Makapala

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Flores' and Rios' mother, Aunty Pua Case, told me I should visit Makapala, a retreat center on the north end of the island headquartered by a ministry. Like the yoga studio on the ranch where Keohuloa lived, Makapala housed an exhibit displaying photos of the anti-TMT demonstrations on Mauna Kea Access Road, which have been hampered by the pandemic.

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A woman named Kimi Vakauta, who lived on the grounds of Makapala, opened up the exhibit so I could look around. Inside the cottage was a simple, green carpeted room with walls covered in photos of people holding bright signs and flags, chanting, participating in Native Hawaiian ceremonies and standing together in esprit de corps. They were all smiling like the victory was theirs. It reminded me of something Keohuloa said: maybe, as they stood together protecting the Mauna they loved, they had already won. Vakauta and I talked about the exhibit while her daughter, wearing a blue dress, stayed by her side the whole time.

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Before I left, Vakauta asked me if I eat mangoes. I said I do. She grabbed a tool that was leaning against the railing and led me over to a tall tree with little green leaves fanning out over us. When she reached up the tool, I saw the green fruits hanging sparsely like ornaments. Then a couple of them fell to the earth, landing on the patchy grass with a soft thud. She dusted them off with the front of her shirt and offered them to me. 

That afternoon, sitting on the hood of my car near a cliff overlooking a black sand beach, I peeled the tough green skin of the fruit with my fingernails to reveal the bright orange flesh inside. As I sank my teeth into it, letting the juice drip down my chin, a thought came to me: the people in those photos have tough skin, too. But on the inside, they have the same orange warmth as that mango. And like mangoes, even when they get plucked from their places of origin, the places that gave them life, they will always come back bountiful.

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