Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Ode to Chaka Khan

The first song I ever fell in love with is Through the Fire, performed by Chaka Khan. Even now, I'm well into my 30's, this song still gives me chills.

I remember the first time I heard it. We were camping. I couldn't have been more than nine or ten and I, along with my cousin, was trying to hang out with the teenagers. The great thing about the teenagers back then is that they weren't trying to shew us little kids away. They took us with them until our parents could corral us back to our tents.

The lyrics didn't mean much to me as a little girl. The tune though, and the sweet voice of Chaka Khan, always had me dreaming of having a voice just like that. On my tenth birthday, my dad's best friend gifted me a bunch of cassettes. The Mary Jane Girls, Madonna (Like A Virgin), Klymaxx, and of course the lovely Chaka Khan. I remember when I opened the box, I thought I would cry tears of happiness.

Chaka Khan represented, for me, the emergence and discovery of entertainers that I could identify with. My father listened to Hawaiian music, Tom Jones, Nat King Cole, Bob Marley, and some country music. My mother wasn't really into the music scene. I recall her playing Samoan music on rare occasions. So, for me, getting a Chaka Khan cassette was a magic moment.

I felt like I looked like her. The caramel skin and the thick hair were so different from the artists on the scene and it was new to me. Beautiful to me! There I was, a little Polynesian girl, coming up with parents that had different musical tastes than mine having to navigate my own way through the music. I have to say though, I do love some of the music my dad enjoys. I love my Hawaiian music and Samoan music. I can still rock She's A Lady by Tom Jones and Nat King Cole still soothes me with Mona Lisa. That's me now but me back then had to do a little researching to find the rhythm that moved/moves me.

Through the Fire is one of those songs that, as I age, the meaning goes deeper. The imagery of a fire and having to endure it and go through it to preserve love is, in itself, proof of the depth of my love. The song seems to play in the background of all the events that have occurred in my life. Just today I wrote in my journal the following:
It's obvious that the issues in my life is to learn to be more compassionate, to learn to express and practice unconditional love. These are the issues that I observe always coming forward in terms of the types of challenges I face.

The problem has never been the people around me. The problem or the thing that needs to be fixed is ME. Through the Fire was playing when I suffered my first crush. I was sure it was love. I was sure he was the one I wanted to be with forever (even if we were only 15) and ever. **rolling my eyes** I'm glad that friendship never panned out. We were just all wrong for each other. Through the Fire was playing when I fell in love with my first husband, married him, divorced him, and it helped me mourn the ending of the relationship. Through the Fire is playing now, in the sixth year of marriage to my second husband, when things are a little rocky. The song is serving to remind me that I want this love to stand the test of time. I want it to survive beyond the crazy trials of this lifetime.

So I thank Chaka Khan for performing this song in all the love moments in my life. Her voice, so beautiful. Her look, so enchanting! She had me wanting to be just like her. If only I could have that voice!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fallen to the Earth

I hail from a very tight-knit community. Families have lived in that same strip of land, along the north-eastern coast of the island of O'ahu, for several generations. Some, as far back as pre-Captain Cook/ pre-European contact. I say that only to illustrate that we are a very close community. We all know each other. We are all connected to each other in some way. So when tragedy strikes in the community, when death steals a youthful soul, we all feel it so deeply. (Even if I'm not physically there, I feel it too!)

This past weekend a young man passed in a terrible car wreck. The accident reminded me so much of when my cousin passed back in 1996. Former Kahuku High School football star. Car accident. Late Saturday night. Even the location of the wreck was just a few yards from where my cousin's car accident occured. The gloom that is associated with losing someone so young just breaks my heart. So today, in rememberance of my cousin and the young man that passed on late Saturday night, I offer my deepest condolences to the families that are left behind.

