The Hawaiian word for wealthy is waiwai. Wai means fresh water. In olelo o Hawaii, words are often repeated for emphasis. Wealthy is the man who has plenty of water. During the last few days, normally dry areas of Kula have had a surfeit of riches soaking everything in sight. Credit a low-pressure system. Don't say credit - say blame - to anyone living on Kauai or parts of Oahu. Their deluge was no makana. Certainly no gift for cleanup crews and insurance companies.
In 1980, a similar low-pressure system parked itself over Maui for something like a week. It rained and rained and rained. The island was flooded. Inland travel had worried motorists thinking about boats or surfboards. The rain sometimes was horizontal. High winds blew down trees, disrupted power and waves ate south shore beaches. There were two deaths - one when an illegally modified house fell in on the owner; the other when a flash flood near the old Suda Store swept a motorist out to sea. Kihei was cut off except for big National Guard trucks.
That was an extreme similar to the recent one that swept up from the south to wash over the oldest island in populated Hawaii. The last few days in Waiakoa rain clouds, aoku, scudded across a bone dry landscape.
For three or four days, aoku massed in the northern sky during the late morning. The rain clouds moved slowly southward to dump their loads at midafternoon. At the first hint of sunshine, pastures and yards turned green. Homeowners began breaking out mothballed mowers and trimmers while ranchers smiled.
On the first day, the clouds were lazy, resting on the ground. The fog reduced visibility to a hundred yards or so. On Kula Highway, traffic was a string of disembodied lights. Heavy rain squalls had windshield wipers flapping frantically. Driving toward Makawao indicated the fog and rain was heaviest at about the 2,000- or 3,000-foot levels. No telling what was happening farther up the mountain, probably more socked in. Sunny-day clouds rolled in at 6,000-foot altitude during the afternoon.
The rains began softly. Mist turned to light rain, punctuated by downpours. How much rain? I judge the amount by trying to listen to the sound system. If I can't hear it, it's a heavy rain. The embedded squalls turned the iron roof into a taiko drum.
There was qualified approval of the life-giving rain. Those working outdoors grumbled. Up the road, a gang of nail-benders were building a garage. Walls were up but the roof was wide open, no framing. Just as well. I once lived in a house that had been framed in the rain. Every year, the first winter rain would dribble in, plop, plop, plopping into pots and buckets. Once the shake roof and beams were thoroughly soaked, the wood expanded and the house was water tight.
My half-century-old, single-wall house has an impregnable corrugated iron roof protecting canec ceilings. Well, impregnable if there is a recent coat of Henry's silver roof paint. Nails move; the roof leaks. Canec hates water. It crumbles if wet enough.
Outdoor cats can ignore a little rain. Their guard fur makes for effective raincoats. Heavy rain is another matter, especially if there is wind strong enough to thrash trees. Sitting under a bush or a vehicle isn't enough protection. The fur dudes headed for the closed garage. It's big enough to maintain detente between fractious individuals.
Cats get nervous when routines are changed. At supper time, Cyrano, Tubster, Zipper, Baby Black and Patches eat together but need space to avoid hassles with pugnacious Malone and 15-pound Fat Face Charlie. The rain made a sprawl of dishes impossible. With a great deal of urging, all but Fat Face ate under the porch roof. He dominated the eave-protected spot where food is distributed every day about 4:30 p.m., the same time the rains came.
Some critters apparently like rain, particularly when it collects in plates littered with scraps of food. A late-night check of the porch revealed three African snails and a cockroach in one plate and two snails in another. The snails and the roach were gone the next morning. The plates were spotless.
There are gray clouds gathering over Haiku, Makawao and Pukalani. Looks as if another gift is heading this way today. I won't have to mow for another day or two. That makes the aoku a double makana.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.