Ed Kenney's Imu

Published on 27 March 2013

Photo: Ed Kenney at Earth MasterClass 2013 (Image: Dan Mahon)

Ed Kenney talks about his beloved imu at Earth MasterClass 2013:

The imu is usually lit in the wee hours of the morning.  The sky is clear and the moon is just setting to my left.  The morning air is cool, cool enough to wear my old favorite flannel.  The flock of fighting cocks at the farm next door crow now and then.  I cherish this peaceful calm.  In just a few hours the sun will rise to welcome what is sure to be a joyous day.  The flames are hypnotic and I reflect on a poem that was given to me by a close friend when I had just begun this incredible journey of raising a family and starting a restaurant.  To this day, this poem is pinned to my corkboard to always remind me...


What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water.


So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on logs,

then we come to see how

it is fuel, and the absence of fuel

together, that make fire possible.


We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire


simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

The imu is “the space between”.  It is the cornerstone of a special occasion where we set all else aside to reconnect with the one’s we love.  It’s a communal affair with everyone taking part. Children run around in circles, cousins bring freshly caught fish or wild boar, aunties and uncles cook a multitude of traditional dishes, friends play music and dance hula, grampa drinks a lot of cold beer.  Laughter and aromas permeate the air.  It’s a whole day and night affair, sometimes two.  All too soon, Mahealani (the full moon) has risen, wisps of smoke rise from the imu, the rooster crows.

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