When I Die, By Rumi

When I die
when my coffin
is being taken out
you must never think
i am missing this world

don't shed any tears
don't lament or
feel sorry
i'm not falling
into a monster's abyss

when you see
my corpse is being carried
don't cry for my leaving
i'm not leaving
i'm arriving at eternal love

when you leave me
in the grave
don't say goodbye
remember a grave is
only a curtain
for the paradise behind

you'll only see me
descending into a grave
now watch me rise
how can there be an end
when the sun sets or
the moon goes down

it looks like the end
it seems like a sunset
but in reality it is a dawn
when the grave locks you up
that is when your soul is freed

have you ever seen
a seed fallen to earth
not rise with a new life
why should you doubt the rise
of a seed named human

have you ever seen
a bucket lowered into a well
coming back empty
why lament for a soul
when it can come back
like Joseph from the well

when for the last time
you close your mouth
your words and soul
will belong to the world of
no place no time

~RUMI, ghazal number 911,
translated May 18, 1992,
by Nader Khalili.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Unravelling: Where Culture's Clash

Today is my sixth wedding anniversary. Last year, I made a little slide show in honor of the event. This year I'm not feeling as full of love and sentiment as I usually am. My moods are a funny thing. On the surface, the fire of my love cannot be questioned yet at the core of me is a desire to please myself. Me and only me rather than the marriage relationship.

At times I feel like my life is lived for other people. To maintain this eternal pair, my marriage, have my husband and I given up portions of ourselves? (Of course we have.) I think of the loyalty I feel toward my parents and how serving them til my dying day is so much a part of my culture and a part of who I was raised to be. Yet the eternal pairing, my marriage, stands in direct conflict with that portion of my culture. My husband, father of two children with two different mothers (neither of them me), has matured to the point where he wants to be totally involved with the children's lives. Yet I haven't come to terms with the implications of the relationships and the roles I am suddenly asked to take on. Taking on the "step-mother" role, am I sacrificing my loyalty to my parents? Can I be of service to both my parents and my marriage/ family?

Perhaps, this is the biggest conflict of having had to move to the continent. As I dissect the landscape of my mind and the roles I am required to take on, I find that my two worlds are colliding. My role as a Polynesian daughter versus my role as an American wife and "step-mother". **sigh** I am having a tough time reconciling myself and finding the balance that serves my desire to be of relevance to my parents and (at the same time) to my husband.

Moving to the continent has put a serious strain on how I view my husband and our marriage. I feel as if my desires have been placed on the back burner so that he can play "daddy". Yet I knew that this was the lot I was choosing when we married six years ago. When I married, I knew that I was (almost) forsaking my family for my husband. I just didn't know that it would be at the cost of giving up very important portions of who I am. My desire to NOT be on the continent, at times, is greater than my desire to be in love.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband dearly. He has grown in so many ways. I've watched him mature considerably. Yet I wonder sometimes if this is the point in our lives to which we needed to escort each other to and at which point we begin growing apart. **sigh** The differing cultures causes such a strain.

Happy Sixth Anniversary -- may the Creator find it necessary for us to remain together for all our days. Create in me a desire to hold on to this precious marriage contract. Make this last FOREVER! This is just me purging some of this negative vibrations inside of me. Tomorrow will be better since I let this out into the atmosphere. I love my husband! I really do!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's In Your Belly?

We are on the brink of the DVD release of Food, Inc. For those who can't wait for its release.

I have casually mentioned in previous posts that I have sworn off meat. This phase in my life is fairly new, as husband and I went totally veggie in March of this year. It has been quite a journey, a very worthy journey. We've had to tweek our menu and change it up to re-include organic meat because we desperately needed the protein. Soy, thanks to the Monsanto corporation, is almost TOTALLY genetically modified. Thus, we've kicked the soy habit also. I find it alarming that amongst the industrialized nations of the world, America DOES NOT require labelling of genetically modified foods.

The majority of the papaya in Hawai'i is genetically modified. This caused quite a stir in the 80's and 90's when Japan refused to import any papaya grown in Hawai'i. Japan has still not approved GMO papaya for sale in their country. Egypt, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Norway, England, Italy are all amongst the nations of the world that require some type of labelling of genetically modified or engineered foods.[1] If you're unfamiliar with the debate, I suggest you start to become familiar with it if you're at all concerned with the future of your food. Coincidentally, The Future of Food is the title of an excellent documentary detailing the predicament of modified foods and the corporations responsible for its proliferation.

