The lights were warm on my skin even as a shiver of excitement traveled down my spine. I took a deep breath trying to remain calm. Looking up, I smiled as my gaze settled on Uncle, Kumu Hula Ed Collier. He smiled back and nodded, signaling me it was time to begin. With my Husband's, hand tightly clasping mine, and followed by our two sons, We approached the steps leading up to the largest, and certainly most important, stage I could have ever hoped to stand on.
Each step up the stairs revealed more of the hundreds of spectators in the audience that surrounded us. My heart was racing as we reached the top step. John let go of my hand as we stepped away from each other to stand as escorts to the 22 graceful wahine of Halau O Na Pua Kukui as they followed us up the stairs to take the stage.
The musicians strummed the introduction and in unison the Ladies of Halau O Na Pua Kukui bowed to the Royal Court. A few more strums and the ladies turned and bowed to my husband, my two sons, and myself. My heart skipped, as it overflowed with emotion.
As I was embraced in their aloha my heart began to slow and my breathing calmed. As I watched them dance, the bright lights and hundreds of people in the audience faded away until all I could see was the beautiful hula, Ka Hale Niu O Ka Pali, telling a story of travel, struggle, friendship, and redemption in a place so special it had become a home. The Halau's Big Island home. Our home.
As they danced, I experienced what I can only describe as a perfect moment. For a few minutes, that stage, the only thing that existed in this world was love.
Years later I can still remember the experience, as though it happened only moments ago. The members of Halau O Na Pua Kukui are still an important part of our lives, having stayed with us many times, and sharing experiences together throughout the years. Many lives that have become intertwined.
This is why, at our Inn we say, E Ho'ea Mai He Malahini, A E He'i Mai He Hoaloha ~ Arrive as Guests, Leave as Friends. As we have shared our home with guests over the past ten years it has become impossible for us to separate guest from friend. They have become one and the same.