Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Year in Review: Fifth Anniversary

It's hard to believe, but it's true: this blog is five years old!

Each anniversary for the past four years I have written a "Year in Review" post. So, of course, I am doing so again. I hope this will be the last such "Year in Review" post, because I have left New York City and I am graduating from my doctoral program, and therefore I see no need to keep this blog going. But we'll see! The future is uncertain. (Is this why I am so drawn to history?)

You can see recaps of Year One, Year Two, Year Three, and Year Four here.

Here's Year Five.

Last year's anniversary post was published on March 19, 2014. At that time I had just returned from an awesome trip to the Bay Area where I attended the American Society for Environmental History conference and then went backpacking for three nights at Point Reyes National Seashore all by myself. It was a magical camping trip.

Moonrise. Point Reyes National Seashore, California. March 2014

 When I returned from camping, and logged into my email, I discovered some incredible news: I had received the 2014-15 Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. This meant that the next year would most certainly be my last year of graduate school—I would finish my dissertation—and I would be privileged to spend my time writing and researching rather than teaching (although I love teaching, and I have truly missed it this year).

Meanwhile, back in New York, I had recently moved into a new apartment in Brooklyn and I was still figuring out so many aspects of my life.

In April I had the joy of visiting Lewiston, Maine, where I attended college in 2002-2005. This was my first visit there in nine years!

The chapel at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine. April 2014

 I also got to visit Atlanta, Georgia for the first time, where I attended the Organization of American Historians conference, taped an interview with C-SPAN 3's "American History TV," and went on two great walking tours: a guided tour of the 1906 Atlanta race riot, and my own self-guided tour of sites associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

African-American history tour, Atlanta, Georgia. April 2014

  Another highlight of April was that I bought a bicycle! This allowed me to get from my apartment to Coney Island in about thirty minutes each way. Much ocean-exploring ensued!

Me and my bicycle at Coney Island, Brooklyn. April 2014

 As usual, I got very involved—perhaps too involved—in planning actions and activities for May Day on campus. We held, for the second year in a row, a Free University in which anyone could teach a class, anyone could take a class, and many professors brought their classes out of doors to join in our action. The day included a rally in the center of campus with speakers ranging from undergraduate students to graduate student workers to representatives of various labor unions on campus.
 
At the Stony Brook Free University, May Day. May 1, 2014
 
The Stony Brook May Day Coalition. May 1, 2014

I even helped make a short film about May Day 2014:



Soon it was June, and I was off to Middlebury College in Vermont where I would be teaching in a new interdisciplinary immersive environmental studies summer school!

A good re-cap of the School of the Environment is featured in this short film:



I blogged a bit about my experiences at Middlebury. I had my students write about class, privilege, and their own relationships with the natural world. So I wrote my own personal reflection essay on the same topic, "My Mohawk." I mused about how I would use my Mellon/ACLS fellowship to finish my dissertation. And, inspired by my students' organizing of an open-mic night in town, I wrote a long poem about a place that means a lot to me, "Brooklyn."

Students gleaning as part of a service-learning project that they designed! Rutland County, Vermont. July 2014

 My experiences at Middlebury have continued to shape my thinking, which I most recently reflected on in an essay, "Marx in the Mountains," which appeared in the February 2015 issue of Perspectives on History.

 And then it was August. I went on an epic cross-country train trip, from New York to Portland, Oregon, then by bus to Missoula, Montana, then by bus to Spokane, Washington, and from there on the train back to New York. It was awesome! (My first cross-country trip in six years. And the first time all by myself in exactly ten years.)

Portland, Oregon. August 2014
 
Missoula, Montana. August 2014
 
I made a friend on the train, which often happens! And this allowed me to then send fun postcards from Brooklyn to my new penpal!
 
