Hilo: The place to reconnect with rain

29 08 2009

Hawai’i Nui means Great Hawai’i. The Hawaiian Islands are a great place to visit, from the Garden Island of Kaua’i to the Big Island of Hawai’i. This is the fourth post in a series of opinion pieces on the question, “What makes Hilo worth a special trip?”

Reason #4. Nobody whines about the rain

My friend Sarah is the only person I know on the mainland who has a healthy relationship with rain.  She regards it as beautiful.  This weekend, as Hurricane Danny dampens New England, she’s off to Rhode Island for a romantic weekend with her husband.

The rest of Boston is grousing about the havoc Danny is causing to the traffic around Ted Kennedy’s funeral mass today.

This would never happen in Hilo!  In Hilo, we’d appreciate the poetic resonance.  We’d say it’s ka ua ‘awa, the bitter rain of grief.

In Hawaiian poetry, some kinds of rain may signify joy, life, growth, greenery, good fortune or beauty.  Other kinds of rain evoke grief and sorrow, hardship and tears.   Still other types of rain signify intimacy.

Some types of rain are associated with rainbows and signify the presence of the gods.

And then of course there are the distinctive rains that are poetically associated with particular places, as in the famous saying,  Ele ele Hilo, pano i ka ua.

This translates as “Hilo is black, dark with trouble.”  (If our brewer, John, were a Hawaiian poet, he might have said this about our bottling line just last week after his 19th hour at the brewery.  Check out @jWalshHI to see what he said instead.)

The Hawaiian language is world famous for its many words for rain.  A Very Big Island news outlet, the London Independent, summed it up this way: Forget Eskimo Snow: Here are 139 Hawaiian words for rain.

In Hilo, we still appreciate the miracle of abundant fresh water in the middle of the Pacific.  Ua naulu, the showery rain, keeps the farms and gardens lush.  The ho’okili, a fine light rain, feels great on your skin.  Ko’i’ula, the rainbow-hued rain, is a sign to pull over and get out the camera.  The moe lehua, the sleeping lehua rain, makes beautiful listening at night.  Ua lani pili, a good downpour, washes away Kilauea’s sulphorous breath.

The kani lehua, the famous Hilo rain, keeps real estate prices within reach of mere mortals.  And that’s what keeps Hilo real.  Even mainland visitors can appreciate this.  The San Francisco Chronicle recently lauded Hilo as The Unsung Hawaii.

Yes, it Hilo rain is not a bug.  It’s a feature!  And when Hilo locals Twitter about rain, they most often Tweet in gleeful tones.

– Nina Lytton

Life is not luscious without rain

Life is not luscious without rain. Photo credit: Richard Cohen




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