Lower Puna was an amazing place to live and I feel really fortunate to have moved to live in Kapoho in 1984. I became part of a hippie/rainbow family/Grateful Dead inspired tribe who taught me much about permaculture, guerrilla growing, eco and off grid living, love and life and new age values. We were a tiny close knit community without any T.V. or World Wide Web and since our nearest town was 38 miles away we supported one another, shared an abundance of fresh fruits, organised our own entertainment and lived really well. We had a continuous stream of parties and holiday celebrations with our local bands blasting out music through the remote rural landscape and revellers dancing all night long. We had little need for alcohol because we got all the boosts we wanted from our locally grown ganga and hallucinogenic mushrooms – with a little L.S.D. from the very best deadhead sources. It was mind expanding, super fun and many life long relationships were formed and I can remember most of them.
One significant person in my life was Deva, a lithe blonde beauty, a consummate dancer and later the pre-school teacher for dozens of kids from our alternative Puna families. Our paths constantly crossed at parties, concerts, festivals and at Kehena beach plus she also was a teacher at Malamalama Waldorf School when I started my HICCUP circus classes there. She has always cheekily called me ‘Graham Cracker’ and we’ve been best of friends for a long, long time.
In 2007, when my daughter Isla was ready, I enthusiastically enrolled her in Deva’s own pre-school which she ran from her nearby rented home in Kehena. It was a perfect situation being local, small, exquisitely equipped, with access to a great garden and nearby beaches and was supported by talented members of our extended family tribe. I knew most of the parents and soon got to know their children, many of whom later joined the HICCUP circus, just as Deva’s daughter Kalindi had previously done, learning to ride the unicycle and other fun skills.
Deva offered a perfect curriculum for our alternative lifestyle kids. Her focus was teaching social skills and she did it really well with lots of repetition and daily routines blended with her maternal care and thoughtfulness. Following the Waldorf tradition she used songs and rhymes and organised lots of arts and handicrafts and taught sewing, fabric dying, baking bread and cookies, fabricating felt dolls and dancing hula. Isla fondly remembers each child bringing along assorted vegetables which they diced up to make make stone soup. Deva created a wonderful, warm, loving and joyful family atmosphere and all the children thrived.
Waldorf education was founded by Steiner in the early 20th century with the aim to educate the whole child, ‘head, heart and hands’. Deva’s adaption of this system helped children see how their hands can create useful things and gave them plenty of enjoyable opportunities to immerse themselves in nature. Right from kindergarten they experienced a connection to art – learning to paint, sculpt, knit, cook, sew and stitch which Steiner believed creates within them a love for learning. I can testify with Isla, that thanks to Deva’s Waldorf foundation, she developed a powerful internal motivation to learn without the need for marks or tests. It’s a gift she will have for the rest of her life.
The first Waldorf school opened in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany and I once visited it with Isla’s mum. Waldorf is now the largest independent school movement in the world, with about 1,200 independent Waldorf schools, 2,000 kindergartens and over 600 centers for special education located in 75 countries. There are also a growing number of Waldorf-based public schools, charter schools, academies and homeschooling environments like Deva’s.
All Waldorf inspired schools celebrate certain festivals. At Deva’s every child’s fourth year birthday was a very special event as they wore a crown and received their personal book, lovingly prepared by her, celebrating the accomplishments they had made so far on their path of life.
At the Advent Spiral, which is celebrated worldwide, children and parents sat in silence in a darkened room, listening for a song sung by a single voice as a candle was lit in the center of a spiral of evergreen boughs, a symbol of life amidst the dead of winter. Then, as quiet music plays, each child in turn took a candle into the center of that spiral and lit it, then placed the candle in an apple along the path. Each light brightened the path for those who came after. Each child walked alone, at his or her own pace, in his or her own way. Truly magical!
The Martinmas lantern walk is designed to remind children that they are the light in the darkness, and this spark of life is within every one of us. The kids loved all the candles and lights and parents loved seeing the excited sparkle in their eyes as the magical ritual unfolded. The traditional Easter egg hunt was an exploration in nature connecting the kids with the jungle environment which was their home. Deva even brought in musicians, like our friend David, to serenade our children as they romped in her garden play area.
Deva has a deep love of beaches and celebrated another annual tradition with our Bellyacres community joining our pre Christmas oceanside campout at magnificent Makalawaena. I always looked forward to the boisterous night of carol singing in which Deva always heartily participated. Together she and I would go through the whole of the old ratty songbooks that I religiously brought along and she never missed singing a song while most other campers lost steam along the way.
In 2010 Deva built her own dream home, on a lot she had bought many years before, and moved her kindergarten there. It was her own space and was perfect in many ways but, after her daughter moved to live on Kauai and had a child, Deva eventually decided to move there too so she could share her joyful loving gifts with her grand daughter. I imagine her now, rolling in the sand, basking in the sun on Hanalei beach enjoying lots and lots of sweet kid energy. Deva’s just a renegade kid herself and all who know her love her dearly for that and for all she has given to the next generation.
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