Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Things To Do On A Hot Summer Night

We've managed to survive the Fourth of July holiday weekend and it appears our fingers and toes remain intact. Actually, the long weekend was quite peaceful with minimal fireworks exploding in my neighborhood, which is a relief because my trusty canine friend Max has a mortal fear of the sounds of explosions and gunshots and most July 4th's and New Years celebrations are spent watching him cower and shake until the doggie downers take hold and send him off to dreamland. Then... it's just a matter of watching him closely to make sure he doesn't roll off the bed and crack his skull. This year was an exception and no tranquilizers were required (for the dog, at least). We were blessed with a brief but much needed rain at about the 9:00 pm hour which helped in keeping the explosive revelry to a minimum.

Now that the 4th has passed, we are firmly in the grip of mid summer. This past week has been absolutely beautiful... picture postcard days with very light winds, glassy seas, blue skies, an abundance of sun and hot, hot, hot. The mercury hit 91 degrees on Maui on the 4th.

One of the great ways to spend a hot summer evening in Hawaii is to attend one of the many Obon Festivals that take place at most of the Buddhist temples around the islands this time of year in honor of the departed ancestral spirits. These festivals are usually held over three days at each temple and culminate with the Bon Odori or dance. These dances are festive, colorful community events, often feeling more like a summer fair than a somber religious tradition. All members of the community are welcome to join in and participate in the fun as dancers circle around a brightly lit and gaily decorated tower, performing the steps to music. The dance is quite simple to pick up for the uninitiated simply by watching for a few moments. Buddhist members of the hosting temple are often dressed in brightly colored kimono and most are eager to show newcomers how to perform the dance.  There are often food booths set up around the perimeter of the dance area and offering many choices of local flavors. You don't have to be Buddhist, so check the schedule in the link below and head out to one of the Obon Festivals in your community one night this summer. This is truly one of the must-do's for those of us living in or even visiting the islands.

In Lahaina, on Maui's west side, the Jodo Mission near Mala Wharf holds my favorite of the Obon Festivals. Just after services, as the sun is setting and just before the dancing begins, this temple holds a floating lantern ceremony where hundreds of paper lanterns are placed on small rafts and illuminated with a single candle each. Small groups of men then wade chest deep out into the lagoon, eventually setting the individual lanterns afloat to drift out to sea. As far as I know, Lahaina's Jodo Mission is the only Maui temple that performs the lantern ceremony (there are other Oahu temples that also float lanterns). It is a beautifull thing to see hundreds of glowing paper lanterns adrift with the tide as they strech out along the coast line.

Unfortunately, the Jodo Mission held it's Obon last weekend. Still, there are plenty of other dances still scheduled throughout the remaining summer months. You can find a schedule here.

The photos above were taken during previous Jodo Mission ceremonies. The top image is the complex's main shrine, captured with Kodak HEI High-Speed Infrared Film. The following images are of the dance and lantern ceremony in 2005.

No comments: