Some places have a deep soul to them and Hawaii is one of those places. There is something about the people, the land, the sea and the sky that all swirl together into a fragrant and inexplicable magic. So when one of my most charming customers, Patricia, told me she was getting married and wanted me to do her henna on Oahu, of course I was more than thrilled to accommodate. And I was a little bit nervous too, since she had since become quite an accomplished henna artist herself!
I arrived to the island and she and her fiancé, Joe, picked me up from the airport and greeted me with a beautiful ginger lei. I immediately felt the sensations of belonging, kinship and that Aloha spirit, which has no encompassing English translation. I wish I could describe the scent of ginger blossoms too, but words fail again. Intoxicating, effervescent, exotic?
That night, I fell asleep to waves lapping the shore, and was soon awaked at sunrise by the sounds of birds getting ready for their day.
After a morning walk to charge me for the day, Kiyomi picked me up and took me to her home for the mehndi day. Kiyomi is also a phenomenal henna artist and the most welcoming hostess. I instantly felt a bond with her, and her precious pup, Pansy. The other women: Maya, Tiffany, and Monica arrived and each of them had a special energy to share, and the incredible henna-sisterhood that exists on the island of Oahu became very apparent to me and I let it all envelop me like a warm wave.
Patricia gave me "artist's choice" for the direction of the henna, which made me a tiny bit nervous again, but I had watched the children's animated film Moana three times on the flight over, so I already had some island inspiration to weave into the henna patterns. I pretty much cried the whole way through Moana, it's just so beautiful. The one element she definitely wanted to include was vines on the inside of her fingers. Only another henna artist would have the dedication to keep their fingers still and open for this arduous process!
Because Patricia was so incredibly kind as to invite me to her intimate wedding reception, I stayed on the island a couple days longer. One day I explored a farmers' market near the university, and even though I was totally unprepared wearing a dress and sandals, I hiked to the top of Diamond Head. Some teen girls at the top of the mountain saw the henna on my feet, and mournfully said "I wish I could have henna". I procured some cones from my bag and gifted them with henna designs at the summit of an incredible view. Ask and ye shall receive! It was so much fun to give them a little treat, especially after how kind and generous all of my new henna friends had been to me.
The next morning, my new henna hermana Tiffany kidnapped me bright and early to take me to a farmers' market she does henna at in Kailua. I decided it would be fun to be her booth babe for the day. I hustled customers into her wild animal-print booth like a proper busker and it was so much fun to be on the other side of the cone, so to speak. I did do a few hennas though, I just can't resist! Tiffany has a contagious energy and we laughed so hard my belly hurt. The farmers' market was a thing that dreams are made of, live music, fresh shots of ginger juice, homemade passionfruit scones (OMG), and even a few wild chickens wandering through. After the market, we did a quick drive-by of Lanikai beach, took a few selfies, then hurried home so Tiffany could start on Patricia's wedding makeup and hair! What a whirlwind of a day, and the fun was only just getting started!
Next stop was Patricia and Joe's wedding reception. Kiyomi picked me up and gifted me with a beautiful hand-knotted lei she had made, the kind that lasts forever, made out of yarns and ribbons, so I felt properly bedecked for a Hawaiian celebration. The party was held at a really special restaurant called Mud Hen Water. The food was life-changing. I'm a picky eater, so you can trust me when I say that it was filled with umami flavors that will leave your taste buds wondering what just happened. I didn't photograph the food but I did snap a few shots of Patricia because she was looking absolutely radiant, bedecked in lush leis.
Now, I don't really have the photos or words to describe the party, but there was African dance, live drumming which made your spine tingle, and a soothing Hula dance, all in the company of delightful and fascinating people. I can honestly say it was my favorite wedding event I have ever attended. As the grand finale, Patricia came out, with a new hair and makeup look from Tiffany, and performed a mesmerizing Indian-fusion bellydance. The whole room was speechless as her choreography (and eyes!) were absolutely smoldering.
It was hard to say goodbye after a weekend that left my heart feeling so full, but the memories will be with me forever, and I know I will see my henna sisters again soon. A hui hou, until we meet again.