Some day I will drive by the hills of Lalomanu and think less of this strange life. But as I try each day to ponder on happier things, I am stopped in the midst of despair. I am reminded of the reasons of loving someone I could lose. I am reminded of why I went there.
But can you agree that our childhood was a skip over the rainbow? That over the reef, we stepped on each wave and rode them to shore one by one? That we have arrived on the banks of our riversides to rest our heads from many a sleepless night?
Perhaps you too but I sat with the eels of the Apia vaipe and called them my friends. I followed my grandmother’s quick anger to her loving heart. The children’s laughter; my siblings and those of my neighbors linger still. River pebbles and dirt stuck between my toes. The nectar of hibiscus and white frangipanis showered me with tropical fragrance. I danced to simple lyrical songs made of mats and croaky sounds from my grandmother’s lips.
“Tu i luga e fai lau siva, tu i luga e fai lau siva, eeee.”
And mangoes, they were abundant, but we never wasted their sweetness. Life was as simple as it was a shiny black ocean pearl for hard times ahead.
As I grew, I saw life was becoming strange.
Confused, I sat alone from the hills of Tiapapata, urging with the horizon for something I could not find..
Old buildings, overnight replaced with new. The roads multiplied like centipede legs.. well, crooked ones and with deep holes in them. The noise of birds and crickets died out because their pulu trees were uprooted from the trunk up. Even the choices of food rose with their costs to the sky. We could pick any sweet thing we wanted but at the cost of our healthy organs. Yet, still, a lovely corpse would pass as an adult beggar on the street, unnoticed.
But I could feel the bitterness in my shivering neck line as he passed by. The silence of women in a corrupted world lies within. But those men and women of violence became abundant too. Vendor children’s eyes scare me too when I look deep into them. I still don’t know why. But the bite of guilt for things we did not do is a symptom of modernity, isn’t it?
Now I know. It was the end of loss. That is what I beckoned the horizon for.
Today I felt the kneeling of the Lalomanu hills when I saw the Prime Minister of New Zealand in her humbling ifoga. Tears pour from me like I am a waterfall, when I am moved.
The many years of oppression; the forlorn times when our own people buried their heroes and loved ones with defeat.
The silence of prayers. The hard life. How we have endured too much in our small earnestness.
I felt them shift in the sky over us, like a sunray suddenly found an opening in the clouds. I felt the kiss of forgiveness on my brow. In there, I hear a sweet woman’s voice whisper, “Farewell my dear daughter.”
When we lose something we love, we wish for songs our mother’s sang. We want to be between the street vendors and the luck they might encounter yet. We long to be in the wilderness breeze with the butterflies. We hope in the end, to be hanging as memorabilia in our loved one’s homes when we or they go.
So today also, our island nation rises to face a new day. We have woken the fiery spirit of our women heroes, to own their place on the pedestal of freedom. We have stamped on the brow of every son born to this country, a kiss of forgiveness. That one day, when he is older, he may count on us to move mountains for all to see despite his self-made ignorance.
That despite our victorious call for change, we will be modest still. For what is elegance without it? What is beautiful if we do not bow as mountains do, and die away like old roots of trees?
A new day should not mean that we have beaten down our enemies. For we are they and they are us too. It should mean that we have lifted our sky higher for all to see, that beneath it we lie folded and useful, as our humble rivers do. It should mean that you and I both, can feel the kiss of forgiveness on our brows, and that as we rest our heads a bit, we smile to say,
Thank you dear God and thank you dear loving superb island mother of mine. Thank you!