St. Francis of Assisi on the Big Island of Hawaii : Waipio Valley
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
All is reflected through all. All is all. These may seem like trite platitudes shot out of an inaccurate weapon at a target so big it cannot be missed, but axioms like these are displayed time and again in the minutiae of the manifest.
I’m thinking, for example, of my time spent dwelling in another room of the Mother’s house- the Mother Earth- a year or so after that last sojourn to India. I was camping near the windswept, black-sand beach in the utopic Waipio Valley, on the northeast side of the Big Island of Hawaii. I had hitchhiked with my soror from Hilo, up island, to the rim of the Waipio Valley, from where we walked down the precipitous, four-wheel-drive road which leads to the bottom of the vale. There we forded a river, and made our way onto the east-facing, marvelous stretch of black sand, dotted in behind by a sparse forest of ironwood trees.
In looking for an appropriate place to set up our tent, we happened upon an oddly primitive and yet well maintained 8ft×8ft hut, built completely of bamboo. It was seemingly abandoned, and so we set up our tent beneath the awning, and stayed there for the next few days, occasionally gathering avocados, citrus fruits, and macadamia nuts, which we roasted in the hollows of rocks placed in a fire. There was a pure spring bubbling up in a nearby property, from which we gathered drinking water, and so the whole scene began to take on a paradise-like quality, the likes of which only such Caucasians as Robinson Crusoe, or Gilligan had ever before experienced.
After a few days in the valley together, my soror had to return to Canada, but I stayed on, camped beneath that bamboo wonder, nibbling upon the fruit of the land, walking the lengthy beach, and reading G.K. Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis of Assisi, which I had purchased for a few sheckels earlier at a local market.
I was impressed by St. Francis, that gentle titan who one day simply up and quit the world, but didn’t leave. Not Francis, not that unobtrusive zealot. He could have wandered off into the forest alone, and stayed there, and had a merry old time of it basking in the warm and sustaining glow of the spirit, far out and forever beyond the turmoil of the day, but he didn’t. Francis stripped himself bare, declared he neither needed nor wanted a single thing from mankind, and then proceeded to live amongst the faithless throng, like a self-enclosed beast, neither needing clothing, nor shelter, nor money, but only Christ and the earth to sustain him. “My brother the wind, my sister the rain”, declared Francis, one who had crossed the invisible threshold into the realm of peace and union, and yet remained among all men divided from the source.
St. Francis belonged to both God the Father and also God the Mother- to the spirit and to the earth- which is why he, like Christ, also fled to the solitudes of the Mother, the earth, for his communion with the Father, before returning to a world which was doing its best to belong to neither.
I spent the next few days hanging about in that pacific paradise while polishing off the book. Occasionally locals would pass by for a chat, some of whom made mention of the hut I was staying in, although there seemed to be a fair bit of confusion as to the name of the character who had built it. And it was not until I left the area, climbed back out of the valley, stuck my thumb out for a ride, and was picked up by a woman who lived in the region that I found out the truth. She told me that the man who built the austere hut had once been a high salaried professional in some technological field or other, and then one day, for reasons known only to himself and God, he quit his job, renounced everything, entered the Waipio valley with nothing but a machete and some matches, changed his name to Ken, built his little hut, made clothing out of coconut hair, learned to live off of what Mother Earth provided, and invited anyone faithful or brave enough to come and join him at the place he now called ‘Homecoming’. In short, he had pulled off the St. Francis gambit, had walked away from the corruption of mankind, and back to God and the earth, thus bridging the gulf between the spirit and matter, just as his predecessor had done.
It was no great surprise, then, that I had been reading Francis’ biography, while unknowingly staying in a hut built by one of his own, or perhaps even an incarnation of that old druid himself, St. Ken of Waipio.
Individuals such as Ken, St. Francis, and Christ, have somehow found within themselves the endurance, tenacity, and passion to live both upon this earth and within the heavens. To live in one of these is enough for most of us, and few, in fact, live in either; most of us exist at the intertidal zone, where neither a house nor a garden is possible due to the flood, nor an ark nor a fishing-line for the ebb. And so we do not really exist at all, because we belong neither to the heavens nor the earth, and are as if fleshless phantoms, or spiritless bodies, aimlessly wafting about without mooring, and blowing about without wings, and wondering why life is so meaningless, so agonizing, so odd. And the answer is because we do not exist- not until we take up our citizenship in the heavens, or build our love upon the earth.
To find our homes in either of these realms would lodge us finally into a life where we might find peace, and beauty, and worth, but then to look upon the likes of Francis, and Christ, and know that they somehow set both their roots on earth, and their wings in heaven, is to understand the distance we still must go in order to be whole.
To walk that diaphanous bridge- wherein the spirit descends into matter, and where matter rises to spirit, and in that union a new quality is born, a new frequency is found, and the cosmic radiations infuse the earth energies with their intimacy, the Mater becomes the Pater, and the pattern enters the matter- to walk that diaphanous bridge is to marry once again the two realms to which our beings belong, and which are united in, and of, and through us.
(excerpted from Roots and Wings: adventures of a spirit on earth, by Jack Haas)
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