and filtered heart's-blood red
Blended with sorrow's purple. Following as we sped
Within the circle of that flaming jewelled arc
Lay the stark shadow of our plane. The mortal mark
That man had dared to stamp on the immortal sky.
In that awed splendid moment I gave thanks that I
Was born into an age of miracles when men
Invaded kingdoms that the gods had ruled 'til then.
When chosen youths with winged hearts soared from the crowds
To fling flame-haloed shadows on the startled clouds.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
April 10, 1954

We're told that coming events cast their shadows before them. A fragrant Technicolor shadow is casting its beautiful phantom ahead of itself as Lei Day-May Day approaches again.

Lei Day is more than just a holiday.

It is, or should be in the hearts of Islanders, a symbol of something precious which we are in danger of losing because of the increasing high-pressure attitude which is sifting like a destructive radioactive dust from the jet-propelled and time-pressured Mainland.

It is a symbol of that word "Aloha," which is our most valuable heritage, regardless of the cynical "realists" who say, "Sentiment has no place in business."

THIS SCORNFUL attitude toward sentiment (not sentimentality, which is different) is partly the product of the half-baked intellectuals and soft-boiled pessimists who have dominated the literary and artistic field for the last 25 years.

A poetess friend of mine who writes beautiful moving poems of the things which are near to our human hearts got the following comment from the editor of a large journal: "My dear Miss So-and-So, don't you know that home-and-mother and Nature poetry went out with the First World War?"

So home and mother and Nature have "gone out" . . . in certain groups.

Yes, one can easily believe that when seeing some of the more extreme of the contemporary functional architecture which has all of the warmth, the heart-felt welcome quality of a deep freeze unit.

It is reflected in the Garbage-on-the-Sidewalk style of art which is evidenced in the field here and on the Mainland.

WHEN I SEE some of the current "art" I am consoled by this thought. I have, in 59 years, seen pompadours come and pompadours go, hips and bosoms come and hips and bosoms go. Certain things, like the deeper heart-emotions, seem to be "built in" and will not be ruled out by a mere gesture of the intellectual snobs and dilettantes who shrilly denounce them.

Lei Day should not be merely a day when a few do the work while the rest are only spectators, interested or bored according to their nature. It should be participated in by all of us here.

Look at the faces and listen to the talk of those who have made "sentiment-proof" machines of their minds and hearts. Look behind the stainless-steel surfaces of the faces and lives. The picture is icily horrible.

Let us think deeply of the significance of Lei Day. The original motive was to renew yearly the idea of friendliness, of thoughtfulness, or remembrance and the exchange of living and loving gifts.

We must be on guard or these things, too, shall pass away. And it will be our greatest loss when "Aloha" is merely a perfunctory word used as Tourist Bait for those who come seeking what they have lost elsewhere . . . true friendliness, true welcome, true kindliness of heart.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
April 17, 1954

We're constantly reading about and hearing about "Projects, Operation This-and-That, and Five-Year and Ten-Year Plans."

I have a 46-Year Plan which I am working on. I want to celebrate New Year's Day, January First, 2000. I'll be only 105. Methuselah did better than that. Why can't I?

I think I can.

I want to see what sort of world we'll be living in on that day. It's worth waiting for . . . just to see that living News Reel of that date.

I was talking to a bunch of High School students, and I reminded them that many of them WOULD see January First, 2000. Few had thought of it. They were quite excited.

IN ORDER to carry out my plan, I have to take heed of a lot of "Don'ts" as well as a lot of "Do's."

One of the most important "Don'ts" is one that is sending so many middle-aged businessmen (and younger ones, too) to mortuary slabs while their widows fill the plush apartment houses and luxury hotels of the Mainland and Hawaii. That "Don't" is this: DON'T let that indidious high-pressured go-get-'em attitude drive me into neglecting that necessary ingredient vitamin of RELAXATION.

For instance, we live in a land of justly celebrated sunshine, which is as necessary to us as humanly as it is to plants. And yet, when I spoke to a Businessmen's Luncheon Club the other day, do you know what I observed with a decided shock? Eighty per cent of the kamaainas looked like malihinis and the malihinis looked like kamaainas.

The good old sun-tans were on the MALAHINIS!

A big proportion of the local businessmen had the complexions of poached eggs. I asked a number of them about it. A few had weak alibis. They said, "Oh, I get to play a little golf only once in a while." The prompt answer to that was the Irishman's trick of answering a statement with a question. "Do you PLAY golf or do you work at it?"

