Macduff hasn’t given up his quest for finding petroglyphs so this morning we took another rutted Jeep road to Keahi Kawelo, better known as the Garden of the Gods, in the northwest corner of the island. The road was the color of rust and lined with an impenetrable wall of grass, as tall and prickly as sugar cane, on both sides. A few miles on, we passed over a cattle grate and the vegetation instantly changed to an eerie forest of mesquite and ironwood, and then changed again, a few miles on, to a lunar landscape of ocher soil and boulders, in every size imaginable, that looked as if they’d fallen from the heavens millions of years ago as stony tears from the gods.
While I sat on a rock that looked like a petrified dinosaur egg, Macduff ran around with his camera taking a gazillion photos. “Look at the light!” he kept screaming.
It was magnificent. Thick and honey-colored, throwing long shadows over the rocks, the tombstones of ancient Hawaiian gods. Only a stiff wind broke the solemn silence.
One of the stories I’d heard about the place has it that a big kahuna from Molokai challenged a Lanai kahuna named Kawelo to build a fire on opposite sides of the channel separating the two islands to see who could keep their flame burning longer. The Lanai kahuna won, burning everything in sight, which is why, they say, there are no twigs, shrubs, or trees in the Garden of the Gods. You’d think that with all these gods running around on this sacred spot there’d be a petroglyph or two somewhere, but neither of us could find anything.
Macduff was unusually cranky on the drive back so when he spotted something along the side of the road and asked me to stop, I did. What he’d seen was a boulder with graffiti on it saying ART. Why he wanted to shoot it I had no idea, but I was willing to indulge him. He shot the orange rock and the green field it was in, mumbling something about this being true Hawaiian culture, and then wandered up the hill a bit to get a panoramic shot of the valley (he’s big on pano shots and has a special camera for them).
Which is when I suddenly heard him screaming like a little girl.
“It’s here!” he cried in a high voice.
“What is?” I yelled.
“A petroglyph! Right here!”
And sure enough. There it was. An etching of a little stick man with rainbow-like hair. An authentic Lanai petroglyph.
He’d found it. The Hawaiian Holy Grail. Our work was done here. I think I can move on now.