Tuesday, December 2, 2014

About “The Yellow Skirt”

The reason I write is because I might see something interesting in some way and I don’t want to lose the experience of it. It’s the same reason all art is made, I suppose–to recreate an experience from life in such a way as to make it stay around forever, because all things end and we don’t really want them to.
I wrote this story because I read about a Hawaiian princess once who had a yellow pa ‘u, or skirt, made for her, and the story stuck with me. I liked something about the story so much that I went to see the pa ‘u for myself in the Bishop Museum in Kalihi. I loved that princess. I imagined transplanting that princess and that symbolic garment to our time.
The interesting thing is that descendents of Hawaiian royalty still walk the islands today, and you can see them during festivals where they walk in parades; they look just like regular people who you’d see at the mall or a restaurant. They also talk like regular people. This is really different from Hawaiian royalty in the 19th century who, from what I’ve read, weren’t regular people. If you’ve ever read the writings of King Kalakaua or Queen Liliuokalani, you’d know they were broadly educated, eloquent aristocrats comparable to Thomas Jefferson or John Adams. I suppose, then, my goal with this story is to take history, which is more alive and “present” in Hawaii than anywhere I’ve been, and bring it to the present and see what things are different and what things are the same. I wanted to make a legend from the people who are living now. I also want to look to the past, which we speak so often of in Hawaii, and which is so important to Hawaiians, and evaluate who we are in reference to who we were.
One thing this story demonstrates, I think, is that we are always in the “process of becoming,” which means we are never complete. It’s never too late for we, the wretched, to be something greater than we are, although it’s conversely (and unfortunately) never too late for the mighty to become wretched. In the end, though, I feel it is never too late for anything, which means we may be hopeful for change.
For anyone who reads what I’ve written, please let me know if you love it, hate it, or are completely indifferent to it. Above all, tell me why. I’ll have more stories for you next week, and thank you for reading.

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