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About the Founders
After touring the world dancing and exploring ways to express their unconditional love for life and the arts, Richard Koob and his partner, Earnest Morgan decided that they no longer wanted the hustle and bustle of New York or Paris. They wanted to create something their own way, more simply and wholesome, in nature. Richard and Earnest wanted to touch and heal people with something they had found deep within themselves and their experience.
Richard and Earnest first considered an old monastery in the south of France as a place to celebrate art, nature, health and spirit. They were then drawn to a beautiful and isolated coast on the most remote islands in the world: Hawaii. The southeast coast of the district of Puna, meaning source or spring, is extraordinary in its Hawaiian heritage and the presence of all elements -- fire, earth, water and air. Most notable of which is volcano deity Pele. Earnest and Richard saw this large conservation coast as the ideal environment for a center that encouraged visitors to embrace the vitality of nature in becoming fully realized in the cradle of earth and heaven. Kalani's concept was born!
Although Earnest cannot be asked, because he, too, has become one with the soil of the land and the ash of the volcano, Richard is certain that Earnest Morgan agreed with Mark Twain:
No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ears; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
Richard adds: "Hawaii, the island, called, beckoning us to Hilo, where Earnest and I established the Big Island Dance Council and both became active teaching and performing in schools, senior centers, adult education programs, and at the University. We never forgot our vision, birthed in Province, to create an arts-focused retreat.
In 1975 we purchased the initial Kalani 19 acres in partnership with my parents, providing the primary funds. Earnest, beloved Maui friend Bill Biglow, and I teamed together to machete our way through thick jungle and build the property's first cabin - which became a weekend retreat and outpost for farm work projects. The land, the `āina, literally that which nurtures us, had welcomed us.
The Kalani site frontage once included the area's native Kama'ili School. Later archaeological surveys unveiled the remnants of a stone temple (heiau) to Lono, the peaceful God of agricultural abundance. We were aware of several burial mounds on adjoining state property, but became more knowledgeable of their extent and history, as the family cemetery for the Kanaka'ole `ohana.
As Auntie Edith Kanaka'ole was our first and most beloved of the many hula kumu (teachers) who shared Hawaii's cultural heritage with us, these native sites became auspicious indicators that we were being welcomed as stewards of the properties and the land's resurgence of community after decades of minimal tenure.
In 1980, I moved into the cottage, now also an office and operations base, and proceeded with the construction of a "workshop" shed, which would be utilized as a construction base for the four Hale lodges and massage studios overlooking the reservoir (now a fish pond) that we dug and lined with rubber, to retain water caught from the new roofs. The grand opening in January 1982 was a huge cultural convergence that the island's paper called "the best party ever in Puna."
Before taking on this all-engrossing life project I needed a deep and spiritual indicator. Clearly we were made to feel at home by the mana of the area, the aloha of its residents, and particularly Kalapana Community Organization leaders like Bill and Dorothy Carse and Hawaiian elder Kini Pe'a, who joined our initial governing board of directors.
Mainstay native participation came to Kalani with the employment of Miles Kajiyama in maintenance, Judy Aiona, book keeper, and Dottie Lei Kyser, Gift Shop manager. One might think that the founders of Kalani are Earnest Morgan, myself and dance compatriot Trina Nahm-Mijo, but the pohaku, the stabilizing foundation rocks, are the Hawaiians, the true children of the land, the kama`āina - Miles, Judy and Dottie.
Kalani became more and more a family affair with gatherings of `ohana: guests, staff and their partners, keiki (children), mo'opuna and kupuna (grandchildren and grandparents), nephews, nieces and cousins, plus volunteers, often returning year after year, from around the world. Ho'olaule'a parties, concerts like "The Legends of Hawaiian Music", luau feasts, Thanksgiving ceremonies of gratitude, all these and more have brought together and expanded Kalani's community.
About the same time as the final flight of the 'O'o (extinct Hawaiian bird), on May 9, 1992, Earnest Morgan, my sweet man punahele, squeezed my hand in a farewell to be forever free. Kalani's cultural expression, its soul, is rooted in the dance, his dance.
