On the thin stretch of land between stark, sere cliffs and bright blue ocean Auntie Puanani Burgess sits in Wai‘anae’s Hale Na‘au Pono, talking about aloha ‘āina as the traffic passes by on Farrington Highway.
To understand aloha ‘āina, says Auntie Pua, one must first understand aloha. She takes the word apart letter by letter: a is akahai, to treat with kindness delivered with tenderness; l is lōkahi or unity and harmony; o is ‘olu‘olu, or pleasantness and sweetness; h is ha‘aha‘a or humility; and the final a, ahonui, is patience. All of these qualities, says Auntie Pua, must be brought to the relationship with land.
“I have friends who do understand how to speak the language of the ‘āina, who put their face down to the earth and like when we honi, I put my nose next to your skin and I breathe you in, they put their nose next to the land and breathe in the deep scent of that land. People I know who understand and practice aloha ‘āina, they understand it deeply and when they go to someone else’s land, they go with the humility knowing that I have to be able to smell this land and understand what she is teaching me.”