Three days before departing for Kaua`i I found out that I had been reassigned to a new community partner – Limahuli Garden and Preserve. I immediately poured over their website and Facebook in search of any information that may have made me feel prepared; however, the more I read, the more nervous I became. Limahuli is one of five gardens that are affiliated with the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Located on the North Shore of Kaua`i, it is one of Hawai`i’s most biodiverse areas, housing numerous species that are culturally significant as well as many that are critically endangered.
The problem is that I know absolutely nothing about plants. I have prided myself on finding and taking a variety of interesting and unusual courses, but plant biology has just never been on my radar. Quite frankly, I felt unprepared and unqualified for the new assignment, so the ride to work on day one was absolutely terrifying. Within moments of entering the Limahuli Hale, or house, all of my fears were erased as my new supervisor, Sari, hugged and welcomed me. I met a few other from both KUPU and University of Hawai`i’s PIPES program, and then Sari initiated what has become our morning routine of stretching, reflecting, and sharing new information that will help guide us through each day.
Week one was centered on gaining a sense of place, which means we did a lot of walking and talking. Not only did we explore Limahuli to begin learning about plants and their stories, but we also walked the entirety of the ahupua`a of Ha`ena’s shoreline observe to discuss the holistic and thoughtful approach used throughout history by Hawaiian people to ensure long-lasting prosperity on the islands.
Even after only a few weeks of working here, I have realized how unnecessary my fears were. Limahuli is a place where one can learn about history and culture, sustainability, heritage management, and more all through the lens of plants, and I am very thankful to be here.