Michael and I got up early as usual and snuck out for a little alone time at the coffee shop. The kids were happy just to relax and enjoy
the scenery their technology. They did however get out for a nice walk together down to the beach area and somehow found a smoothie shop on the way. Then, Michael loaded them all up with sunscreen to head back down for some snorkeling. Apparently, Casey was so relaxed she fell asleep in her lounge chair while the boys snorkeled in the bay and took pictures with Michael’s camera, securely enclosed in some fancy waterproof case that mysteriously appeared on our doorstep in an Amazon box a few months ago. While I was getting the most pampered manicure of all time, they came home with some fabulous underwater pictures of, wait for it, not one, but two octopuses!!
Dan says that these are called Yellow Tangs.
Finally, the afternoon came and it was time to prepare for our vow renewal. The flowers had already arrived and everything was set. We were all dressed by the time James (our photographer) arrived so we got started with pictures right away. I bet in the span of two hours, he took 400 pictures. We were in our backyard, under trees, and in flower beds. At one point, Mike and I were perched up on a huge tree branch 2 feet off the ground with my dress flowing behind me. This was all just the precursor to the pictures he took after the ceremony, which were in even more precarious positions in front of a Hawaiian sunset backdrop. We snuck out onto a group of black lava rock that jutted out beyond the beach, clearly a favored spot for honus because there were several out there. I hope we didn’t interrupt their naps because we were literally in between them, all four of us, as James snapped shots as fast as he could to capture the last of the natural light. Finally, he had Mike and I wade out into the water, with my dress floating on the surface while he snapped away.James has three little kiddos — 5, 3, and 1. He and his wife run their business alone and he is probably the most popular photographer on the island. All of this means that I won’t get these pictures for another 12 weeks. If his instagram (jamesrubiophotography) and blog photos are any indication of what he did last night, then they will be worth the wait. He did promise to post one of two for me in the next couple of days so now I can’t seem to stop checking my email. Or his blog.
Honestly, as impressed as I was about our photographer, I was blown away by our ‘officiant’. I say that in quotes because I am not quite sure of his official title. His name is Danny Akaka, Jr. If you have heard that name before it might be because his father was the first U.S. Senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Danny Jr. currently serves as the Cultural Director of the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Resort. (Ironically, our last professional picture taking session here on the island 4 years ago, was in front of his current office, the Eva Parker Woods Cottage. Let me tell you, this man is one of those people you never forget. And that was not just evident from our own interactions with him. During the 100 yard walk to our secluded beach spot in Paoua Bay, three different people stopped us to greet their friend, clearly happy to see this sweet and gregarious man.
Since upon first being introduced to him several months ago by our lovely concierge-turned-friend, Janet, I have been witness to his spiritual and sensitive nature with every conversation and email. Danny Jr, or Kaniela, as he is called by the locals, I assume to differentiate him from his father, grew up in Honolulu where his parents had him attending Kawaiaho’o Church from the time he was an infant. His uncle, the most widely known Hawaiian since Kamehameha the Great, was pastor of this church, affectionately called the “Westminster Abbey of the Pacific.” I might have to steal this man’s most famous quote, because it might be the one saying that incorporates just about every possible thought I might have about humans, God, harmony, and my love of music… We are all strings on God’s ‘ukulele. If all the strings can work together, they can create a gorgeous harmony.
In just the hour that we spent with Danny, we learned countless fascinating facts about his life to date. In fact, we begged him to stay and enjoy a drink with us at dinner but he had to leave to see his daughter off to Honolulu. He promised a rain check the next time we are on the island. Meanwhile, I want to try and remember everything I learned about this gentle soul so I am just going to bullet point all that I remember right here. Each fact is interesting enough on its own without me trying to embellish them all into the perfect paragraph.
- He sailed on part of the Hokule’a’s voyage around the world recently, blessing the boat and the voyage with hawaiian chants and prayers. He clearly made an impression on a Buddhist monk he sailed with who had a talent for making beautiful sounds from his own conch shell; upon their return this man searched the ocean on his own, found possibly the most beautiful conch shell that ever existed, made a special mouthpiece and sent it to Danny as a gift. Danny used that conch shell in our ceremony, just like he does in every ceremony he performs.
- He was responsible for blessing the neighborhood within which we are currently staying. About 15 years ago, it was nothing but hardened lava rock. He walked, painstakingly I am sure, for an hour around the perimeter of the neighborhood with the developer, chanting non stop to bless the land and ensure safety of its workers, future residents, and guests. He apparently was so influential to the developer, that a few months later, when he returned to see that they had elevated the land so high toward the back (so as to ensure that every home had an ocean view) he worried aloud to the developer that such change was not good for the land, the winds, the currents, and the general ‘natural balance of life’. The developer quickly had the land regraded to a more suitable height.
- Danny is a talented professional contemporary Hawaiian musician, and brought his gorgeous 1940 Martin ‘ukulele to play a song for us at the end of the ceremony.
- In addition to his mastery of Hawaiian music and the Hawaiian language, Danny’s serious study of oli (chant) and mele (songs, poems) since the 1990’s have designated him a significant and well-respected kahu (master, preacher, guardian) of the Islands.
- Danny’s desire to honor ‘ohana in the flesh and in the spirit were clearly evident during our beautiful ceremony by the water. He frequently talked about the importance of ‘ohana’s past, present and future members, and how their spirits were present during our ceremony even when their physical bodies were not. It made me grateful for all of the Hustons, O’Briens, Weyeneths, and McKenneys that came before us; those we knew and those we didn’t, but especially our wonderful parents who helped mold us into the people we are today. He was also so careful to include our beautiful children whom I could not have imagined doing that ceremony without them. (An important side note… Right as the ceremony began, Casey, standing to my left, with her beautiful flower bouquet and her sweet little tan-induced nose freckles, leaned into me to apologize for not being present at the first wedding. I’m not kidding. She was sorry that she couldn’t be at the first wedding. I about lost it right there.)
Danny is sending me a written out version of the chants, blessings, prayers, and words that he recited and sang during the ceremony. Half of it was in Hawaiian, but while I couldn’t understand each word, I knew exactly what they meant. Mike and I had decided earlier in the day to keep the vows simple (clearly we both struggled to say something that hasn’t already been said in 20 years) and use the same Episcopal vows we recited 20 years, one month and 12 days ago. They still hold just as true now as they did then.We finally ended with a beautiful and delicious dinner at Brown’s Beach House, another short walk from the ceremony spot. I arrived at dinner with hair that had gone just about completely flat in this difficult combination of wind and humidity, no shoes, a dress soaked in ocean water up to my knees, and the biggest smile on my face.
It was a night I will never forget.
Some interesting information about this special man can be found here.