May Day is Lei Day!

May first is the celebrated Lei Day throughout the Hawaiian islands, dedicated to the beautiful tradition of making and wearing lei.

The holiday was started May 1st, 1928, after the famous poet, Don Blanding, (AKA the “poet laureate of Hawaii”) suggested a special day be made to honor the spirit of aloha, which is best embodied in the lei tradition.

Lei Day is usually full of celebratory events throughout the community which include live music, food, hula dancing, and lei contests. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, none of these gatherings were able to take place this year. However, kama’aina (Hawaii residents) were encouraged to make their lei at home and share their creations by hanging them on their mailboxes or taking photos.

Hawaii is well known for its “Spirit of Aloha,” which is a way of life on the islands. Being a new resident and having only visited here before now, I have been very curious about what exactly aloha means to the people who live here. We all associate the word with hello, goodbye or love, but what it means to natives goes much deeper.

The direct translation of aloha from Hawaiian to English is presence of divine breath. Hawaiians used to greet each other by placing their foreheads together and inhaling at the same time as a practice to exchange good health and spiritual power. Today, this practice is very rare and the spirit of aloha is shown in other ways. Aloha is the essence of being: love, peace, compassion and respect, living in harmony with the people and the land. It is all about caring for one another without expecting anything in return.

The lei is a symbol of affection representing aloha, given to those coming and leaving Hawaii. Leis are usually strung fresh flowers, shells, nuts, leaves and berries, but can be made of a variety of materials.

Here is my poem for my first Lei Day:


Spirit of Aloha

To wear such words
(such masterpiece)

though one may not assume
to be in tenderest of messages—
intricately woven
of berries and blooms :

A harmony
of understanding

A breath sent
from me to you

A greeting
of deeper meaning

between
mayflowers
who always knew
. . .

To be revealed within
the gauze of rainbow
in prismatic kindness

the Aloha Spirit
shines its colors
through the veils
of silvered mist


And my lovely he’e berry lei along with a bonus May Day rainbow outside the kitchen window!

Since day one I have felt this aloha spirit and been blessed to be welcomed into the community. Despite all the chaos with COVID-19 neighbors are always checking in on me, having me over for dinner and helping me get acquainted with the island. It has been a crazy time of adjustments, especially during these unprecedented times, but having aloha has helped immensely.

Writing and photography By: Katy Claire Funke

Synergy & Seal Haikus

Synergy

Before the coral reefs felt pain
and the oceans could speak English

we were as one,
the mountains and I,
as were
the sea lions
and constellations .

Before our spirits
could be sacrificed
for jewels and false images

we exhaled
with the ebbing tides
in waves combined of energies .

God made us
to participate
one body
and one spirit

when stars were space
and space was not
we were
a knitted ball:
immaculate .

Can our molecules remember
through our inner cracks in concrete
that our seeds were scattered to thrive ?

Can our hearts
break our molds
like the ancient banyan trees,

their root-woven wisdoms
still in our eyes ?

I am on a constant quest for Banyan trees these days. Such incredible wonders! I found this beauty on the grounds of the Maui Country Club today.

Seal Haikus

from today’s run-in with an adorable sea lion at Paia’s Ho’okipa Beach:

Splash me with your pearls!
Oh! Paint me like your French girls!
Sea, make art of me!

Waves can’t crash my scene!
Watch me worm and wobble ‘till
I collapse dance shores!

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Poems on my heart

Five poems

My Dearest Crippling Expectations,

If I do more
will that be more
of what you like?

If I contour my armor
until it’s contorted just right?

If I suffer a death
by small paper cuts
and fold into your
most perfect origami

will that be
enough?

At least for tonight?

A Love of Learning

In love
I’ve :

bloomed in
irreplaceable
burning flowers

danced in
unpredictable
storms of lightning

swam in
unreasonable
waves of passion

and sang in
indescribable
winds of freedom

But it’s in the stillness
following the flames and gales where I really see

what love is teaching me:

to not hold too tight

to not hold too light

to choose
growth
+

to choose
balance
+

to choose
compassion
=

to choose
love
.
.
.
Every day .

Editing

I’ve become very good
at editing.

Of this,
I am ashamed.

If my work is seen as,
“mmm not quite”
I will detonate
that slate clean.

I will fiercely cut to
“wow, you’re perfect!”
or slam the undo key

until I get back to
“you’re such a good girl”
or other fairy princess
beginnings.

But today I wish
to own my work;
my every stroke
(and over stroke).

I want to pick up
that ball in the bin
and slowly begin
to uncrumple myself.

To-Do

My mother always told me
that I was obsessive.

Obsessed
with everything
I do.

My love language
is acts of service
because I love
to do.

To do do do
always doing.

Always doing
my to-do list.

But when I see
the beauty
of the simplest of lilies

I stop what I am doing

and I look at it
just being

and it’s then I truly see
what I was meant
to do.

Love,

If I could
I would tell you
how much you mean to me

but I can’t

there are
no words

not enough
time nor art

to ever explain .

