Friday, October 12, 2012

New Beginnings and A Hula Mound

I tell ya, nothing like looking back over a dozen posts or so to get a sense that there is a definite tone being set here. It's funny to me because I didn't think that I was going in a particularly dark or cynical direction, but when you start to find references to the Holocaust or the Great Depression in what is supposed to be a light-hearted but thoughtful blog, it's time to take a break.

So that's what I did.

And while it is tempting to start all over again or even un-post some of those entries, I think I will simply shift gears instead. I certainly still stand by what I wrote. If anything, it will serve as a reminder to me that I need to remember some of the basics of writing; including purpose and audience.

The last couple of weeks have been busy and stressful. Of course I say this and I cannot remember a time that I couldn't say that. However, in among the deadlines and challenges, there have been some interesting, funny and even profound moments.

I have made the conscious decision  to avoid talking about work or my co-workers here on 73 Percent Nerd. In large part because I am striving to also avoid becoming another internet cautionary tale.

I will make the exception though to celebrate things.

Over past two weeks, some of my colleagues and I along with students and volunteers have built a hula mound on my campus. For those of you who do not know what a hula mound is, allow me to explain a bit.

A hula mound is a traditional Hawaiian structure for performing hula, the traditional Hawaiian dance. It is just what is sounds like. It is a platform that is built from natural materials, most commonly dirt and/or rock.

If you have ever seen one before, it was probably in a park or at a hotel in Hawaii. In these modern versions, the builders will often use concrete retaining walls and construction equipment. We decide early on to use a more traditional resource; people.

In our case, we also opted to build it from dirt and to try to build it as traditionally as possible. We started with 13 cubic yards of dirt. Sounds like a lot, right? We thought so too. However by the time we spread it out and stomped it flat, it barely leveled the spot that we had clear to build the mound in the first place!

So the next day we brought in another 13 cubic yards of dirt. Once again we used shovels, wheel barrels and garden tools to transport and apply the dirt to the spot for the mound. About 250 wheel barrels full in fact. By the end of day two, we had a hula slope.

The next week we brought in the final load of dirt and completed the build along with ti leaf plants and fern. Along the way we encountered all sorts of challenges and things we could not possibly have anticipated. How could we? It is not everyday that someone in the 21st century attempts to build a hula mound, let alone do it without modern machinery.

It was when it was nearing completion that I had a realization. This may be the only time I ever do this in my lifetime. Hell, there is a good chance I could have gone my whole life without building a hula mound at all.

Even my colleague and friend who teaches hula had never actually built one before. She had seen many before and even danced on a few, but never had it come up to even think about building one. And yet now, there it was.

What an amazing thing! And what a great reminder. Here was an idea that appeared to be extremely difficult. We had few knowledge resources and virtually no one with current expertise to build it. It certainly looked like it may not come together. But it did.

Now don't get me wrong, the hula mound is far from perfect. It smaller and lower than we originally imagined. It also currently looks like a dude with bad hair transplants while we wait for the grass to grow in. But it is ours and we did it together. I am so happy to have been a part of it.

Now I just gotta learn to dance.