From the top of our condo, urban Honolulu looks to be an undifferentiated mass of concrete spreading out to Diamond Head in the East and the Pacific Ocean to the South.
In reality, this sprawl is an aggregation of smaller land parcels each with a distinct flavor and character.
In the olde days (note use of extraneous “e” to signify a really long time ago), the Hawaiian people had a complex scheme for land division.
A whole island, or mokupuni, was divided in smaller parts, down to a basic unit belonging to a single family.
Each mokupuni was divided into several moku, the largest units within each island, usually wedge-shaped and running from the mountain crest to shore. O`ahu was divided into six moku.
Each moku was divided into ahupua`a, narrower wedge-shaped land sections that again ran from the mountains to the sea. Within the ahupua`a, `ili were smaller divisions (two or three per ahupua`a) that constituted the estate of the chief.
It was a particularly clever approach to establishing sustainable areas , ecosystems really, that contained all the elements needed for survival from fresh water streams and high mountain fruits and vegetables to ocean areas, fish ponds and wetlands.
Today we have neighborhoods and Honolulu is well known for the variety and distinctiveness of its ‘hoods.
Max’s neighborhood is Pawa`a in the Waikiki ahupua`a. Literally translated, Pawa`a means ‘canoe enclosure, and it is thought that canoes were brought to this area from Waikiki. According to legend, Pawa`a is also the name of an ancient chief (aliʻi) who hailed from nearby Manoa Valley.
Pawa`a is not only the crossroads of urban Honolulu, it is a community of dogs. Our condo and all those on the same block are dog-friendly. In our dense living environment, that means a lot of dogs and we all have gotten to know each other, at least by sight, and by wave of a hand clutching the ubiquitous poo bag.
We have a veritable infestation of canines on our block. We have pugs and pitbulls, Lhasa Apsos and Chihuahuas, German Shepherds and Shih-Tzu galore and, of course, plentiful numbers of mixed breed “poi dogs.”
In our condo alone there must be a couple dozen pooches and most of the time we greet each other en passant as we dutifully head to the curb, bag in hand, to await whatever gift our pet chooses to bestow. Sometimes our schedules coincide and we gather in the building’s lobby area for a Yappy Hour, a Dog Party, a mingling of fluff-pups and owners.
There’s a certain subgroup that seems to congregate. The cast includes the pretty poodles Bijoux and Luna, the mighty Dogfather Prince Charming, Max’s Lhasa Apso girlfriend Sophie, and the Malt himself. These pupperoni are a civilized gang who happily merge, transact a perfunctory sniff of each other’s rear ends and then sit on the floor with their butts targeted to their owners.
Other small dogs are welcome and from time to time Stuart Little, a Dachshund/Pomeranian mix or even Miss Kiku the champion Yorkie may be spotted. You know these pupsicles; they’ve each been featured in this silly dog blog in previous posts.
While the dogs take their leisure, the owners gab about condo events and neighborhood matters, the newest restaurants and movies, who moved in and who moved out and where the best deals are for papaya and poke. In other words, the stuff of daily life, the common speech of folks living together.
Ultimately, however, chat time is over and the elevator gets packed with pooches for the return home. There, Max gets either a warm hug from his Mama or strangled, I can’t be sure what’s going on.
Whether called an ahupua`a or simply the ‘hood, these small parcels of land and life define us and we, in particular, are enriched by the company of our dogs.