Dorothy, spirit of Huahine
30 December 2020 | Moorea, Cooks Bay
It is no secret to those who read our blog that Huahine is our favorite island in French Polynesia. We have visited here about a dozen times and stayed for a total of six months. Huahine is a beautiful island with clear lagoons, great biking and varied terrain. But the spirit of Huahine is what has captured us.
Huahine has over 200 ancient religious Marae, stone worship sites. Huahine means fertility of woman. From the main town, Fare, you can see in the mountains a pregnant woman reclining with knees bent, ready to give birth. Bobby Holcomb, musician, artist and cultural Polynesian hero lived here. On a Marae overlooking Maeva, Bobby Holcomb and Jimmy Buffet wrote the song, "One Particular Harbor."
Captain Cook visited Huahine during his voyage here on the Beagle. One of his famous sketches is the Beagle in Fitii harbor. Cook witnessed two human sacrifices here on Huahine.
Bernard Moitissier, my sailing hero, was winning the 1969 Golden Globe race and decided he didn't want to stop sailing and win. He abandined the race, tacked and went around Cape Horn a second time. After 1 ½ years at sea, alone, he made French Polynesia his home. He visited Huahine often.
We wouldn't know any of this had we not met Dorothy Lubin Levy. Dorothy is the spirit keeper of Huahine! We met Dorothy on our early visites to Huahine. This past year we got to know her better and spent some time visiting, listening to her stories. I can't begin to tell all here but suffice to say, she has a lot more to tell and we regret we haven't spent more time with her.
Dorothy's great grandfather sailed from France to Tahiti and set up a trade and finance business. He married a Polynesian woman from the royal family (money attracts money as told by Dorothy). Dorothy's grandfather married an American woman and Dorothy was raised in California until age ten. She visited Tahiti and has lived in French Polynesia ever since.
When Bernard Moitissier landed in Tahiti after his epic voyage, he was besieged by reporters and the public. "He could hardly speak after being alone for 1 ½ years. I was one of the first people he met and he asked me if I could help him. I took him back to my house to keep him away from the intimidating crowds." Dorothy formed a life-long relationship with Bernard.
Later she met Bobbie Holcomb. "I had a Citroen 2CV. Bobby and Bernard would climb in and we would explore the valleys in Tahiti where there were small farms. OK, we did this to pilfer fruits and vegetables. The local people knew but didn't mind. Bobby and Bernard loved these little adventures."
When Dorothy was pregnant with her daughter, she went to the hospital for an ultrasound. "Bobby said he wanted to go with me to see the pictures. On the way there, we ran into Bernard, carrying his javelo (spear) to get some exercise in the athletic field. We told him about the ultrasound, he wanted to come too. So there I was in the waiting area with Bobby in his dread locks and Bernard, looking like Gandolf, with his spear. The doctor and nurses didn't know what to make of us. Bobby and Bernard were fascinated by the ultrasound pictures."
Dorothy and her two year old daughter, Sabrina, sailed on the Dutch Schooner, Free, to New Zealand to protest the French nuclear testing in the Tuamotus, French Polynesia. They were hitch hiking and got a ride with a nice couple. Down the road Dorothy spotted Bernard walking. She yelled, "Stop, that's my dad." They picked up Bernard, he had sailed to New Zealand just for another voyage in his boat, Joshua.
"Bobby moved to Huahine in the ancient village of Maeva. He called me and said, "Why don't you and Sabrina move here with me?" He said to be sure to bring the geese, guinea pigs and the horse. We did! Bernard visited and taught one of the geese, Mr. White, to sing along with Happy Birthday."
"Bobby like Bernard, didn't seek public attention. Bobby just enjoyed being Bobby. He didn't own a car but rode his bicycle into Fare for shopping or to play music. He always wore a couronne de tete, flower and leave wreath. He would get up early and climb to the Marae overlooking Maeva. There he would paint and compose music."
Jimmy Buffet visited Huahine and someone in Fare told him about the local musician, Bobby Holcomb. They brought Jimmy to the house around noon.
"Bobby loved his afternoon naps and I tried to keep visitors away during these naps. But the visitors with Jimmy just walked into his bedroom and woke him up. No, Bobby hadn't heard of Jimmy Buffet. Jimmy was carrying his Martin guitar and said, "Maybe you know this song." He played Margaritaville. Bobby said no, he hadn't heard it. But the two of them started playing music together and gained respect for each other's talents. Bobby took Jimmy through the jungle path to his marae and there they composed "One Particular Harbor.""
"One Particular Harbor" is played at all Jimmy Buffet concerts. The opening chorus and other verses are sung in Tahitian. Audiences always sing along but I wonder how many understand the Tahitian composed by Bobby. "Ia aora te natura" Love nature.
Dorothy lived with Bobby until his death from cancer in 1991. His grave site is a simple mound in Maeva, surrounded by colorful croton plants.
Dorothy is active with the world heritage site, Fare Pote, a restored religious site on the picturesque Maeva lagoon. We visited the site for a dedication ceremony for the Japanese archaeologist, Sinoto, who first started exploring the site. He initially met with resistance from the local people but gained their respect and interest in this historic site.
Dorothy embodies the woman spirit of Huahine.
"When I was ten years old, we landed in Tahiti for my first visit. I heard the drums and knew I was home. One drop of Polynesian blood is like one drop of vanilla extract, it flavors the entire dish." We are somewhat thankful to the Polynesian mosquitos. We now have at least one drop of Polynesian blood. Huahine is our island home.
Bobby Holcomb's song "My Island Home" is my favorite Polynesian song. I have been fortunate to sing it along with a few local musicians, always bringing a tear.
Thank you Dorothy for awakening in us our Polynesian spirit.