The husband and I have become quite concerned with our health in the past couple of years. At a routine physical, my blood-sugar was elevated at 123. That isn't an alarmingly high number yet my doctor was quick to insist that I immediately begin medication. Me being a total sceptic of clinical medicine decided against it. My husband was nearing the 300 lb mark and I was following right behind him. At his routine physical, he found his bad cholestorol to be elevated. After finding out all this information, we began researching how we would be able to increase the quality of the life we were living.

What we found is that the foundation of good health is FOOD. Everything the body needs to be healthy can be found in FOOD. There is nothing a pill can do that can't be done better with food! The side effect of good, healthy, organically raised food is GOOD HEALTH. How profound is that! How simple and yet so radical in today's market-driven economy. The necessary nutrients and vitamins to make our body work at maximum efficiency can be found in fruits and vegetables. All the disease of the modern day, essentially, begins with what we put in our mouths for sustenance.


Lets take factory raised cows as an example of how toxins enter our food supply and how big corporations drive the demand. Cows are a major source of the food supply in America. We eat the meat, we use the hide, we milk them for butter, cream, cheese, and a host of dairy products. Thanks to Monsanto, the rbgh hormone entered the milk and dairy supply. It synthetically replicated a natural hormone found in cows to increase each cows milk yield.[2] Pfizer, Fort Dodge a Division of Wyeth, Intervet are among the largest manufacturers of vaccines for cattle.[3] At two months of age, a calf is vaccinated. The synthetic hormone, the vaccine enters your food supply if you so choose to consume beef or dairy. The side effects of the hormone on the cow and consequently on humans is absolutely diabolical.

Other things to think about in relation to cow product consumption: Cows milk has enough fat and calcium to progress a newborn calf to an adult within a year. What kind of effect does that have on the human body? While we're questioning that, what other species in the animal world relies on another animal for nourishment? Even at the beginning of human life, we become consumers of the dairy industry. Baby formula is either dairy or soy based. Monsanto has its hands in both the dairy industry and the soy industry. (Even though Monsanto started out as a chemical manufacturer.)

Majority of non-organic cattle are corn-fed to make them fatter, quicker. Corn cannot be digested properly by cattle and as a side effect their body becomes the ideal petrie dish for the e.coli bacteria. Cattle are not genetically wired to handle corn. I haven't asked a cow lately but according to cattle farmers, cows prefer to eat grass. Organically grown cattle are free range, grass eaters. They are not kept in closed quarters, in the dark, standing in their own feces, day in and day out. So here we have it, the cattle industry relies on the production of corn as feed for their cattle. And who owns several patents on corn seed? You guessed it! Monsanto! We could also discuss the corn industry as well but we'll save that for another post. (It deserves one of its own.)

I could go on and on about this subject. I used the example of the cow but you see how so many of the big corporations are all in bed with each other. From vaccinations to chemical growth hormones. They all seem to find their way onto your plate and into your body. The final thought on this is that the cattle ranchers and big business are not in the market to make you healthy. Their objective is to consistently turn a profit. In Capitalistic America, money greases the axle that spins the world. (My ex-husband used to say that to me often.)

To tie this all together, my personal journey began with an interest in how to make my body as healthy as my mind. How can I increase my quality of life not just in the present moment but in the future? It has led me down this road toward enlightenment. My husband has dropped 50 pounds and counting. I've released 25 pounds and counting. We run and are not weary! I hope you begin your journey also. Soon!

If the economics of purchasing organic food is not an option for you now then you are choosing a future of dis-ease, disease. Even if you begin by replacing 10% of your food consumption with healthier fare, you're starting to free yourself from the chains placed on you by the big corporations. Change the trends in the industry by changing how you spend your money. The big corporations will follow suit. If you are spending more of your money on organic, non-GMO food then the food industry will begin to spend more money developing ways to bring this food to you.

Peace be with you on this journey of balancing your life and finding true health in natural, organic food.

Works Cited:
[1] ; Downloaded and viewed on 11 November 2009
[2] ; Viewed on 11 November 2009
[3] ; Viewed on 11 November 2009

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Courtship, Movies, and Me

I remember watching the movie Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts, when I was in high school. My friends and I fawned over the modern-day cinderella fairy tale where the prince elevates the lass out of her unfortunate condition. Julia Roberts, the small-town-girl turned prostitute, is Cinderella. Richard Gere, a financial tycoon, is the prince who happens to be an emotional retard. They are drawn together by a set of circumstances and the prince begins to court the girl.