Greetings from Coney Island, postcard to an Amtrak penpal. August 2014
 
I started September with a week in Savannah, Georgia, and in Hilton Head, South Carolina, with my parents. It was also the start of the job market season, so I spent half of each day at the beach and the other half furiously writing job applications!
 
Savannah, Georgia. September 2014
 
In October I traveled to Orange County, California, to attend a meeting of the Western History Association. I stayed in a crummy motel right by the ocean. It was a lovely reprieve from my writing cave in Brooklyn.
 
Surf's up at Huntington Beach, Orange County, California. October 2014
 
And of course I paid a visit to the International Surfing Museum.
 
International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach, California. October 2014
 
Late October I celebrated a good friend's birthday, which included a big camping trip on the Atlantic coast of Delaware. I got to see a different part of the ocean that I was unfamiliar with, and of course late October camping is chill and soothing!
 
At the beach in Delaware. October 2014
 
 November was spent entirely at home in Brooklyn, writing and applying to academic jobs. Also lots of biking!

Historic Flatbush, Brooklyn. November 2014
 
December involved more writing, more job applications, more bicycling (and battling the cold), and more explorations in Brooklyn.
 
Historic Brooklyn Heights. December 2014
 
And then it was January! I had a big huge awesome birthday/going-away party, and then I moved out—out of Brooklyn and out of New York. It was a big tearful goodbye to a big beautiful part of my life.
 
My street in Brooklyn. January 2015

 One last look. Moving out, Brooklyn. January 2015
 
On February 9, I flew to Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and began this current Hawaiʻi Research Adventure, which will continue until late April.

So far I have spent a day exploring the edges of Oʻahu and spent five days camping on Maui.

I might as well update y'all on what I've done since returning from Maui:

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 52-70

 Well... on March 1, I moved into an apartment two blocks from campus in Mānoa. Having lived in dormitories and hostels and even in a tent for the first 51 days of my Hawaiʻi Research Adventure, it is nice to have a real apartment... and a kitchen, too.
 
My new habitation. Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. March 2015

Some cooking experiments. March 2015

 View from my domicile. March 2015

Every "Year in Review" post includes some prognostications about the future. 

Last year I imagined that at this time (March 2015) I would still be living in New York because I could not possibly graduate until May 2015. But, little did I know that I would change my mind and leave New York City in January to be a springtime sojourner. I ended last year's post suggesting that "By March I may know where I am living and working in 2016..."

 Indeed, I was correct. By mid-February I had received and accepted a job offer! I, of course, feel so lucky, and I know what a privilege it is in this day and age to get a job, much less an amazing job. I am excited to be moving to a small liberal arts college in Virginia.

 So this means: after more sojourns in April, May, June, and July—to Sāmoa, back to New York to defend and graduate, then, to Boston and Mystic, Connecticut to conduct more research—by August I should find myself in Virginia where I will making myself a new home. That is the storyline, I think, for 2015.

Until then, let the adventure continue! I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Friday, March 6, 2015

High and Low on Maui, Part V: Endings

For earlier posts in this Maui travelogue, please see Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Here's part five. The last part.

Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, near Maʻalaea Bay

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Day 51

This was my last day on Maui. I woke up early and packed out of Kīpahulu campground by 7am. It then took me fully three hours(!) to drive the 70 miles or so from Kīpahulu to Kahului in Maui's Central Valley. My goal for the day, in anticipation of my 7pm flight back to Honolulu, was to visit all of Maui's famous wetlands. I had seen the high and the low of Maui—from the summit of Haleakalā to the beaches of Kīpahulu. Now it was time to see the very special environments preserved at Maui's wetlands. 


View of nā aeʻo in Kanaha Pond, near Kahului Bay

 Kanaha Pond is not an attractive place. Birders must park in a small concrete square carved out between the pond and the highway that leads to Maui's main airport. I wasn't the only birder there at 10am. There was an older white couple, too. But it was pretty desolate-looking. I opened the gate and entered the walkway into the protected pond. It smells kind of funny at Kanaha Pond. It's a wetland smell; the smell of brackish water perhaps? But it would be easy to mistake it for the smell of pollution, and perhaps there is pollution here. Indeed, squashed between industry and the airport, it is hard to imagine there isn't pollution at Kanaha Pond.

