Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Ka’iulani Cleghorn of Hawaii was born in 1875, the daughter of Princess Miriam Likelike (sister of Queen Lili’iuokalani) and Archibald Cleghorn, a Scot from Edinburgh. After her mother’s death she became second in line to the throne of Hawaii as Princess Kaiulani. I have had a crush on Princess Kaiulani for nearly 30 years. She was beautiful, spirited, lively, intelligent and mature; just the sort of woman I admire and am drawn to.
Between 1889 and 1983 she traveled and studied in Britain, a dreary place compared to her home. In 1893 the monarchy of Hawaii was abrogated and Princess Kaiulani was a Princess no more. Kaiulani died in 1899 at the age of 23, a year after Hawaii was annexed by the United States. She was much mourned. I wish I could have known her.
Between 1988 and 1989, Princess Kaiulani and I became close. My Princess Kaiulani was a spirited, independent-minded, feisty, occasionally determinedly talkative and very loving cockatiel. Kaiulani had the freedom of my home, but preferred her perch in my office or on my shoulder. As befits royalty, she had twin retainers: Magnum and PI, two chatty budgies (budgerigars or parakeets), named after the TV show Magnum PI about a Hawaii detective, played by Tom Selleck. Two previous flitty flirts had names now forgotten but were something like Tit and Tat or somesuch clever drollery. The budgies had the freedom of my home and spent most of their time zipping round the house, flashing bright blue and green plumage; twittering and gossiping. But at various times they flew through my always-open front door, after many months of ignoring their larger freedom.
Kaiulani rarely spent any time with the twins. She preferred to perch on my shoulder, whispering sweet chirpy nothings, nibbling my ear. Occasionally, she would hop onto my keyboard, and strut and dance over the keys while I typed. If I was writing or drawing, and she was in the mood, she would wrestle my pencil with her claws and beak.
Kaiulani was in such a feisty mood with my pencil, when I was once desperately trying to get a report written. Distracted and irritated, I picked her up and put her on the floor to play by herself. Finishing my work, I dashed out to run errands and later stayed the night at my girlfriend’s. Returning home the next day I was surprised not to be greeted by Kaiulani’s raucous welcome. She was nowhere to be found in the house and after a couple of hours of distraught search, I did not find her in the neighborhood either. I imagined that after I crossly plonked her on the ground she had angrily strutted across the office and living room floors and walked out of the front door.
Kaiulani’s escape was seemingly first of many signs, for within a few days, my landlady evicted me; pleading the space for her ailing sister. My girlfriend of many years and I decided that we needed space too, to try to bridge a fundamental rift between us. She wanted me to become a Christian, yet I was content to be a tolerant heathen. Also, my last hospice patient, dying of AIDS in Halawa federal prison, was draining me with both his Born Again preaching and the homophobic taunts of his cell mates. And finally: a job opportunity near San Francisco beckoned. So, heeding the signs, I left Honolulu, never again to live there.
The real Princess Kaiulani, beautiful, bright, and spirited was caged by the demands of political intrigue, responsibilities and expectations. My beautiful and spirited cockatiel Kaiulani left me, perhaps because I spurned her, took her for granted. And there have been women in my life, similarly lively/lovely and colorful/feisty and spirited; who attracted my attention and attempted capture, but who I later lost by trying to cage them. I wish I knew then what I know now: cockatiels, budgies, faeries, green witches and akin free-spirited women should not be caged, but rather welcomed to perch on men’s shoulders; to whisper their wit; dance through our lives; wrestle lovingly with our hearts; leave us through open doors when they so desire; and renter our lives and hearts as, and when, they will.