Story: The Greatest

An ‘apapane who is not diving.

January 22, 2023

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Even when he was very young, they said of him, “This ‘apapane will be one of the greatest singers of his generation.” He had a sweet and true voice, with an ability to produce trills that were faster than anyone had ever heard before. He had a range from mauna to makai, high notes to low notes, and each one was pitch-perfect and noteworthy.

“Such a singer,” sighed the aunties and the uncles and the tutus. “Such a singer.”

All would have been absolutely perfect if he had wanted to be the greatest ‘apapane singer of his time. But he didn’t.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be a singer, and it wasn’t that he disliked singing. One of the reasons everybody knew how good he was is that he did enjoy singing. He loved singing. He sang a lot, and he sang beautifully when he did. The problem was that he really wanted to be the greatest diver of his generation.

If you have been wondering why you’ve never heard about ‘apapane divers, well, it’s because they don’t.

He’d been watching the koa’e kea, you see, who nest in the cliffs near the ohi’a trees where the ‘apapane build their nests. He’d first admired them as they soared around Halemau’uma’u and the Kilauea crater, riding the rising air column over the summit. They are elegant when they soar.

Just to see them fly some more, he’d followed some down the slopes from the summit to the sea, which is where koa’e kea go fishing. That had been an eye-opener. He circled at some distance and watched while a bird would hover briefly, spot a fish below the surface, and then dive straight down to catch it. What grace! What elegance!

That, he was sure, was the way to be.

It made him nervous, but he decided to try it. He had no appetite for fish, mind you, so he didn’t worry much about where to dive. He just picked a spot, hovered briefly in mid-air, pointed his beak down, and dove.

It was his first attempt, so it wasn’t all that bad, but things did not go well once he hit the water. His feathers clumped up and he couldn’t see which way was up. His bird-feet had no webs between the toes so even though he instinctively paddled his legs, not much happened. His first dive was about to become his last dive when a beak grabbed him and hauled him to the surface. There was something of a flurry, and then he was hanging from the beak of a koa’e kea heading back to shore.

It dropped him on the ground, wet and disheveled, and now that it didn’t have anything in her beak she said, “What was that all about?”

“I want to be the greatest diver on the island,” gasped the ‘apapane.

She looked him up and down – feathers not meant for ocean water, feet without webs, and a beak designed for bugs and nectar, not fish.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” she said. “I think it’s likely to drown you.”

He had to admit this was true.

“I’ll tell you what, though,” she said thoughtfully. “I’ve never seen an ‘apapane dive before at all, so right now you’re the best ‘apapane diver on the island. But… I think it best you don’t try it again.”

“I won’t,” he said, as he felt his feathers start to dry. “I’ll go back to singing.”

“Good plan,” she said. “I think that will work a lot better.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the video above, I am telling the story from memory. My memory can be… inventive.

Photo by Eric Anderson.