 A sign outside the pond advertises it as the "permanent home of the Hawaiian Stilt." This was the real joy of visiting Kanaha Pond: to see this endemic bird (meaning that it exists nowhere else in the world!), the Hawaiian Black-Necked Stilt, otherwise known as Ke Aeʻo. 

In the photograph above you can see two aeʻo hanging out in the pond. 

These are beautiful birds. Endemic and endangered, the wetland here is preserved by the State of Hawaiʻi because these birds truly have nowhere else to go.

Zoomed-in view of ke aeʻo, the Hawaiian Black-Necked Stilt, Kanaha Pond 

 After about fifteen minutes at Kanaha Pond watching stilts—oh, and I also saw Ka ʻAuhuʻu, the Black-Crowned Night Heron; and Ke Kolea, the Pacific Golden Plover—I got back in my rental car and drove the fifteen minutes down to Maʻalaea Bay, to visit Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.

The photograph at the top of this post is of Keālia Pond, which is much more beautiful—although no less smelly—than Kanaha Pond.

Entrance sign featuring nā aeʻo at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

 At Keālia Pond I saw lots of Aeʻo, Black-Necked Stilts—just like at Kanaha Pond—, but I also saw a few ʻAlae Keʻokeʻo, the Hawaiian Coot. These are the signature endemic birds (again, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world) of Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.

Two ʻalae keʻokeʻo at Keālia Pond

 It's worth pointing out that keʻokeʻo means "white," and refers to ka ʻalae keʻokeʻo's distinct white beak and forehead. I couldn't capture this in my horrible long-distance photography, but it is a very striking feature of the bird.

 I also saw a bird that I could not accurately identify in my bird book, Audubon's Hawaii's Birds. Any help, birders?
 
Mystery bird, Keālia Pond

 From there it was off to Kīhei, Maui's most sprawling resort town. I had to return my rental car there by 5pm, so I still had about five hours left to kill. I ate a lot of food: I had ahi poke from Foodland, and shave ice from a local vendor. I even sat in a Starbuck's for an hour and read the local newspaper. I did everything I could to pass the time. This included visiting two interesting sites in the city of Kīhei. The first was the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary headquarters. There's not much to see here—not like the actual humpback whales I saw in the ʻAuʻau Channel a few days earlier!—but it was a good rest stop.

Apparently the only fully-intact Hawaiian monk seal skeleton in the world? Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, Kīhei
 
Koʻieʻie Fishpond, and Maʻalaea Bay, as viewed from the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, Kīhei. Also look at that vibrant naupaka!

 From there, my last stop was to the ruins of Davida Malo's church in Kīhei. Malo is one of the most famous nineteenth-century Native Hawaiian historians; he was also a prominent early nineteenth-century convert to Christianity. He is said to have participated in building this church c. 1852. The ruins now house an open-air church that is used on Sundays. I was there on a Tuesday, but I got a feeling that this is a very special place.

Davida Malo's Church, Kīhei. The exterior stonework dates to the 1850s. The pews are much more recent.

 That concludes my five-part, five-day Maui travelogue. It was important to visit Maui, not only because it is one of the last major neighbor islands that I had yet to experience, but also because I write about Maui in my dissertation—about Lāhainā and whaling in Chapters 3 and 4, and about Haʻikū and sugar production in Chapter 7.

 Now, ten days later, do I have any overarching reflections or conclusions to make regarding my Maui trip? Not really. It was just so awesome! I especially enjoyed being outside twenty-four hours a day and not looking at a computer screen for five straight days. I could have done that anywhere, I guess. I could go camping in New York or California as I have done in the past. But Maui was at hand for this adventure, and it proved to be a place of great interest—historical, cultural, and ecological—for five full days of explorations.