Courting seems like a dead art nowadays. The 'build-up', the liking stage, the passing notes back and forth during class, the talking on the phone or the meetings in the library have all but faded away. Conveniently, it has all been replaced by instant messaging, MySpace, Facebook, and unlimited texts. I can't say that one way of courting is better than the other. Just different.

There's a scene in the movie where the prince sends the "ho" shopping so she can get better quality clothing to be able to accompany him to business events. Because his pockets are lined with cash, he is able to command the full attention of the staff in the boutique. What woman would not want an all-access pass to their favorite store and be waited on, hand and foot? Another memorable scene in the movie shows Julia Roberts in a red velvet gown. Richard Gere accompanies her to a limousine, heads to the airport to board a private jet, and they are whisked away to San Francisco to attend an opera. Does this ever happen in real life? Do movies like this shape our expectations of a prospective life partner?

As we age, the dreams of being whisked away from our present conditions become but a fading fascination. Over time we deal with men who grow up with a different reality. They don't grow up wanting to be Richard Gere, searching for a woman to sweep off their feet. If they do, what are the odds that "he" will end up on your doorstep? Many of the guys I grew up with were fixated on being an action hero, think David Banner whose temper turned him into the Incredible Hulk or Clark Kent whose ultra-shy persona gave way to Superman whenever the world was in crisis. There were the guys infatuated with becoming a Kung Fu superstar ala Bruce Lee or even Bruce Leroy (Taimak's character in The Last Dragon). Some even grew up thinking that Doughboy from Boyz N the Hood was a worthy role model, that Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors was the ideal husband. I surmise that the "heroes" in our lives play a big part in who will be. Though I love watching Pretty Woman, that's not the story I would write. My husband loves watching sci-fi but I know an alien won't pop out of his abdomen anytime soon. I will never marry Wolverine or scamper off to 7th Heaven with Bruce Leroy. Yet these are the images we see that show us what "courting" is like or even how relationships should progress.

In the final moments of Pretty Woman, Richard Gere rides up to Julia Roberts run-down apartment in his "chariot", a white limousine, drawing his modern-day sword, an umbrella, and climbs up the fire escape to collect his damsel. Que the music, roll the credits, and the movie is over. When exactly did he "court" her? When he paid for her services? After he took her on a shopping spree? After she escorted him to a business dinner or a social event at the polo field? When exactly did the courting happen? By the way, I happen to love the brown dress she wore to the polo field, coupled with that hat -- the outfit was a real class act for the bourgeouis country-club folk! In real life, when does the courting happen?

I think of some of the closest people in my life. I have an aunt who had a fairy tale wedding, complete with 8 bridesmaids and groomsmen. 15 years into the marriage and six children later, the husband has an affair and the marriage becomes irretrievably broken, yet they stay together for another eight years. They finally divorced last year and I just found out that he just married a woman with five children. Is that the going trend?

A woman very close to me is pregnant with her third child (all of them have the same father) and is still unmarried. Did she even understand the "courting" ritual or just the mating part? I know a woman who refuses to marry because marriage would make her ineligible for Section 8 housing. Is the modern romance more similar to Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns? Has courting digressed to sex and children first before marriage? Is marriage even an option anymore? I'm not sure if FDR foresaw the trend of young women choosing to be single to qualify for welfare when he made that a requirement to receive aid. If you were married, you became ineligible. Whatever the reason for the growing trend of broken marriages and single-parent homes, I suppose it gives me fuel to keep my marriage going, to be a part of the statistic for couples that stay together.

My husband and I are part of an eternal pair. Though our courtship wasn't exactly what fairytales are made of, we are committed to keeping our love alive. Sometimes it gets hard. We're approaching our sixth wedding anniversary this coming Saturday. Sometimes it's hard to be in love but I'm hanging on to preserve the eternal pair that we've become. My fairy tale will progress through eternity, God-willing.

