Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Twenty-Nine

In The Wild Marsh, Rick Bass quotes Paul Gruchow in his epigraph:

“To inhabit a place means literally to have made it a habit, to have learned how to wear a place like a familiar garment, like garments of sanctity  that nuns once wore. The word  habit, in its now-dim original form, means “to own.” We own places not because we possess the deeds to them, but because they entered the continuum of our lives. What is strange to us, unfamiliar, can never be home.”

Yesterday, after work, Eric and I walked Lulu to the end of our road where a path runs alongside a stream and to the beach. As we passed along the stream, I commented how last week’s flash flood had eroded more of the stream bed on the opposite side, especially where a bridge used to be before it was lost in a tsunami, likely the one in 1957, and never rebuilt. The loss of the bridge split Aliomanu Road in two. Today, colloquially, we refer to each road as Aliomanu North and Aliomanu South. 

When we first moved to Hawaii, we lived in a sweet, little, one-bedroom cottage on Aliomanu South. It sat on a 60-foot bluff with a 180-degree view of the ocean. We outfitted our new home with used furniture sold after a resort renovated their rooms. I situated my desk in front of a big window, and so began my ocean education.

Mornings, I’d walk the girls (Nestle and Penny) down the steep drive and take a left on Aliomanu Road. We’d walk until the road dead-ended at the stream.

Now, we live on Aliomanu North, and I can look across a field and see the Cook pine growing in the backyard of our first home in Hawaii.

Nickel and Lulu
Obviously an old photo of Nickel (left) and Lulu (right).

When we walk the dogs (first Penny and Nickel, then Nickel and Lulu, and now just Lulu) down the driveway and turn left, we walk until the road dead ends at the stream where the bridge used to be. Until the heavy rains of last week, weeds and brush obscured my view of the other Aliomanu Road–Aliomanu South. But, yesterday, I had a clear shot of the road we once walked regularly, and a flood of memories stopped me in my tracks. Time seems to slip away in a blink, but in that glance, twenty years rewound in my head, and I could remember that younger Kim who moved to Hawaii, “for only one year,” who still thought she might get pregnant; who was still searching for her place in life; who knew so little about the ocean and Hawaii, its history, its fragile ecosystem, and its endangered flora and fauna.

Eric shook me out of my reverie with a statement. He said that there was once a store in the nearby house that still stands. Had it been re-built after the tsunami, I wondered. Eric said the Esaki family once owned the land from here clear back to the highway, which they farmed. A few members of the family now live in houses along the road, but much of the land has been sold. I asked him how he’d come to learn these details, and he said, “Old-timers talk.”

When we got home, I did a quick internet search and discovered Esaki Farms started in Moloaa in 1923, moved to Anahola in 1948, and expanded to Aliomanu in 1955. If the internet was to be trusted, the old-timers got it right.

But I wasn’t sure I believed what Eric said next, that Aliomanu Road, when it was one, was once part of the main road that (sorta / almost) circumnavigated the island. 

A Historic Hawaii Foundation paper revealed the earliest roads and bridges were built to service agriculture, primarily sugar, not circle the island; however, a somewhat circum-island road was built in the 1920s and 1930s, which coincides with the beginnings of Esaki Farms. I suppose those Esaki trucks needed roads to deliver their produce around the island.

More internet searching revealed the highway as we know it today was built (or started) in 1955, about the time the Esakis expanded to Aliomanu. 

The Department of Transportation likely didn’t get to our neighborhood until 1960, because internet documents show the current bridge crossing Aliomanu Stream was constructed in 1960, described as a “concrete slab” and its parapet/railing as “concrete solid decorative.” In other words, nothing fancy. It’s not listed on any historic registries like the one-lane bridge that crosses the Hanalei River. 

It seems the tsunami may have kick-started a road-building effort, because I also found a 1957 study for a “belt road” and road plans for the construction of Kuhio Highway from Anahola to Ha’ena. 

But in the brief time I had to research this, I couldn’t find details on the progression of roads on Kauai, so I still don’t know whether Aliomanu Road was part of the original coastal highway on Kauai or a spur to support agriculture. Maybe one of my readers knows the answer.

I guess what all this means is that after 20 years, we are still getting to know this place we call home. Stay tuned. I’ll keep researching.

Hawaii jumped by 21 cases to 574 for the state but stayed steady at 21 for Kauai. 

Be well. Be sane.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne C. says:

    “And so began my ocean education.” Lovely snapshot. And you’re not bad on research yourself 😉 Digging for facts and story is fun!


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      My problem with research, which I love, by the way, is this: I go down some deep rabbit holes that are not exactly pertinent to my study topic. For example, yesterday, I discovered a book that is known as the first Hawaiian novel written as a serial in Hawaiian language newspapers in 1861-2. Of course, I had to spend much time tracking down that book. Well, the translation of it. #timesuck


  2. diane tilley says:

    ;Your columns are always full of interesting facts. keep digging.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      I’ll try, Diane. Thanks!


  3. Gay Turville says:

    Like sinking into the chair your body knows best! I love your exploration of home as a concept. Great quote.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      I like that metaphor, Gay. It makes me think of a chair at my Dad’s house. Only he can sit in it!


  4. Susan Hoerner says:

    Hi Kim, I find this particular post much to my liking. I guess you could call it habitat history. How place names come about, why which roads are built when and where, what old-timey families settled these parts, way back when we can barely imagine what the island must have looked like… I love this shit. Thanks for your research!



    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      We both like to learn more about this place we call home. But it can sure be a time suck!


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