Some people awake to the sound of an alarm, some to the call of one or more roosters and some have a natural awakening. It was that way for me last week during this lock-down because of the Coronavirus. One morning I awoke to the memory of childhood days and “The Wind In The Willows.”
Just in case you are wondering, this is the title of a book written in 1908 for second- and third-graders by a Scot, Kenneth Grahame. As a child, he had lived with his grandmother on the banks of the River Thames and so developed a love for nature. Now on early retirement from the Bank of England, he returned to that same location in the Thames Valley. In this book he attempted to attribute human traits to its main characters. These were Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad and Badger. This book was prescribed to us for reading in the second grade. No wonder then that it lives on in my memory. Of course there are some who would suggest that I still live on in that grade level.
Now in Kalaupapa the wind does not, as far as I know, sound in the willows but it certainly does in the palm trees in front of my house. We have no moles here. At least I have not seen one surface. We do have lots of mongoose, including one that Father Chris would feed on the porch. We do not see any rats in the churchyard because my four cats have put them on lock down. On occasion I see Mr. Toad when the rains come down from the mountain. Then we have those Axis deer which come out at night. We may or may not see them but they do leave their calling card on the lawn out front, assuring us that they are with us all the way. Badgers have not made it to Kalaupapa but wild pigs in great numbers are lurking in the woods ready to squeal on us.
When one walks the west side beaches, they are in for a special treat. Not only does one experience the natural unspoiled beauty of the sand and water, strewn with lava rocks, you may get lucky and come upon a newly-born monk seal pup resting beside its mother on the sandy shore. One should not approach too closely thereby upsetting them and running the risk of losing the seat of one’s pants — with flesh attached. Then one might spend a night in the local brig for this offense. So far this year we are celebrating three births. In the cool of the day, if you would like some further adventure, you might want to hike up to the Kauhako Crater, on the way listening to the wind whispering in the ironwood trees, then return to ground zero as you are serenaded by various tropical birds.
Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.