Friday, November 06, 2009


I was sitting in an interview with a scholarship counselor for Kamehameha Schools. The counselor asked me what direction I'd be going in with my education. Up until that point, I had never thought about it in depth. I just thought that I'd go back to school, apply for the scholarship and make full use of the resources that are available. There is so much funding out there for people of Native Hawaiian ancestry through the Bishop Estate. Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a member of the royal family before the overthrow, established a trust for the children of Hawai'i to provide for their educational welfare. The Bishop Estate is one of the largest, most wealthy estates in the world.

There I was sitting in the interview, scanning my mind for an answer, really wondering what I'd do with my education. Of all the infinite number of answers I could have given, I blurted out that I'd like to establish a Leadership Academy to educate kanaka maoli (aboriginal people of Hawai'i). I hadn't expected that the interview with the scholarship counselor would be so intense. However it forced me to formulate in my mind, within seconds, the driving force behind my desire to return to school. I've kicked around the idea of going to law school. I've experienced a certain amount of satisfaction and have displayed proficiency in reading and analyzing legal documents and figured that might be an avenue to pursue. I've thought about majoring in English due to my love of the written word. I've also thought of taking up History, so as to be able to influence future generations with real history, objective history. Even though I had thought about a major, the real application of it manifested itself in a simple blurb: I'D LIKE TO ESTABLISH A LEADERSHIP ACADEMY TO EDUCATE KANAKA MAOLI!

My mother is Samoan. Her language and culture are still intact in a way that never was for my Hawaiian father. I think of my father's generation as the "assimilated Hawaiian's". The language was effectively colonized out of Hawaiian society until the renaissance of Hawaiian culture in the 1970's. This renewed interest came on the heels of the successful voyage of the Hokule'a, a traditional Polynesian double-hulled canoe. The crew of the Hokule'a successfully navigated their way, in traditional Polynesian fashion, without the use of modern seafaring instruments. It would be many years after that maiden voyage before we would see a resurgence of the Hawaiian language.

The development of "immersion" schools began to take shape in the years following Hokule'a's historic feat. They were modeled after Aotearoa's (New Zealand) Maori Immersion program where Maori children would be totally immersed in the language of their ancestors. Hawai'i followed suit and developed a successful program that still exists today. Hawaiian used to be the official language of the State of Hawaii. I'm not sure if that is still the case. To hear it spoken in leisure today is an enormous feat, considering it was on the brink of extinction just 25 years ago.

I have to give the Department of Education in the State of Hawaii some credit for requiring the study of Hawaiian history in the public school system. You can expect to review the Hawaiian monarchy at the 4th grade level, the 7th grade, and the 11th grade. (I wonder if the Oklahoma school system requires the study of Native American history. Does anybody know?)

There are several immersion programs in Hawai'i beginning in pre-school and continuing all the way through high school and beyond. There is a highly developed Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaii as well as BYU-Hawaii. Even with all these things in place, I felt there was a few components missing in influencing a generation of kanaka maoli. I would like to see LEADERS. Real leaders with the ability to reason within the context of their culture and moral human behavior. Philosophical leaders that esteemed themselves highly and would take full responsibility for teaching and perpetuating their values.

I have not fully developed the idea of the LEADERSHIP ACADEMY but I find that it might be something worth looking into. First, because it instantly sprang from my mouth when I was asked what I'd like to do with my education. Second, I think it is a worthy goal to pursue in contributing to the preservation of my ancestral heritage. I love Hawai'i!

I believe we are each placed on this earth for specific reasons, to serve humanity with our unique talents and abilities. I feel privileged to be made up of the DNA that connects me to Polynesia. I feel such great pride to have a degree of melanin in my skin that makes me not-white. May the Creator find purpose in me to do HIS work and not mine.

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**Bernice Pauahi Bishop Photo Credit
**Canoe Photo Credit

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

College Education, For Me?

Every Thursday, I tune into The Pacific Eye Radio Show broadcasting out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Before moving to Alabama, the time difference in Hawai'i didn't allow me to tune in regularly. Now that I can, I do!

Last week's show was about leadership. I had the chance to call in and share some of my thoughts on the subject. Actually, I called in reaction to Richard (the co-host) discussing western style, university education.

