For those of us lucky enough to live in Big Island ranch country there is an anticipation that arrives with the end of February. It is more than just looking forward to a new month, and it is entirely different than, say, the feeling you get between July and August or October and November. It is a nature-based sense that things are about to get harsh. “March” and harsh” even sound a lot alike, and we all know that when people are on the “march” our comfort zones are going to get left behind!
In our little community, the coming of March means that the trade winds are going to remind us that one of their chief functions is tree-pruning, and they are not shy about it either. Before long the power of the North Pacific will be felt by all of us with the charging, heavy winds slamming the sea cliffs and racing up the deep valleys, erupting in towering plumes of spray and roiling clouds over the beaten ridges of the Kohala Mountains. The muscular winds will pound and shake the forests, forcing them to drop all but their hardiest limbs, and our trees will buck and bend under the assault. Soon we will be watching for branches on the highway, and the utility companies will once again wonder if they wouldn’t have been better off burying their ugly lines.
There is an Amy Grant song I always think of when the March winds begin to blow. In the song she is thinking of a saying that her father-in-law had about weather and farming. This is how it goes:
“But like your daddy said,
The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay,
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay,
And the mighty wind that knocks us down,
If we lean into it,
Will drive our fears away.”
That is the way Waimea people accept the winds and rain of March. At first it is annoying, and men have to re-shape their hats, while women re-think their choice of hair styles and skirts to wear. We all have to use our collars and learn to walk looking at the ground instead of straight ahead, but the results are good. Seat yourself in one of our coffee companies and watch as people pop in through swinging doors with rosy cheeks and bright smiles, loosening their jackets and drying off their glasses. Just make sure that you park your car nose into the wind, so that you don’t make door dings in the parking lots!
Our March wind also insists that we appreciate the very ground we walk upon as we plod forward, shaken like the trees around us. We pass carefully over the land we love while the scents of molasses grass and eucalyptus perfume the air. Many Waimea ancestors lie below us while the rushing air lifts our spirits into the sky, where our dreams run free. It is exhilarating, and we are reminded that the Hawaiians of old valued the strength that came from surviving these same winds. We harden ourselves like the spears of the warriors who once roared and ran in these highlands. We rejoice in the coming of the spring rains to the hills as Waimea’s grandfathers and their grandfathers once did on horseback, riding dark saddles made shiny with the rain, while the cows above the village moaned softly to their newborn calves, and the eastern sky over Makahalau bloomed with stars at day’s end. The amber and wine colors of summer sundowns glow in our fireplaces as smoke weaves into the March wind above our roof tops.
Waimea people are sturdy people not given much to fussing and more likely to feel blessed by the gift of a new year than being irritated by losing a hat in the wind. March is upon us, starting today, and the new season of growth can be seen all around us. Slow your steps, walk on an errand you might normally drive to do, and enjoy this most beautiful place we call home.