He Mele No Ka Manu 'O'o
Kohu manu 'O'o e ka hoa e
Kou leo nahenahe 'oli'oli no
'Olina mai kou mau maka 'ena'ena
I ka holohi'a 'ana ma ka nahele
You my friend are like the 'O'o bird
Your sweet voice so full of joy
Your fiery eyes gleaming and flashing
As you dart amidst the shadows of the trees
He hiwahiwa 'oe ma ka uluwehi
Wehiwehi kou u'i ma ka poli o ke ali'i
Li'a nei ka mana'o e 'ike i kou alo
Kou hula le'ale'a poina 'ole
Here in the lushness of nature, you are the cherished one
Your beauty is an adornment for the bosom of the chiefs
My heart yearns to see you once again
Your dance of joy will always be remembered
Puana no ka mele o ka manu 'O'o
'Oli'oli no kou leo nahnahe
Ma ka nahele nalowale kou u'i
E ola mau na makana aloha
So ends the song for the 'O'o bird
Your sweet voice so full of joy
You are lost to us now in the quiet darkness of the forest
Your gifts of love are in our hearts forever
Composed and choreographed by our dear friend Mauliola Cook, this mele and hula are deep to the core of my being. They give form to the remembrance of the dance of life I shared with Earnest, and, thereafter with hula soul-mate and Kalani's first General Manager, Delton Johnson. After Earnest's instrument rained as ash fertilizing Kalani, plus Pele's expanse into Kalapana and the sea, Delton and other Board Members Mark Kadota, Toni Thomson and Paul Rambo, all long-term loving friends, have continued to hold and help me with Kalani's continuing rebirth. The arts keep blossoming, the facilities and annual income keep growing, and the healing keeps happening. More about Earnest and the EMAX pavillion.
Yogis, including Lynne Minton and Baron Baptiste, have built enduring relationships with us, bringing groups to Kalani for many years. Gifted authors, like Joyce and Barry Vissel, keep building a fountain of love among their workshop participants. Nona Beamer, Mauli Cook, Ehulani Stephany, Linda Tua and other cultural leaders continue to inspire heritage offerings including weekly free hula classes. The healing, relaxing power of this "heaven on earth" is furthered by massage therapists/instructors Michael Ceraso, Lilia Cangemi, David Sanders, Lynn Chadsey, plus yoga instructors Kathy Elder, Jared Sam and many more.
The healing, relaxing power of Kalani is furthered by the commitments of locals, including Hawaiian story teller Stephanie Kajiyama, lauhala weaver Linda Tua, massage therapists/instructors Daniel Albers and Nancy Kahalewai, plus yoga instructors Kathy Elder, Inga Boyea, Alan McGrew and many more.
Heritage Sites at Kalani
At Kalani Oceanside Retreat Village three important heritage sites are open for visitors to experience in reverence, led by Hawaiian cultural practitioners at Kalani. A heiau temple site and a halau school site, plus Ala Kai coastal trail sections, some over 500 years old, are all preserved and registered with the Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The heiau has been re-consecrated by native kahuna spiritual leaders, and is dedicated to Lono and Kanaloa, gods of agricultural and ocean abundance, peace, parties, and prosperity. The halau operated until 1900 and transitioned from a traditional thatched structure housing teachings in native cultural practices to the inclusion of western missionary influenced learning.
A few native burial grounds are also viewable along the beautiful Kalapana-Kapoho Beach Road (Highway 137), however most are hidden and protected on private properties, and should not be sought out, viewed or disturbed.
Looking into the future, Kalani continues to grow as a compassionate, diverse community, cherishing and celebrating life in ways that embrace nature, culture and wellness. With the "boomer" population aging, and with more comfortable and private housing available at Kalani Kai, a wider range of ages, and interests exists among residents and visiting faculty, students and volunteers. The community and its retreat service continues to thrive as a place characterized by harmony of heaven, earth and sea - the blessings of creative play, the joy of giving service, the healing of forgiveness and acceptance - inherent in the names Kalani Honua and Kalani Kai.
Richard Koob, Founder, Kalani, Hawaii
A Leap of Faith eBook
Kalani History A Leap of Faith, our Kalani History e-book, with lots of photos is available for for free download. Click the link above to open in a new tab and save the PDF file, or you can right click / option click to download.