The payment system at the Wildlife Rescue Center was slow to process our transaction (very much so), so I took the opportunity to talk more with Marie, the staff member who welcomed visitors. She already had given us a good understanding of the work done by the hospital and rehabilitation volunteers, and introduced us, by live-action cameras, to all the patients agreeable enough to be in view. She answered our many questions, too. The nice rapport let our conversation meander into the personal. We told her where we are/were from, and where we were staying (two minutes away), and she told us of her whirlwind visit to New York City, and that yes, Kohala district (Hawi/Kapa’au, especially) was just about the best part of the Big Island to live in, given its temperate clime and comfortable distance from the more visited resort areas and busy Hilo. We told her who the gifts we purchased were for, and that led to family talk about grandchildren … and their parents. Two items were for us, though, and that admission let Marie give us special advice regarding souvenirs: “Don’t take any piece of the island with you, not rock or sand or dirt.” You will make Pele angry.”

Pele, the Fire Goddess, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes, and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. She is also known for her power, passion, jealousy, and capriciousness. Pele’s home is believed to be the fire pit called Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at the summit caldera of Kīlauea, one of the Earth’s most active volcanoes; but her domain encompasses all volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.1 She is known to be vengeful towards disrespectful humans. Islanders ask permission of her to take any natural thing from its place. If not, there are repercussions. For un-permitted fruit, maybe a car that won’t start – one that restarts as soon as the request is remembered and performed. For other thefts, like those of sand and rock, unexplained illness is the price. Marie told us the stories told to her by her cousin who works at the U.S.P.S. It is a regular occurrence to receive parcels of island rock and coastal sand by post, addressed to the local office or even to Pele, returned by mainlanders and others who have mysteriously fallen ill once home; whose illnesses cannot be diagnosed or cured, but are relieved once the parceled bit has been repatriated to Hawai’i.

Needless to say, we moved not one grain of sand, not one rock, not one leaf or flower from the Big Island. And I am happy to report we are well.

Here are the species of birds we saw in the wild on Hawai’i and Kaua’i:

  • koae kea
  • iwa
  • yellow billed cardinal
  • java sparrow
  • mynah
  • nene
  • northern cardinal
  • pueo
  • red crested cardinal
  • white rumped shama
  • zebra dove
  • yellow fronted canary
  • francolin
  • chestnut mannikin
  • cattle egret
  • alae ula

  1. from www.hawaii.com
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