I started ukulele lessons today. It also included a reunion and a brief lesson on Hawaiian, the language, which were both a fabulous bonus.
I’ve always had a sort of passive affinity for Hawaiian culture – that wonderful island life, about which I knew almost nothing. I was almost afraid to go to Hawaiʻi, for fear of finding that the wonderful world I’d imagined was no longer in existence. After living in Japan, even being in the countryside, I have learned the sort of balance that likely exists in the culture today. It is like cowboys in Texas. We have our big buildings and fancy cars and billboards, but you can still find, here and there, the true tradition. Sometimes, it is only seen in ceremonies. And sometimes it is part of someone’s everyday life.
My brother, though he rides and owns no horses, spends his days working on his land. Physical labor in jeans and surrounded by grass, trees, and animals is his life most days. And he grew up in the city. There are plenty of others who grew up living his kind of life, and who still do the ranching on horseback. Inside our city limits, no one would guess that that kind of life is just beyond our little area. The average person wouldn’t even cross it knowingly, if he went driving outside the city, either. You have to know how to find it. And that’s just how Japan was… When I think of Hawaiʻi now, that’s how I imagine it must be to a certain degree.
Anyway, ukulele is fun. I started it back in Japan, because I was lonely and didn’t have music in my life. Plus, Hawaiian culture seemed to be prominent in Japan (the reasons for which I hadn’t understood at first), so ukulele seemed an appropriate way to bring music into my life while in Japan. I even took a few hula lessons. (Yes, they were awesome.)
Actually, what really spawned my desire to learn hula and ukulele – not just the casual interest with which I first bought the ukulele, but the real desire that got me into lessons for hula and then, finally, for ukulele now – was a film. It was based in Hawaiʻi, and the caucasian daughter, maybe about 14 years old (I forget), did hula. The way she moved her arms in the dance had me gazing, melting, it was just so beautiful to me. Watching her dance, I had something happen within me. I guess, because she was not Japanese or Hawaiian, but like me went through me head… I was able to see hula differently. It was, at last, something that it was acceptable for me to do.
I had seen Japanese friends perform wonderfully, and plenty of other Japanese women I don’t even know, too. But their close ties to Hawaiʻi made it okay for them to do it. It was regular and standard for them to be doing hula. But what – it isn’t “right”, but something like that, “reason” perhaps – reason does a German-heritage girl from Texas have for doing hula, without an extreme, intense love for it?
Maybe this is just my own brain that had me stuck in this thought process, but it just didn’t make enough sense to me to feel comfortable with pursuing hula. It felt to me like visiting a religious building for a region to which one does not belong and about which one knows very little. It isn’t that the person is not allowed. Not at all. It is just that the person can feel a little lost and uncertain when visiting, and so it can be difficult to visit in the first place, without having a sort of invitation. That’s kind of how I felt about hula.
And that movie helped alter that for me. I started attending hula classes whenever I could, and began somewhat seeking out a ukulele teacher.
Eventually, nude in a hot spring bath in the mountains, I found one. And now, almost a year later, we finally are in the same country and with the same currency (that was the issue before), so we can do lessons. We aren’t anywhere near one another, of course, because I’m in Texas and she’s in Hawaiʻi, but it’s going well so far. Playing together is a bit weird, because of the lag, but I’ve worked with it for years with other things, so I’m somewhat accustomed to being slightly ahead of the beat and to hearing the clash of notes and timing, so that it sounds good on the other side. All-in-all, it was fun, and I look forward to the next lesson next week. 😀
So, go listen to a ukulele song today, and think of me, yeah? 😉
P.S. Icicles were crashing outside my window during our lesson today. And this is Houston. How cool is that?! Or warming, I guess…