Their doctors could give you data on that question.

I'VE BEEN SENDING flowers and letters of condolence to too many families of the Pressure Boys recently.

Most of those executives would fire any employee in their company who abused the machine which is entrusted to them as badly as the Boss abuses the most important machine in the organization: that is, the mind and body of the Boss.

It's funny (only it isn't); we'll keep a date with the doctor in emergency but we don't keep our dates with that good old doctor who treats us "for free," the hour of a date with sun-sand-and-sea at our beaches, or even out in the back-yard.

It pays dividends to "loll like an oyster" for an hour of each day. So my Business friend, Bill, Bob and Jack, won't you do it? For the sake of your friends? Our bill for floral pieces is biting too much out of the monthly budget.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
April 24, 1954

Speaking of leis, which we shall frequently in the days remaining before Lei Day, I'm reminded of an idea which snuck up and bit me, and which seems worth passing along to neighbors in this business of living.

On my daily stroll from my studio to the beach (that is, when the sun is shining) I pass the lei wagon of one of my pals, Aunty Elizabeth.

Her friendly long-drawn "Aloo-o-o-o-o-ha" is usually an invitation to stop and dip a finger into the conversational poi bowl.

I was watching with craftsman's interest as Aunty Elizabeth picked over the lovely blooms in the basket, rejected wilted or flawed blossoms, sorting and stringing the fine ones.

One by one in varied arrangements the exquisite garlands were woven, combining color, fragrance, design, beauty . . . and Aloha.

THE THOUGHT suddenly occurred to me, "WE ARE ALL LEI-MAKERS . . . and we wear the leis we weave, graciously or dourly according to the blossoms we put into them."

Like the many-strand pikake or ilima leis, the hours are 24 threads on which we string the flowers of the minutes and the petals of the seconds. They are our emotions, our thoughts, our every action and every attitude. Each goes onto the lei-thread of the hour, and WE wear the lei that we have woven.

I began back-tracking through the hours of the day which were already formed.

Ouch! There were some pretty smelly flowers on those threads . . . and I don't mean gardenia. There were too many skunk-cabbages and miale pilaus, symbols of moments of thoughtless irritations, resentments and idle chatterings which, now that I recognized them, I would gladly withdraw from the Lei of Hours.

But there they were.

I'd just have to make the remainder of the hours carry a richer treasure of the sunny flowers of gladness, of kindness and Aloha.

THIS WAS NOT just a transient thought, either. It stayed with me. I want to keep it as a Talisman, making me alert to the sort of flowers that I'm stringing hourly, minute-ly and secondly, because I MUST WEAR THIS LEI, just as you must wear the lei of hours which you are weaving.

The thought kinda gives gooseflesh, doesn't it? Like in the halitosis ad slogan, "Our best friends won't tell us" sometimes, when we're giving off the sour odor of pessimism and discouragement or the cheesy pungency of bad temper.

But we're giving it out, and it is observed and disliked by those who become aware of it.

IF I HAVE a daily prayer (and I have plenty of them . . . and I need them), it is this: "May I so live my day that, when it is closed at midnight, I could give the lei of my hours to a friend, with the pride of a good craftsman, and the knowledge that it carries beauty with it."

So, on Lei Day, let's try to wear beneath the outward symbol of the flower lei that inner lei of true Aloha so its fragrance may drift out across the blue waters to the rest of our distressed and sorrowful world, saying "Aloha."

I repeat the little couplet which so many have commented upon:

"The sweetest leis in all our Isles
Are miles and miles and miles of smiles."

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
May 1, 1954

Wear a Lei on Your Heart Today

Here's Lei Day again.

I'll never forget that first one in 1928. What a joyous, spontaneous demonstration of true friendliness it was.

The originating idea seemed to take hold of everyone. Everyone participated, and I believe that most people truly felt that overflowing Aloha spirit which the leis symbolized.

Nearly all of our holidays had an originating idea which was a great one, but somehow, with repetition, the ceremonies and customs seem to hide the deep motive.

For how many is Christmas a deep heart-searching, or is it just bills, greeting cards, frayed nerves and indigestion? The survey that I made last Christmas gave a heavy proportion to the latter.

Is Thanksgiving Day still a day of deep gratefulness or is it a time when bicarbonate of soda bills jump?

