On the 129th Anniversary
The booties I had to wear were so cute. I felt like I was pretending to be a doctor or like I was putting on slippers over my shoes. Then walking around the magnificent structure and on the finely milled and polished floors, it was a little more slippery than I was thinking it would be. The mask and the face shield made it hard to see as well as I might otherwise, but there was no mistaking where we were. Iolani Palace is a place like no other.
There are many rooms on the many floors, and everyone should go and see them all as often as they can. One room was different, though. High in the corner overlooking the cemetery is the room where the Queen was imprisoned in her home. Even if the amazing guide had not shared the history of that room; even if the lights didn’t seem lower because of the dark stained wood; and even if it was mostly unadorned except for the exquisite artistry of the quilt that lay in the center, I still could feel the vast difference in that room from all of the other rooms. Something primal in free creatures recognizes a prison.
On Monday the world witnessed again the anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy and the rule of law in these lands. The complicity and active participation of one nation’s military in the events of the overthrow resonate today virtually everywhere anyone goes here. We reach the top of a hike, climbing over the igneous rock formations, only to see the concrete carved boxes for looking out, for sounding alarm. War-making vessels circle the air and wade in the depths of the ports. Bathing anywhere from Kaneohe Bay down to Lanikai forces the view of the buzz and whir of force on the outcropping of land there.
I cannot for an instant imagine what imprisonment is like. Many of our psyches ponder what would happen to our sanity, to our minds, when we hear the roll of the key in the lock behind us. What would the first breath of captivity feel like? And what would the first taste of freedom be like? I would never presume to know the mind of the Queen in those first few moments, but I sometimes wonder what would be on the mind of the Queen today when surveying these lands.
It was impossible not to imagine the palace filled with people in the finest fashions of the time dancing all night to music and laughter. I could almost see people climbing the grand stairs (quite a hike). I could imagine birds circling the grounds. I could just barely fathom the buzz and the whir of the gowns draped on the dancing guests. Unlike such finery, the luxury many of us know instead is a mantle, stitched together over centuries, that guards and protects the very freedoms that allow us to question the mantle we wear. And yet, I will never forget my shaky, bootie-clad feet, treading with care over the dark wood of a prison, to wonder at the perfect quilt that still may warm us all. Something primal in free creatures recognizes freedom, too.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.