Each year, children in our classes receive a special verse on their birthdays. They then recite their verse once a week in front of the class for the duration of the school year. These verses function therapeutically; they speak to a certain part of the child, whether a strength, a limitation, or a challenge. Through the weekly reading of the verse, Grady and I have witnessed shifts in confidence, bearing, and character. We compose the poems and present them in the form of a card with a hand-drawn illustration or painting.
One of my student’s verses came to mind when Class Six went to Volcano on a Mineralogy field trip in April. As we explored Thurston Lava Tube and hiked into Kilauea Iki crater, the familiar words echoed…
HE INOA NO PELE
Dawn comes; dancing Lilinoe dissolves.
Sing to me, ‘apapane and ‘alepaio,
As first light greets the koa trees.
Dew rests on pukiawe’s spiny leaves,
‘Ohelo berries boast bright red cheeks.
Hear! Cry of nene, carried on wind.
Deep within Kilauea Pele opens her arms,
Fiery fingers touching the sea.
Hear! Hiss of water, turned to steam.
Hi’iaka heals her sister’s gaping wounds,
Adorning Pele with ohi’a and fern.
Hear! Call of spirits, blessing this land.
Hiking on the rim, we were dwarfed by towering tree ferns and surrounded by chirping of native birds. We left the cool, moist shade of the forest and trekked across the crater, finding the favorite food of nene geese – ‘ohelo berries. We searched narrow crevices for Pele’s hair – long, thin, brittle strands of silica that glow golden in the sun. Ouch! They look so soft yet each strand can break into splinters of glass! While Gabriel initiated an exploration of a steep red cinder hill and Sage led the way to steam vents, Pakalana and Selah, in a generous show of chivalry, carried the boys’ bulky water bottles and igneous rock finds!
Before the sun set on our day of adventuring, we endured a bit of a trial that led to our new class motto: “Always Stay On the Trail!” Let’s just say we emerged from the crater via an alternate route that left us somewhat muddy, bracken-covered, and determined to never again mistake wooden erosion steps for a shortcut between switchbacks! Thank you, Pele, for showing us grace despite our trespasses; for sharing with us the wondrous living complexity of your fiery home.