LEI DAY could be a time for rebuilding the neighborhood ties of friendliness instead of the walls of prejudice and distrust which are increasing under the contemporary tension of the world.

It would do each one of us good to weave at least one lei ourselves, amateur though the result might be, and give that lei with a conscious awareness of Aloha, not necessarily to a friend, but to someone whom we know who is lonely and not likely to receive one.

If we listen to the radio and television shows and the popular records, we might think our world is love-sick. As long as there are kanes and wahines there will be that pleasant heart trouble.

But the world is SICK FOR LOVE, not just he-she love, but the lost neighborhood love which we had when we didn't have so many ready-made distractions and amusements, and when we depended upon each other for those heart-warming exchanges which we now seek in machine-made time fillers.

LEI DAY could and should be a time when we measure ourselves and ask, "How much am I, individually, contributing to the healing of our world-sickness of distrust and hate? Am I trying to 'love my neighbor as myself' or am I just loving myself and the few who are mine?"

My travels take me to widely diverse parts of our world.

I have seen the serious malnutrition which is part of the cause of world unrest; the vitamins of friendliness, symbolized by our flower leis, are missing from our diet.

And Lei Day is not merely a date on the calendar to be celebrated and forgotten; it stands for something which Hawaii has, but which is disappearing rapidly through our thoughtless neglect of one of its basic treasures . . . Aloha, friendliness . . . thoughtfulness for others, and in the end, a thoughtfulness for ourselves, because without love we are empty shells echoing the dischords and not the melodies of life.

Let's wear leis on our hearts this Lei Day. The flower petals will fade, but those leis of friendliness can last through the year . . . if we take care of them.

Happy Lei Day to you!

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
May 8, 1954

The French build monuments to men or women who can give them a "nouveau frisson," a new shiver. Our strident adolescents would say "gimme gooseflesh, tomorrow's model."

I had what was not exactly a NEW shiver but an old thrill in a new dressing recently. I was very grateful for the repeat performance with a new cast.

The first "shiver" came after I had watched the Santo Domingo Indians of the Rio Grande Valley south of Santa Fe dancing their Rain Prayer Dance one grilling Summer Day in New Mexico.

They started at dawn with the ceremony of greeting the sun. There were about 400 Indian men and women superb in their ceremonial garments of turquoise, furs, buckskin, deer-hoof rattles, their hair raven-gleaming from fresh shampoos of amole. Their bodies were polished with oil. There was a look of deep dedicated anticipation in their faces.

ALL DAY long, from dawn through the intense heat of noon into the sultry afternoon under a blazing sun, the two sets of 200 from the North and South Pueblo danced their ritual to the incessant throb of tom-toms which were like excited hearts amplified.

As the sun cut the rim of the mesa behind the Pueblo, the two groups joined. The faces which at dawn had been smooth and glowingly impassive were seamed with weariness. The muscles of their legs and bodies were strained into whip-cord patterns. But as the dance rose to its tremendous finale they seemed illumined with some inner power.

A VISITING scientist asked me what I thought of it.

I said, in all sincerity, "I wish I might believe enough in anything to do what those people have done." A chill thrilling shiver went over me, possibly premonition that one day I would have my wish.

The shiver was repeated as I got deep into a book published recently in Hawaii. It is Emma Doyle's book Makua Laiana, which is the story of Lorenzo Lyons, missionary, in the true sense, compiled from manuscript Journals, 1832-1886, and published recently by his granddaughter, Emma Lyons Doyle.

It is the simple story, simply and beautifully told, of a faith so deep, so strong and so lasting that it is an inspiration in these days when Hate seems stronger than Love, Prejudice more powerful than faith, and Fear greater than Courage.

SOMEONE HAS wisely said that a depression means "doing without what our grandfathers never had." This man with few of the tangibles built a structure of life for himself and others stronger than cement, structural steel of our great skyscrapers. He never seemed aware of his own heroism.

At times I was actually wearied, sympathetically, as I trudged, climbed, plodded and vicariously fought through storm and jungle over pathless ways, with this simple, fine man in his service of mankind.

I read the book with an obligato of my neighbor's radio pouring forth washboard weepers, synthetic sniffles, strident self-pity and hound-dog bayings of some of our more dismal contemporary crooners and croonesses. The contrast sharply silhouetted the grandeur of Lorenzo Lyons's achievement.

