The Kava Ceremony

My dreams are so vivid and enjoyable that I ignore my 630am alarm clock and delay my wake up until 8am. I run a little late to yoga class but get there with enough time to meet the instructor Connie and chat with the two people on either side of my mat. In a downward dog I notice two peacocks, one the colour of vibrant indigo and the other a startling white, chucking about just outside the mesh wall of the studio, which I learn is appropriately called the Grow Room.

Breakfast after yoga is delicious: fried banana and apple with granola, and a fruit smoothie on the side. I have breakfast with the other interns whose names I now, in my after-yoga refreshed mind, can remember without fault. Brooke and Chloe came together from New York. Brooke is a gorgeous blonde with eyes as vibrant as her smile and Chloe is bubbly and insightful. I am finally able to place Georgia’s New Zealand accent that I wondered about the night before. She is familiar to me in such an odd way, and as we talk I search her intricate green eyes in the hope that they will erupt some spark of memory hidden deep in my mind. Elise is sweet and serene; she is from New York as well. Her hugs are so naturally maternal that I quickly develop a comfortable ease around her. Erica is from Brazil. She has dark, striking features and speaks with a Spanish-English twang. She doesn’t speak as much as the other girls though when she does, the confidence and wisdom of her voice warrants one’s full attention.

After breakfast, Brooke, Georgia and I are summoned to the small garden near the lodge for a mulching job. Here I meet Nico for the first time. He walks mindfully through the land, grazing his fingers gently on each plant as he refers to it. I start to see Nico as if an ancient guru, conscious about where he places each next step on the earth, conscious about each word, each thought. He has the gentlest eyes I have ever seen, and voice to match. His music plays softly on the speaker as we cover the flowerbed in a fresh coat of mulch. I decide quickly that I like its smell; it embodies a vague sweetness like dying flowers in the sun.

Once our job is complete and we stand back to admire our work, Nico tells us that this particular plant called taro has been passed down through many generations, as it takes a piece of an existing plant to help ignite another. I imagine the many hands that the taro has touched and the many places it has ground its roots into. Some plants aren’t meant to be in just one place all their lives.

At lunch I meet Terra Ann, who is just as vibrant in real life as Megan has made her out to be. She embraces me and lays a sisterly kiss on my cheek. She smiles and laughs easily, and after lunch tells us that the best kava in all of Hawaii is currently being made in the Grow Room. I have never heard of kava before, though as people in Pahoa don’t drink much alcohol, I curiously ponder whether it’s a hallucinogen.

When we wander over to the Grow Room there is a group sitting cross-legged on the floor, smiling serenely around a large circular bowl filled with orange liquid. As we sit, we are welcomed with loving looks and introductions. Stu Heart, who is squeezing mango liquid into the bowl through a mesh bag, says he grew the mangos on his farm. The kava, a root plant that gets ground down and made into liquid, was grown there too. Still unsure of the effects, we cast off our worries and join as the kava ceremony begins. One by one, Stu Heart pours kava into a bowl made of a coconut shell with an alternate shell and hands it to the recipient. Before receiving the kava you clap once, then finish it completely before clapping twice. The taste is interesting, not bitter or sweet but somewhere in between and the lasting aftertaste is of ripe mangoes. After a minute my tongue and gums begin to feel numb, but other than that and a slight relaxed feeling as if I had just exhaled deeply, there are no effects. The true experience is in the circle around the kava, the mindful and conscious effort of drinking the substance. I have two cups of kava before the bowl is empty and in a calm and mellow state we all watch as Stu Heart and the pastor, a small and spunky woman, begin to play guitar and sing. I get lifted into a haze as the sound permeates the Grow Room. It is all at once heavy and light as thunderclouds planning their release. We alI listen intently without movement. The words “we are all our own ancestors,” drifts from the circle into the already darkening sky outside the Grow Room.

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