26 August 2011


The day before the concert - but I have a little time, after all, so ...

We went to Pa'auilo.

I don't recall much about our travel there, but I do remember leaving Hilo and heading up the coast.  I hardly know how to express the feeling of having entered a kind of Paradise.  I think I felt I had never known such beauty, not only in the sight of things, but the smell, the feeling on the skin, the very sounds.  This is, perhaps, peculiar to me.  I know that others have told me how much they dislike the warm, humid air that strikes them when the leave an aeroplane for a tropical climate.  I can only say that, for me, even landing in such an urbanised setting as Honolulu airport produces the same magic in me.  And as for Hilo...

And it is repeatable.  When I landed there in 2002, the sense of a deep home-coming - not to a personal home, but somehow to the Home we all, consciously or unconsciously, hope for in Heaven, was just as powerful.

The time we had in Pa'auilo was, or ought to have been, idyllic (excluding the matter of Judy the Jaguarundi :-).

It was so - but, particularly for Edna, it was too much so.

At that time my father and mother had lived in Hawai'i only for about a year, I think.  My dad was building a house on his farmland, and had rented a house nearby for the time being.  Edna, Kathleen, and I lived there.

It was very isolated.  To the nearest small town - Honoka'a - was something like a 20-minute trip.  To Hilo was most of an hour - and, particularly to Edna, who had grown up in San Francisco, Hilo was a very small town, indeed.

At the house we had a telephone, radio, television.  In 1964 there was no Internet.  Telephone calls, except in case of serious situations, were local.  Edna had no friends, no family.  I, my father, and my mother were away during the day - well, perhaps my mother was not.  Peter and Robin were - where? - University?  I think Robin should have been still at home, but I don't recall her being.

I helped my father around his farm that summer.  There is a large windrow of Casuarina that we planted.  There are some fenceposts I helped to place.  That was about the limit of my farming help.

I don't remember when Edna talked to me about her loneliness, but when we had been there some time, she said that she couldn't stand the isolation.  She was very distressed about the fact, but I knew the reason was real.

If I had had any real belief that I might be a farmer one day, perhaps my response might have been different.  I don't know that I consciously doubted my calling to the land, but it was in fact easy to respond that, since I had no job, if we were to leave, I thought I would have to return to the University.

It did not take much discussion to decide that I would do this.  I pointed out that she would have to work to support us - I would, in fact, work part-time as a student, as well.  Since I was already matriculated as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, admission was no problem.  I hoped I would qualify for scholarships, as my marks were good, and I did.  What with one thing and another, this seemed the right thing to do.

But there was one thing ... I did not want to go back to astronomy.

This seems odd.  It was surely partly a self-perception that, just as I didn't have farming in my bones, neither had I the ability for the advanced mathematics that astronomy required.  I recalled my last semester as an astronomy student being rather horrified at having received a B mark for my advanced calculus course.  A B, you ask?  But I was an undergraduate, in my third year of a four-year course.  To be of any use as an astronomer, I must finish my Bachelor's degree, then my Master's, and finally my PhD - and this was a bad omen.

These thoughts were surely part of my decision to change.  But consciously - and I think this of some importance - I thought of myself as abandoning cold, impersonal scientific pursuits for warm, human ones - linguistics in my case.

I think of my decisions during my life as being strictly individual.  I believe that is seldom the reality for most of us.  I do not suggest that we are not individuals, making individual decisions.  We certainly are.  We are not simply unconscious ciphers being manipulated by social forces.

Nevertheless, those social forces are very real, as well.  In my decision rather to drop out, after my and Edna's separation, in my decision to become a Christian in 1969, in my decision to become a Catholic in 1993, I have been acting as a part of much larger social movements.

So in this.  Though I was scarcely conscious of it, "science is out, humanities are in" was a wave building to a peak - a peak that crashed with great power in the social changes of the 1960s, sweeping many things away - and bringing many hidden things to light.

So I said I would major in linguistics.  We moved back to Berkeley - my second trans-oceanic removal - rented a two-bedroom apartment - was it in Shattuck Avenue? - and I enrolled and began attending classes - right in the middle of the Free Speech Movement

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