There’s only:

breaths
to catch
on the wind

smiles
to spread
on the sun

songs to send
poems to write
flowers to plant

and the stars
that will forever
bear witness
to our love
set free

in all of its
eternities

Writing and photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Photos taken in Wailuku, HI and Baldwin Beach

Exquisitely Dressed / Haikus on the Beach

Exquisitely dressed are the shores
that hem the oceanic abyss:

cashmere sands are iced
in crystalline fishnet nylons

adorned are corsets
with bones of coral
and buttons
of tiffany blue diamonds

effervescent waters
still bubble up
beneath the foam-trimmed tulle

gowns of brackish satin
learn to let go
of their most treasured pearls

skirts of gelatin pirouette
their secrets laced in seaweed

embraced for love
of blue-dipped kisses
in the spring organza breeze

pressed in sands
are footprints
that danced
on jeweled bays

where the sea extends its tides
to gently clear the stage in waves

sweeping beaches slowly back
into a sacredness
of sapphire
depths

as the wind surfs aside couture
into clouds
soft-silken lilac

Haikus

Sun proposed a tan
my skin has yet to accept.
– Forever Pale Girl

The sparkling tides fill
my sight with Gatorade blue’s
quench for hopes renewed

Reflections of you
are seen in shadows by me
missing my best friend.

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Poems for the Earth

In celebration of Earth Day 2020

Comfort

Whenever I feel
my spirit waning
my passion wilting
my belly aching

even greater is
my yearning

to be wrapped within your arms
curled up in the velvet of your blouse
swaddled in the sands of your understanding.

Because lying on your lap
is where I find:
my truth
my vision
my love
my sanctuary.

Invisible Enemies

We cannot see the wind
We cannot see the virus

But we can see the storms
the fallen trees
the fractured families

We can feel the fears
acute
& engulfing

Though the battles are bleak
there are wars we are winning
( curves we are flattening )

both together and alone.

If we can fight for the victory of humanity
can we not do the same for our home?

Dedicated Haiku:

Fiftieth Earth Day?!
Girl don’t look a day over
forty-nine (wink, wink 😉

Rain in the mountains overlooking Iao Valley today

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

All photos & video in Wailuku, HI.

Lullaby

On sailboats
we glissade —
ceasing all activity

from choppy shores
to tranquil waters
that ripple to
simplicity.

Boundlessly

we float,

we rest
in loving
kindness
.

Breathing in the
softened skies

we welcome
ocean’s lullabies.

“Lullabye” cover by Katy Funke

Today I wanted to create a special recording project for my friends and family who just had babies or are expecting very soon. During these times I find great comfort in music, especially singing lullabies. My favorite lullaby of all time is Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)”, which he wrote in 1993 for his then 7 yr old daughter, Alexa. It is truly one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard and I have always wanted to do a cover of it. I hope you will enjoy the finished product for you and any little ones in your lives 💗

Writing, vocal performance, photography & videography by: Katy Claire Funke

Sea Turtles

In this endless blue
my heart swells
& breaks
on rocks
in waves;

my mind
as loud
as tsunamis.

But you,
you glide
through time & space
to reveal the truths
in each our souls.

Each stroke
a meditative dance

your cosmic travels
in utter silence.

Can you teach me
a shred of your stillness —
a grain of your
gentle strength?

With just a glimpse
of the galaxies
in your eyes
I believe
I can accept life’s
ever-changing shades
& learn to float
in the rain.

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Island Life Haikus

#haiku

Plumeria

Pink lemonade paints
sugared fondant to bloom on
nature’s birthday cake

Lured into heavens
by cocoa jasmine citrus
on balmy evenings


Road Crossing Rooster

A lover boy known
for his serenades at dawn
darts across my road

Gelled back James Dean in
amber ebonied feathers
turning heads down streets

Silly bonus haiku:

Pineapple Princess
won the Palm Tree Pageant.
Now she’s Coconut Queen
!

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Photos taken in Wailuku, HI.

The Creation of Art

Why is it that every time I create something I panic that it is the last time I will ever create? Will this be the last poem I ever write? The last song I ever sing?

What is the creation of art but …

A narrowing of winding roads

leading to unnamed destinations?

A taming of the ruthless wild —

a guardrail on unforeseen emotions?

A beauty that hides the chaos,

but makes the truth be seen?

A grieving tree that’s frozen,

but surprises us by blooming?

A flourishing of harmony

of life in volcanic death?

A mesmerizing flower

that leads us on a new path?

A pruning of the jagged hedges,

a corralling of the lawless pastures?

An uprising of hearts impassioned,

a feeling expressed in lines & colors?

Maybe I needn’t worry

about if I’ll create again.

Maybe it’s in the beauty

of unknowing

where we realize

the creation.

Writing & photography by: Katy Claire Funke

All photos were taken on the Kula Highway in upcountry Maui, HI.

This poem was inspired by Francisco Bravo Cabrera’s post on What is Art?