Up until this point in my life, I haven't really been interested in "academia". Immediately following high school, I flew out to L.A. and hung out for a couple months. I had received a one-year tuition scholarship for the Fall semester at a university at home so I left L.A. and went back to Hawai'i. I wanted to try my luck at it even though I had known for quite some time that "conventional education", like the kind that is dispensed in public high schools, was just not for me. I failed miserably in my first semester of college. I had a tough time adjusting to the social differences and I didn't really feel like more education would do me any good.

I entered the work force as soon as I started college. I was working 40-hours at the local grocery store making more money than I have ever made in my life. Let's do the math: $12/ hour, 15 years ago, and I was just 18 and no bills?! Yeah, I was doing WELLLLL!! All of a sudden there was no need to attend college when I was making enough money and then some to live quite comfortably, even in Hawai'i.

Fast forward through the years and my resume includes several supervisory positions. One at a lucrative, brand name, timeshare operation in Waikiki. Another at the University that I had flunked out of when I was 18. I'm still not a college graduate and I'm quite confident in my marketability even without the diploma/receipt.

I share all of this to say that Richard (the co-host of The Pacific Eye Radio Show) hit it on the money in the radio show that I called into. He said that he attended a leadership conference in Hawai'i. (This is me generalizing/ paraphrasing) The mentors there said that we must go into "their" world, use "their" system, take what you need from it, and leave to help our people. I am totally WITH THAT! Can you dig it?

So, here I am, into semester #2 of my attempt at a college education. Not only am I better equipped to handle the curriculum, I'm also much more mature, much more hungry, and have an intense purpose. I intend to help raise my people from obscurity into the light and together we will LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Alabama: Cotton Impressions

In previous visits to Alabama, I had never laid eyes on a cotton field. I suppose my visits were not in sync with cotton "season". The sight is one to behold. These pictures hardly do it justice. Yet, even as beautiful as the scene may appear, as intricate and perfect the plant is, as mezmerizing the field of white may be, I only associate it with one thing: The Euro-American slave trade. Of course, the closest thing to my body is cotton. The same is probably true about you. Our clothes, the sheets and blankets that we wrap around us, the towel we dry ourselves with, the swab that you clean your ears with, the gauze you attend wounds with; all these items and more are made of cotton. I'm not ignoring all the fantastic uses humans have found for cotton. I'm not even ignoring the miracle that the plant really is. I'm simply stating that when I see this cotton field, I immediately think of the United States most illustrious infatuation with it and capitalism.

Some scholars and historians believe that the America's had its own species of cotton before the British imported cotton from Smyrna. There are accounts that point to the Aztec people being experts in the art of processing and dying cotton for clothing. The Chinese were said to use it in limited quantities. (Why would they want to use cotton when they had a monopoly on silk for quite awhile?) Also, the Persians were quite successful in cultivating cotton as well.[1] When the British brought it to the "New World" is when cotton's ugly history began.

Let me just quote from a book by George McHenry, The Cotton Trade[2]:
It is fortunate for the blacks as well as the whites, that the cotton business sprang up, for the sons of Africa do not flourish in a state of freedom, and without the cultivation of the leading staple of commerce there would not have been sufficient occupation for them.

A poet by the name of Preach appeared on Def Poetry Jam. He presented the poem, Cotton (Explicit). I was moved by the issues he covered in such a short period of time, in so creative a manner. A particular line that I was drawn to says, "Still we cotton-pick. Oh yes! From store racks now instead of fields..." Preach expresses his dissatisfaction with capitalism, materialism, and consumerism. He connects the literal cotton fields of 150 years ago with the metaphorical cotton fields of today found in the chase for materialistic things. He asserts that we, as consumers of the latest trends, are making someone else richer and once again become the builders of someone else's wealth.

Cotton! So simple a plant yet so miraculous in how it provides for humankind. Though I negatively associate it with the subjugation of the African family of yesteryear, I know it is a gift from God.

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[1] William Rhind. A History of the Vegetable Kingdom [electronic resource]. Blackie and Son. London. 1857. (Pg 406)

[2] George McHenry. The Cotton Trade [electronic resource]. Saunders, Otley, & Co. London. 1863. (Pg 12)