Saturday, January 9, 2010

Paradise in Paradise

When you die are you planning to go to Paradise?  If you were Chinese and you lived in Hawaii, maybe you could guarantee that this would be true.  It would help greatly if your name were Wong or Lau and that you had many family members still living AND having pre-deceased you and maybe a fairly generous bank account to ease your way. When I expressed to my family that I would be very happy to be disposed of for eternity in this beautiful place, they told me, "Lots of LUCK!", "GET IN LINE!" and "GET YOUR CHECKBOOK OUT!"  This is apparently a very exclusive locale.

And why shouldn't it be?  It is minutes from downtown, but feels deliriously remote and peaceful, tucked under the Ko'olau Mountains at the far end of Manoa valley, one of the most beautiful and rainy residential neighborhoods on Oahu.  A missionary to the Hawaiian Islands once wrote about Manoa valley that on entering it she had been stopped in her tracks and astounded by the most charmingly romantic vistas she had ever seen in her life.  These mountains are often shrouded in layers of mist.  It rains here nearly every day, guaranteeing lush and varied greenery and rainbows rainbows rainbows.

This is a Chinese cemetery.  One of several on Oahu, but probably the nicest.  The Chinese have a knack for snapping up all the best real estate on the island.  Ask anyone and they will likely confirm this to you.  And no doubt the misty mountains reminded the Chinese who claimed this place of their other misty mountains across the sea.  Made legend by poets and painters.

It is not necessarily buddhist, but many of the older markers here reflect buddhist traditions, which many of the first immigrants, like my grandmother, practiced.  Hawaii still has many beautiful buddhist temples both Chinese and Japanese which were beautifully constructed and are well maintained.  Despite competition and pressure from numerous energetically proselytizing Christian sects.

We all must die.  We all must end up somewhere.  Some of us have elaborate plans for ourselves that involve ceremony, scripted tributes, special music, drink.  This is something I have thought NOTHING about.  For better or worse.  Until I came here in adulthood.  And thought:  Where better?  My previous choices are proving pretty much non-viable.  Kew Gardens is cluttered up with benches now, and besides they wouldn't have me.  I've moved from the house where my two other cats are buried, no chance of getting back in there.  Much less in the back garden.  I'd have to buy the house back.  And spend the rest of my death sucking in toxic clay and waiting for the Hudson River to reclaim me.

Cremation and scattered ashes always seems like such a good idea, but ask someone who's done the scattering.  It's always windy and the ashes blow in your face and get all over your clothes.  Besides which, how can you TELL that those little handfuls of gravel are actually YOUR LOVED ONE and NOT.......someone ELSE'S!  (Is there a DNA test available for this kind of thing?)  Would I - Would YOU?  Want to end up in Georgia or Wyoming or Timbuktu if your ashes got co-mingled with someone else's.  Despite your specific instructions and everyone else's best efforts?

No this place would suit me just fine.  I would lie peacefully listening for the gentle winds to sweep down the mountains.  People might bring picnics of noodles and beer (well sort of like in the old days) when they come bringing floral tributes to their ancestors.  And share them on top of me.

Someone could plant red ginger alongside my stone to ensure that my death is as colorful as my life has been.

After awhile noone would come at all but that would be fine too.  I would be happy just to lie and listen to the whispering ghosts of old Chinese people and Hawaiian warriors talk-storying  and scolding. And laughing lightly at their own jokes.  I might actually finally pick up some Chinese.

The Chinese have an expression for this (what they see as) eventuality:  "the falling leaves always return to their roots".

 With views like these, why forever NOT?  I just have to change my name to Lau.


  1. what lovely photos and the site is truly amazing. love the prose... have a wonderful sunday! kenza.

  2. Hi Kenza - Glad you enjoyed it. What does it say about me that I had a lot of fun writing this one?! Happy Sunday to you too!

  3. You make it seem so enticing! I'll always come visit!

  4. Oh you crack me up! For me, my children will have to contend with dust on their faces. Somewhere over the sea; for I was born in an island and to the sea I shall return. Now, don't get me wrong, if someone was going to offer up a space in that swanky pot of land I would not be one to say no.

  5. thanks for your visit at La Tulipe. Yes this recipe is rather good, and yes I speak fluent Spanish (and other languages...). I am a Mexican national with a most varied background (Arab origins) having lived and grown up in many places (Paris, NY...) but it's getting boring... Keep on writing these posts they are lovely and funny and so full of life even on a post about a cemetery! Now that's an achievement! kenza.

  6. Wow. These pictures are amazing. I especially love the 3rd one down.

  7. What a gorgeous, wonderful, beautiful place! :-)

  8. Kenza and Yoli - I've left notes at your sites. Thanks again for coming by. Rambling Tart, Ellen at Anzu and Claudia, nice to see you! Thank you all too for going along with my contrivances for getting you to look at pretty non-touristy pictures of Hawaii!