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From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 15, June - August 1982, Full Moon

Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:23 AM




     . . . [T]here are those of us who believe Hawaii no ka oi. We know there exists a body of writing which we identify as the Modern Hawaiian Literary Tradition. We admit that it's a confusing conglomeration of writers representing a variety of cultures and viewpoints. We admit that much research need be done, much scholarship completed, before a working understanding of the literature becomes common knowledge here. . . .
      We know the literature exists. The art of writing has always occurred in Hawaii. And this conference is an attempt to make this tradition more visible. To clarify the different voices which contribute to the overall picture of the Hawaii we love. (p.5)
                                        "On Local Literature'
                                                       by Eric Chock
                                                       Conference introduction
                                                       Writers of Hawaii: A Focus on Our Literary Heritage
                                                       State Capitol Auditorium, October 1980.



* * * * *


Shakuhachi
               by Les Peetz

      My friend Takao runs a small nursery in Portland, and in this unusually snowbound winter, he is worried about the frost. Usually, in Portland, it merely rains and hails, and the spring finds the soil in his nursery hospitable and ready for another season of roses for the festival, tulips, and special bonsai trees, carefully trimmed for select customers. This spring, he is afraid of floods, small ones, but enough to wash down Fourth Avenue and onto his property.
      For the time being, however, Takao is in hibernation, tending to his house and playing host to me. I have heard a little, just a little, about the internment camp, and I had met his wife shortly before she died. Takao has a small shrine for her in his living room, and is preparing sushi, rice cakes, for her this evening.
      No matter what the weight of his past griefs and present worries may be, Takao is an impeccable host. As he places the rice cakes on the shrine and bows, with his hands clasped together, he casts a sidelong glance toward me to take my mind off his sorrows. Immediately, then, he sits down in his armchair; for a moment, he is as silent as the whispering snow which drifts outside.
      I have visited Takao perhaps ten or twelve times in the last year or so, but he has never, despite my repeated requests for him to do so, played his flute, his shakuhachi for me. I am about to ask him to do so, but Takao is possessed of a sly wit and a bit of clairvoyance, and removes the flute from its place on the mantle.
      The flute is an old one, I know; Takao's grandfather, in Hokkaido Province, played it, to the great delight of his family and the townspeople. It traveled with his father, first to Hawaii, then to the West Coast camps, and was kept by a kindly Army sergeant in sort of a sacred trust. Takao still writes the sergeant, and, as a token of gratitude, sends him a bonsai tree, postage and freight prepaid, every Christmas.
      Takao shifts slightly in his armchair and places the flute to his lips. He plays one notes and holds it and then plays a long slow scale. He plays a bit more rapidly now, and ends on the same note he began on.
      "You know," he says to me, "if I don't have music, I die."
      He turns softly and looks at the drifting snow. I must leave, and I shake his hand, promising to be there later on in the week. The sound of the [i]shakuhachi[]i] is still with me, and I walk out the door and face the frozen nursery, covered carefully and surrounded by white limbo. And as the drift of snow becomes stronger, I tighten my scarf and button my overcoat. The chill factor is strong, and so is the wind, which whistles, on one note.



* * * * *

BIO: At the time of BR #15's publication, Les Peetz lived in Honolulu with his wife Vicky and son Allan. A lawyer, jazz pianist, and composer, he was born on the Big Island in 1949.


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