And again I got my "old shiver" in a new dressing. It is good to remember that there are such people living today, unpublicized heroes, holding to the faith.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
May 15, 1954

"Oh, Pele of the flaming hair.
Oh, Pele of the burning eyes.
The earth quakes at your anger.
The lava flows at your
When you find cruelry in the
hearts of your people
You rage in the mountains.
You stamp with your feet and
the earth shudders.
When you are wounded by the
hard hearts of your people
You bleed avenging lava.
When you are cursed you reply
with thunder.
When you are mocked you
answer with lightning.
Spare us."

THESE FRAGMENTS of an old prayer to the Volcano goddess were given me by Aunty Pinau Kalauokalani, wise in Hawaiian lore. The recent quakes on the Big Island and the volcanologist's conjectures about a possible eruption recalled the lines to my memory.

They might well be the prayer of all humanity to the spirit of Mother Earth as we see what we humans are doing in gratitude (?) for the bounty and abundance which is ours for the taking.

All over the earth, there are either the activities or preparation for activities of horrific atom bombs, scorched earth, dust bowls and scarred fields of erosion, tell-tale wounds which indicate the colossal greed, viciousness and cruelty which has never before in man's history been evidenced.

DO WE really think that we are going to get away with this indefinitely without Nature answering back with powers so cosmic that our most powerful bombs will be mere mosquito sneezings in comparison?

As we read the papers and magazines and listen to commentators we see that the large-scale destruction and ruthlessness is only a magnified picture of what is happening in individual life.

Listen to the raucous squalling music of today; listen to the maudlin droolings of the popular songs; look at the decadent glorification of the ugly in contemporary art, and the mood of the unfunny "funnies."

We have to stop to question ourselves honestly. We may not individually be contributing to this viciousness, but is not our tolerance or selfish indifference and silence really an acquiescence to this horror?

Our nerve-ends have been rasped and scraped so insistently by two wars and one war that wasn't officially a war but looked like war that now anything softer than the sandpaper leaves us unmved.

I was reared in the cyclone country of Southwestern Oklahoma. There were two approaches to the problem. The wise man retimbered and strengthened his cyclone cellar during the lull periods. The foolish ones trusted to luck that the cyclone would hurdle his home. The latter were usually picked up in fragments in Kansas.

We've been given signs that it's "earthquake weather" on a universal scale.

What are we doing and going to do about it?

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
May 22, 1954

By Don Blanding

Friends of mine left the Islands not long ago cussing them in five languages not including pidgin English. They sprayed me all of the old familiar phrases: "The Islands are all right for vacation but no place to live. After all, Oahu is just prison with pretty blue walls and Dorothy Lamour trimmings. It'll sure be good to get back to the Mainland . . . etc., etc., e-t-c."

I tried to warn them not to pull up stakes but just make a trial trip to the Coast. But no. Car, furniture, dog, everything got shipped.

They'd waited impatiently, day after day.
They were through with Hawaii and going away.
It had been very lovely . . . they'd liked it a lot,
And "thanks for the parties" and all of that rot.
But honest and truly, way down underneath,
They were tired of sunshine and fed to the teeth
With singing and dancing and beach-party stuff,
With petting and playing they'd had quite enough.
This "eating the lotus" was nice but they feel
That they ought to be back where life is so real (?)
Where men are in earnest and women are too . . . .
We know how you feel, it's a thing we all do.

THE ONLY unexpected thing about their letter was that it came unexpectedly soon. "For gosh sake, Don, circulate around and see if you can't find a job for Bob. We're eating our hearts out to get back." Well, I told them that fish and poi was better than heart for a steady diet. But whoever listened to advice? I didn't. I had to learn the hard way, too.

But their letter made me take stock again of the blessings of living in Hawaii. It's the free beauty and joy-of-living. Unless you are thing-and-gadget-ridden, you can fill your days and nights with a free handout of the things that the Rearbumpers and Fenderbenders pay $50 a day for. Free.

THEIR LETTER reminded me of a little jingle that I did one time when I was a bit leary of the increasing score of birthdays. It's a good recipe for us who have passed the Half-Way House of living:

I find that with the passing years
  My pace IS just a little slowed.
I may not go so far nor fast . . .