My next trip will be to Sāmoa. I leave in exactly four weeks. In the meantime, here I am in Mānoa, doing my thing. I am writing and reading up a storm. I will soon be mistaken for a permanent resident of the Hamilton Library at the University! But this is why I came here: to do research. A hui hou!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

High and Low on Maui, Part IV

For earlier posts in this Maui travelogue, please see Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Here's part four.

Ke ahupuaʻa o Kīpahulu, at sunrise

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Day 50

Woke up oceanside, at Kīpahulu campground in Haleakalā National Park. I woke up real early, even before the sun was up.

Dawn, palms, the ocean. Kīpahulu, East Maui

 I was glad to wake early because I wanted to hit the Pipiwai Trail before anyone else. And I did. I had the whole trail to myself all the way, only seeing other humans on the way out. The Pipiwai trail is named for the eponymous stream that it follows—pipiwai is also the name of a plant; it means "to sprinkle/percolate."

The sunrise image at top is from the trail. The trail rises 800 feet in two miles. I was in and out in just over two hours. Interestingly, of all my adventures over five days in Maui, this was really the only hike that I did! And it was splendid.

A huge banyan tree along the Pipiwai Trail, Kīpahulu section, Haleakalā National Park

Waterfalls along the Pipiwai Trail, Kīpahulu section, Haleakalā National Park

At times the trail passed through wild (sugarcane) and other agricultural plants; at times it passed through alien, invasive species such as bamboo; and at times it passed through little bits of native vegetation. Most of all, I walked through (and into) like one hundred spider webs! I was constantly covered in webbing—and sometimes a few spiders, too.
Bamboo forest, Pipiwai Trail, Kīpahulu section, Haleakalā National Park

Closing in on 800 feet elevation... Pipiwai Trail, Kīpahulu section, Haleakalā National Park

Finally, after passing through lots of diverse vegetation (and spider webs, too), the big pay-off was the view at the end: of the 400 ft. high Waimoku Falls. I complained in an earlier post about how underwhelming Mānoa Falls is, compared to the waterfalls I know back home in upstate New York. Well, Waimoku Falls is not underwhelming! The Pipiwai's waters have carved out a beautiful canyon here. It reminded me even a bit of Yosemite Falls in California, although on a much smaller scale.

Waimoku Falls, Ke Ahupuaʻa o Kīpahulu

 After my hike, it was off to spend the rest of the day—my last full day here—in ke ahupuaʻa o Hāna (the district of Hāna). The town of Hāna itself is sort of the center of East Maui, if you can call a town of 2,000 people a center. But it is. Here is where you can get food, groceries, gasoline: everything one needs from the capitalist, trans-local economy.

Hāna has one museum, the Hana Cultural Center. I hoped to visit, but it was closed. So I just poked around outside and took a few photographs.

The Hana Cultural Center

 On the grounds of the Cultural Center are a few interesting historic structures: a courthouse that from 1871 to 1978 served all of East Maui, and a jail that from 1871 to 1997 did the same! It is rare for nineteenth-century wooden structures to survive, but it seems that what preserved these buildings for so long was their functionality. For over one hundred years, rural East Maui residents relied on these buildings to provide "law and order."

The old courthouse (c. 1871), Hāna

The old jail (c. 1871), Hāna

 The other main historic attraction in Hāna is Wananalua Church, built c. 1838. On a Monday, it was completely empty of visitors.

Wananalua Church, Hāna
 
 Inside Wananalua Church, Hāna
 
 That's about it. I actually spent about six to seven hours just chillin' in Hāna town. I got a plate lunch from a food truck, got an ʻono popsicle from another vendor, got snacks twice from two different grocery stories. (Yes, I ate a lot because there was little else to do!) I walked many of the town's streets, and I spent a good few hours down at Hāna Bay, swimming, reading, writing, and just passing the day. This was, all in all (even with the morning hike), the most laid back and relaxing of all five days of my Maui adventure. I really liked hanging in Hāna town and it reminded me of when I lived in Catskill, New York (population approx. 5,000) and similarly had nothing to do on non-work days but just wander around. I like wandering.

