Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 23, 2022

Aupuni 6 2022

Tonight's lesson was about making my own salt, which I had no clue that one could actually make their own salt.

I thought it was something that was just taken from some place or grown. However, when mom explained how the salt we use here in Hawai'i is made, I felt so ashamed and stupid that I began to cry. "What's wrong with you?" Mom asked. "What are you crying for?"

"I grew up here my whole life, and I never knew about pa'akai and that you could make your own," I was so upset at myself for having not even bothered to ask.

"Now, you're going to find out, and you're going to do it yourself because after you complete that lesson, you're going to need to bring your pa'akai every night from then on," she instructed.

"For when we eat or something?" I wondered out loud.

"For spiritual protection, we're going to delve deeper, and the pa'akai will be necessary," she stretched out her arms to me. "Come," she said. "Come here, you," I fell into her arms, and mom hugged me for a bit."The door is creaking open tonight, but the wider it gets, the more you will realize just how Hawaiian you are. You'll learn things that will stay with you for the rest of your days, and you'll also learn something that will make you very angry. How you keep what you know and impart it later in life will depend on how you receive these lessons."

"I don't understand," I told her.

"You will," she assured me. "As long as you stay the course, you will understand. Now, the god Kāne made the salt so that the waters surrounding the earth's shores would not stink. So it was the kūleana of Kāne to keep things from getting spoiled or unpurified. So, come," she stood up from her chair and gathered her purse and car keys. "Take me to Kaʻiwiʻula."

"At this hour? It's two in the morning," I reminded her.

"Here is another lesson for tonight that you must keep with you from now on," she spoke so gently that what she said next caught me off guard. But maybe, that was the purpose of it. "When I tell you something or ask you to do something, there is no reply, no remarks, and no facial expressions. You just do it, and you don't ask any questions. Do you understand?" She held my gaze and did not blink once, I nearly said something right then, but I thought better of it. 

"Yes, mom. I understand," I nodded.

"Let's go then, and on the way back, we can stop and get coffee somewhere," she said as she walked past me.


At Ka'iwi'ula, I pulled along a wagon with two buckets in it. It was a bit of a walk but not as cumbersome as I thought it would be, even with our flashlights. Finally, when we got to the ocean, it was surprisingly calm. It was the moon of Kāne, which explained the low tide. Mom had me fill both buckets to the top with the ocean water, and then she placed a towel over the cover and secured it by wrapping bungee cords around the edge. Pulling the wagon back to the car, my mom stopped and put her finger over her mouth. "Drums, kneel down,"

We knelt, and suddenly a horrendous wind swept through the tall grass, and with came a noxious aroma of sulfur. Mom shoved me to the ground and stood on my back with both of her feet, screaming at me over the mighty noise of the wind, which suddenly picked up to hurricane capacity. It was the first time I had ever heard her chanting in Hawaiian. It was powerful and primal at the same time; she sensed the change in my body because I wanted to look, to see what was happening, but she placed her left foot on my head, preventing me from seeing anything. Finally, when it was over, and mom let me up, I caught the remnants of red torch lights traveling through the tall grass, heading toward the ocean.

 "Kukuihaeleikapō," my mom told me. "Our ancestors who travel by torchlight."

"Nightmarchers," I said it more as a revelation to myself than an answer to what my mom just mentioned. But then, I broke down crying again. I just experienced a substantial part of my culture that was real and passed right by us. "You were chanting to them, though?"

"I was announcing myself, and you, and our entire ʻohana, hoping that we had family in that procession, and we did," she hugged me again, and I sobbed like I had not sobbed since I was a little boy. "Now you see why you will need your paʻakai from now on, yes?"

"Yes, mom, I see," I replied. 

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