To go half as fast and to see twice as much. To take an hour of the day and quit chasing things while I take inventory of the glorious abundance of things that I (we) have FOR FREE here in Hawaii. I find that almost the only thing I can doodle up to WANT is just more time (and sense) to enjoy richly, deeply and fully the abundance which is mine. Yours and mine. Ours. Free. In generous Hawaii.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
May 29, 1954

Memorial Day is, inevitably, a day of sad and sometimes somber thoughts for all who have lost those who are dear to them. Especially it must be bitter for those who believe that death is an ending, curtains, finis, a period at the end of a sentence.

I have had much occasion to search my heart and find what I really believe because I am at the end of our family line, and have outlived most of my school-mates and side-kicks of my youth.

Each year I have to pull out of the address files the names of some more with whom I had planned to share the diminishing years.

When we are looking for answers we sometimes find them in unexpected places.

One day I was hiking, and had stopped to rest on a roadside rock. My thoughts were with friends who had gone on ahead to the Land of the Next Adventure. I was asking myself, "Is this just wish-fancy or salve to a sad heart, this conviction that there are only commas, not periods, in Life's long sentence?"

At that moment, my eyes were caught by a butterfly and a caterpillar on a Joe Pye weed. A deeply satisfying answer came to me. I pass it along to you.


Why ask for proof that soul lives on
  When body dies;
Do caterpillars recognize their
  Angel-selves in butterflies?

Shortly after that another answer came to me, through a simple back-country woman near Fort Pierce, Florida, where I was living. This story was picked up from my column and reprinted in Reader's Digest. Perhaps you saw it.

But I give it to you today, for whatever consolation there may be in it for you.

A true story

A Florida back-country woman
was hoeing
Out in front of her
weather-beaten house.
"Effie May" she said, "it ain't fitten
for you to be hoein' out here today.
The whole town knows that you just
had a letter from the government
Sayin' that your son,
Jim, is layin' out on one of them
furrin' heathen lands dead.
It just ain't fitten."

Effie May rested her hoe
And looked at her neighbor
with bleak level eyes.
"Neighbor," she said,
"I know you mean well.
But you just don't understand.
This is Jim's land.
It rejoiced his heart
to see green things growin'
Because it meant that his
Maw and the young 'uns
Would be eatin'.
This is his hoe.
While I'm hoein' I can almost feel
his big strong hands on mine
I can almost hear him sayin'
'That's good, Maw, that's good.'
I can't afford a stone monument for Jim.
Workin', not weepin', is the only
headstone I can give him.
So, if you don't mind, Neighbor,
I'll do my grivin'
In my own way."

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 5, 1954

The town of Lone Pine, California, lies at the eastern foot of Mount Whitney. A small dusty road leads toward the base of the great peak. It comes to a hill then climbs the crest of the hummock. Just before the crest there is a sign-post saying "Oh Point." The comment, silent or spoken, is, 'What a silly name."

Two snorts, one wheeze and a puff later we're at the crest. What do we say? "OH." Then we understand. Sometimes silence or a breathed "Oh" is the greatest tribute to beauty.

Hawaii is full of "Oh Points." The Pali makes even windy me go silent. A trip around Oahu is just a lengthy lei of gasped "Oh's."

Aren't we lucky?

Once I wrote this line: "Beauty can be cruel when met alone." Maybe that's why Islanders are so gracious to visitors. The malihinis are an excuse for going to our favorite "Oh Points" so that someone can share the internal pressure of joy which is almost painful when met alone.

A friend of mine, Edythe Hope Genee, poet and artist and fairly articulate ordinarily, visited here recently. It doubled my joy in loved places to take an equally appreciative person to these great and small beauty spots. It also made me feel less dumb to find that she, too, with a good vocabulary, could say only "Oh" time and again during the trips.

For 10 years she has been bombarded with my Hawaiian enthusiasm and the voluble praises sounded by visiting friends who came to the studio. It is well known that the main conversation of Island people who are away from home is Hawaii.

Edythe was afraid that we had oversold Hawaii, and she ahd her fingers crossed as she approached the islands. She admits now that our most ecstatic descriptions were only pale twelfth carbon copies of the actual beauty. It just can't be expressed.

AND YET, what we see daily we often cease to see, or to notice especially. That's why I have a notation on Ellie, the Electric Typewriter, "Did you do your daily 'Oh' today?" We forget to remember. And that is OUR loss.

It is the individual job and responsibility of every one of us here to combat anything which destroys this splendid FREE beauty. The sad lesson of Southern California's smog problem is a constant reminder to us that even this lavish and apparently limitless beauty can be soiled, obscured or completely destroyed by negligence on our part.