Hāna Bay

 Wandering around Hāna Bay, I happened upon a small monument that was not mentioned in any of the guidebooks. It really was off the beaten path. Here it is:

A Hidden Monument: Here was born Kaʻahumanu, wife of Kamehameha?

The monument is on an unmarked trail on the edge of Hāna Bay

The monument reads: "Historical Landmark / Territory of Hawaii / Birthplace of Kaahumanu / Who Was Born in 1768 / And Died in 1832 / Favorite Wife of Kamehameha I / Kuhina Nui 1819-1832 / Queen Regent 1825-1832 / Tablet Erected 1928 by Superintendent of Public Works."

I wonder what in 1928 possessed the Territorial Government (Hawaiʻi was ruled as a U.S. territory from 1900 to 1959) to erect this marker. And why here? And how accurate is the historical marker? Anyway, it's an interesting document in the public history of these islands. Evidently, in the 1920s, the Territorial Government had an interest in promoting a greater understanding of Native Hawaiian history. To what end they did this, I do not know. Someone should go into the territorial government archives and find out!

Okay. One more post left in this series. Till next time.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

High and Low on Maui, Part III

For earlier posts in this Maui travelogue, please see Part I and Part II.

Here's part three.

7am, Hosmer Grove Trail, Haleakalā National Park

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Day 49

I woke up at 6,800 ft. above sea level for the second time. This morning I darted out of my tent just before dawn, with binoculars around my neck, to check out the Hosmer Grove Trail, which abuts the Hosmer Grove campground, all within the boundaries of Haleakalā National Park, one of two National Parks in the Hawaiian Islands.

The birding was glorious. In fact, I saw very few birds, but I heard a cacophony of songs! What I did see was the ʻiʻiwi, an small indigenous honeycreeper—famous for its red feathers that are seen on Hawaiian cloaks and helmets in museums all around the world (including in New York City!). The bird was almost hunted to extinction—and some of the feather-bearing mountain birds here are now extinct—but nā ʻiʻiwi are still hanging in there, so to see one with my very own eyes was really a treat! Nā ʻiʻiwi only live in high elevations such as these, so their habitat is very rare in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Many of the honeycreepers that haunt these woods feed on the berries, such as the ones pictured in the photograph above.

After an hour's hike it was time to drive up to the summit of the crater. At over 10,000 feet, Haleakalā, the "House of the Sun," is Maui's tallest peak, and only dwarfed by Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawaiʻi. The National Park visitor center is just above 7,000 feet, but then the best lookout into the pit of the crater is between 9,000 and 10,000 feet.

Haleakalā's "moonscape." Looking into the crater from about 9,700 feet above sea level. The crater is three thousand feet deep and many miles wide and long. It is said that the entire island of Manhattan could fit inside. (Even the World Trade Center building, at 1,776 feet, would fit!)

 I spent some time looking into the crater, but it was hard to know what to think or feel. Almost nothing grows up here, except some silversword; and there are, I learned, a lot of insects living up here, too, but you won't see them. Also some birds pass through. But overall, the feeling one gets at 10,000 feet above the sea in Maui is one of desolation. 

 One of the big landmarks here is "Space Camp." Yeah, that's what it's called. Some kind of military-industrial-university complex that tracks things in outer space. Partly run by the University of Hawaiʻi and partly by the Department of Defense. You're not allowed to hike over there. But I took a picture of it from the summit.

Space Camp, atop Haleakalā, 10,000 feet above the ocean

 On the morning I visited the summit, it was possible to see the Island of Hawaiʻi thirty miles in the distance—or at least its two main humps, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both over 13,000 feet tall and the highest mountains in all of Oceania.
 
