Na Wahine O Ke Kai /Women of the Sea

Denise O – Jericho
Na Wahine O Ke Kai – Moloka’i to Oahu-The 25th Crossing

What a beautiful and amazing legacy, and a truly life changing experience! It was my first and the one I will never forget. I believe it is the feeling of being a part of something so much larger than yourself, something that has gone on long before we were ever born, and will go on long after we are gone, that courses through the blood in our veins and sends shivers through our spine. I was asked in an interview once “What does outrigger mean to you?” My answer at the time was something glib and mundane.Then much later I thought more about it. What does it mean? Why in my busy schedule of 40 hour work weeks, grocery shopping, and family obligations do I cram in these countless and often sleep deprived hours on the water training? For what? As my non- sporty friends often point out -it’s not the Olympics. But it was then that it struck me. A simple verse from the movie Dead Poet Society that John Keating (Robin Williams) reads aloud to his class:

“O ME O life!…of the questions of these recurring:
Of the endless trains of the faithless– of cities fill’d with the
foolish;….What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here– that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you might contribute a verse…
That the powerful play goes on, and you might contribute a verse. ”

That’s it. That’s what has compelled me to the Jericho shore day after day, and then to the shore of Moloka’i. And to actually be there…with my team mates and all the many other paddlers who share this same compulsion…indeed obsession at times. The sights the sounds, the smells…but still there is more. A feeling of being a part something so much larger than yourself. A feeling so tangible. I am no poet or writer but there was something about the energy of that remote island, from our team, from the emails that were read aloud from friends at home two nights before the race, from the many generations that have gone before, that inspired me to write these words:

At the start we feel the heat
It’s beating like a drum
Beating like the hearts
Of all the women
Who have come
Who gather on this shore
To be the best that we can be
For ourselves and for each other
The Women Of The Sea.

We bless the Kahi Kili
This boat that we will ride
That it might guide us safely
Till we each the other side.

A blessing for our loved ones
And the ones who can’t be here
We feel your spirits with us now
Your heartbeats we can hear.

No matter what our differences inside this boat we’re one
No matter what the pain we feel or hardships that may come
We will give each other strength
And we shall overcome.

Mahalo to the spirits of the Wind and of the Sea
For watching over Jericho
And our boat Kahi Kili

Mahalo for this Journey
Of the Heart and of the Mind
We bless you now and always
Na Wahine O Ke Kai

~Denise O

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