Even in small ways, we can contribute our valuable bit toward retaining this beauty by watchfulness in avoiding flinging trash around, cigarette packages, loose paper sheets, even candy-bar wrappings which give a shabby and neglected look to our streets and parks.

Just take a look at the parks and beauty spots on the morning after a week end! No individual did MUCH of the messiness, but many small messes make a dump heap of the most beautiful spot.

"O.K., Don (say I to myself). Walk back and pick up that cigarette package that you flipped into the gutter. And DON'T DO IT AGAIN."

Beauty can be cruel when met alone.
And empty hands are cups to hold an acid wine.
All joy unshared is flower of a barren vine
That bears no harvest once the flower is blown.
Wasted is incense burning in a vacant shrine.

Beauty can be cruel when met alone.
The seven senses offer futile opiate
To still the hungry heart's dull pain. How desolate
The pale unmated moon rules Heaven from an icy throne.
What is the wind but loneliness articulate

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 12, 1954

Oh, cracker-box, oh, sardine tin,
Oh, paper-bag to leave around;
Oh, careless lighted cigarette
To toss on dry and tindered ground!
Oh, trampled fern and ravished flower,
Oh, violated wilderness . . .
Oh, human folks . . . oh, you and I,
Why are we such a shabby mess?

Upon my return to Hawaii after 12 years away, I found numerous changes which distressed me until I realized that they were the inevitable tags which come with modernization and doubtful progress. But I found also some changes which delighted me.

It used to be that in parks and along roads and paths we saw the sign "KAPU" so often that more timorous people hesitated to sniff the wayside flower for fear of being pounced on for violation of the "Keep Out" orders.

Now we see "HAVE FUN" signs all along the way. Tourists are enchanted with the friendly sign. It seems to tell that we're not only free to have fun but are actually encouraged to do it.

But there's a fine line between liberty and license, and lots of people don't see the line. And often our license loses our liberty.

A good lock at our beauty spots after a week-end holiday would seem to justify the return of "KAPU" signs everywhere.

The excuse of most violators is, "AW, what does one li'l ole paper bag matter?" It isn't ONE paper bag but the multiplied "one's" that make the beaches and parks lookmlike the aftermath of a two-bit cyclone.

IT'S A MATTER of an individual habit of thoughtfulness.

When I was a buck private in World War One, we had a hard-boiled sergeant with X-ray eyes. He looked under the barracks floor and, by some process of survey, found out that a pile of burnt matches was right beneath my bunk where I had dropped them through a crack. I had to crawl under and clean up the mess. It was a damp, centipedy place, and the jibes and jeers of my "dear buddies" didn't help any.

"If you do it again," said the sergeant, "you'll clean up under the whole barracks."

To this day, I put burned matches back into the box or into the back fold of the paper match folders, hardly aware that I'm doing it.

If we don't respect that "HAVE FUN" sign which gives us liberty to enjoy our beauty spots we may have a whole flock of hard-boiled sergeants breathing down our necks, and the hostile "KAPU" sign will return to our scenery -- I hope not!

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 19, 1954

As a member of E.C.O.U.I. (Enthusiastic Collectors of Useless Information), I go out to the Zoo frequently. It's always consoling to know that there are some things in this world funnier than us human beings.

For instance, the Giant Hornbill, which is first cousin of the Goofus Bird in the drawing. Not only does he have a two-story beak -- for no apparent good reason -- but he complicates his domestic life by walling his wife up with mud in a hole during the hatching period and he has to do the marketing himself for the family.

Maybe he read one of those books "How to Be Happily Married Although Married" and learned that women often have peculiar and extravagant tastes for caviar, pickled whale's tonsils and imported hummingbird's livers during this period, and he feels that the family budget is best left in HIS hands.

IN THE E.C.O.U.I. club, my rank is Second Best Well-Misinformed Man in the organization. This came about through trusting my memory and not making notes to check my gleanings. I was delighted with the little cards which told odd things about the birds and beasties, and got a jingle out of it. The jingle is about Emus, which are sort of bargain-basement ostriches. Here's the jingle:

A peculiar bird is the EMU.
The eggs are laid by the SHEMU.
But believe it or not, it's the HEMU
Who hatches the eggs of the EMU.

ANOTHER MEMBER of E.C.O.U.I. said, "it's a sweet sentiment and very neatly and compactly stated, but it happens to be the CASSOWARY who has this particular domestic arrangement."