View from Haleakalā, at 10,000 feet elevation. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are visible thirty miles in the distance.

 I like both mountains and beaches. So, after two nights on the slope of Haleakalā, I decided it was time to pitch my tent beside the ocean. This entailed a long drive. First I drove down the crater, from 10,000 feet to about 1,000 feet in, what I am told, is the most rapid elevation change of that magnitude anywhere in the world. Certainly my ears popped a few times, and of course it was easier to breathe by the sea than up in the air.

 I grabbed lunch in Haʻikū, an old sugar town that I write about in chapter seven of my dissertation. 

Then it was off to Hāna. Everyone says the drive to Hāna is amazing, and it is. It is only about 60 miles, but it takes fully two hours. Drive as fast as you want, but you'll average no more than 30 miles per hour. That's because the road twists and turns ad nauseum (thankfully, not literally), and the traffic created by tourists unfamiliar with the terrain (like myself) makes it all the more slower. In many sections, it is just a one-lane road, so you have to stop and yield and then go and then stop and yield again, ad nauseum.

About three-fourths of the way out to Hāna, I pulled off to visit Waiʻanapanapa State Park, just north of Hāna, in East Maui.

Like all Hawaiian Islands, the east (or windward) side is often lush and green, while the west (or leeward) side is dry and hot. East Maui did not fail to meet those expectations. Indeed, the wet, lush, tropical flora exceeded what I had imagined. East Maui is truly beautiful!

Waiʻanapanapa State Park, East Maui

 Napanapa means twisting and writhing and contorting, but ʻanapanapa means glistening and glimmering. I found the water to be both writhing and glistening. It was not an easy swim in the choppy waves entering the bay, but apparently there are many pools nearby where the water glistens more than it writhes. I, however, swam in the bay.

Paʻiloa Beach, Waiʻanapanapa State Park

 Paʻiloa Beach here is known as the "black sand beach." It's true, the sand is entirely dark black in color. Maybe that is interesting, or maybe not. It's certainly not as comfortable to lay on as other types of sand. But it provides something to puzzle over.

Black sand at Paʻiloa Beach, Waiʻanapanapa State Park

 After a quick swim, I was back on the road, passing through Hāna and on to the Kīpahulu segment of Haleakalā National Park. While the U.S. government does not control the land on every side of this dormant volcano, they do possess a strip of land on the eastern slope heading down to the sea. It is here, in the ahupuaʻa (district) of Kīpahulu, that a completely other side of Haleakalā National Park is revealed. 

Walking the coastal trail at Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park
 
On the coast at Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

After all that driving, I arrived at Kīpahulu campground around 4pm, set up camp, and then hiked the coastal trail half a mile to ʻOheʻo Gulch. This is supposed to be a big tourist attraction. Rather, I found that it is a very popular swimming hole for local teens and families. Some tourist outfits call it the "seven sacred pools," but that apparently has no basis in Hawaiian culture. I did not find it a very attractive place for a dip, but here in the ahupuaʻa of Kīpahulu, the ocean is very rough and there are no safe places to swim in the sea, so I can see why people might come to ʻOheʻo to swim. (That said, Hāna Bay, just ten miles north—but a forty minute drive!—has good swimming.)

ʻOheʻo Gulch, Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

 It was time to get a good night's rest without having to put my winter coat, winter hat, and long underwear on! Here on the beach I could fall asleep in just a t-shirt! I had my dinner of local bananas, trail mix, coconut water, and a vegan cookie, wrote in my diary and planned tomorrow's activities, and then, quickly fell asleep in my tent.
 
Dinner and thoughts, Kīpahulu campground, Haleakalā National Park
 
My camp along the sea, Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

 Almost done! My next post will look more closely at the Kīpahulu section of the National Park, as well as recount my explorations of the town of Hāna. A hui hou!