"Well," I replied, "is that so? Why should I let Nature interfere with poetic inspiration? Just file the jingle under Un-Natural History notes. It's a good conversation piece, anyhow."

Incidentally, two others of the big birds (I won't risk naming them) are models of domestic bliss and devotion during the mating period, but immediately afterwards they pull feathers out, peck and knock each other about, and actually try to kill each other.

Someone near remarked, "That's crazy. Why do you suppose they do that?"

"They're uninhibited," I informed him. "They're just doing what lots of married couples would LIKE to do. I read it in a book on psychoanalysis. And besides, neighbors in my court do it every Saturday night. And the rest of us wish that they'd either quit it or finish it."

AFTER AN exhaustive study of the Zoo inhabitants, I find that about the only difference between them and humans is that we humans don't have feathers and fur.

To end on a more cheerful note, in one of the monkey cages there's a baby monkey. The placard says (and I checked the information with observation), everyone in the cage takes turn baby-sitting with the Monkeylet, not only the Simian Aunts, but the bachelor uncles and family friends. That made me feel more hopeful about us humans.

I'd emulate the good example and volunteer for baby-sitting except that I haven't caught up on the contemporary techniques in adjusting and changing babies' fold-overs. And we don't learn so fast after 50.

Aloha, Don Blanding

~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 26, 1954

I don't know why I haven't any drawings of monkeys on hand, and this is not my monkey-drawing week, so . . . no monkeys in the headpiece decoration. But if you really feel monkey-minded, you can look at the pictures of some of the politicians in the more spectacular shenanigans in Washington, D.C., scene, and even a few locally, and get a reasonable facsimile of same.

I may get my ears slapped down for that statement -- just as I did out at the Zoo the other day. Fortunately I have tough ears.

After reading a particularly revolting account of the political scene on the Mainland, I went out to the Zoo to see my friends, the chimpanzees, to assure them that only a few credulous people believed the scurrilous rumor that this particular breed of politician actually descended from monkeys.

MY FRIEND, the Chimp, replied tartly, "There's only one part of the statement that could be true and that's the word "descended."

I should have kept my trap shut, especially as Chimp followed up with more words in the same mood.

"Besides," he said, "we Chimpanzees are NOT monkeys. We are APES . . . . and choose your tone of voice when you say it. Those MONKEYS are only distantly related to us . . . if at all."

"Ah," I thought, "Snobbishness, class distinction and prejudice even among the Simians."

I tried to soothe his feelings, which were quite tempery. 'Well," I said, "I wrote a jingle about your friends . . . I mean, Neighbors . . . the monkeys. Would you like to hear it?"

"I might as well," said the Chimp, "How can I stop you?"

"Well, here it is."

I'm glad I'm not a MONKEY
  Living at the Zoo
And having YOU look IN at ME
  While I look OUT at YOU.

"YOU REALLY are dumb," said Chimp. "You think that we're the only ones in cages. Well, we ARE behind bars . . . but at least we can see them. But most of you humans are caged and don't know it.

"You're caged in by your fears -- your fears and super bombs, fear of your relatives' opinions, fear of your Boss, fear of your jobs, fear of higher taxes, fear of not keeping up with the Jones's, fear of what tomorrow may bring.

You've got emotional goose-flesh most of the time. And the joke is on you, as we Chimpanzees see it, because you've MADE yourn own bars with your imaginations. Most of YOUR bars and cages are imaginary. You could see THROUGH those bars, if you'd stop and really LOOK at them, and then they wouldn't be there any more."

HE CONTINUED, since I had no reply ready: "We Simians live IN the minute, ON the minute and BY the minute. If something hurts us NOW, we yell and get it out of our system now. But you humans doodle up a lot of fears about TOMORROW, and then suffer until TOMORROW comes . . . and it never does. 'NOW' is the only time you can live at the time, so why not make it fun. If you've got a flea, scratch it or catch it, but don't worry about TOMORROW's FLEA."

The Chimp brushed me completely out of his mind and his fur and turned to the IMMEDIATE FLEA which was interesting him.

I went away with a flea in my ear. So now I'm passing it along to you. That's one way to get rid of a flea. Pass it along.

And I looked at some of those imaginary bars in my self-made cage. The Chimp was right. The minute I saw them for what they were, doodled-up fears, they weren't there any longer.

Aloha, Don Blanding

Copyright © 2004-2007 Cadia Los - Revised October 27, 2007