Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 1, 2022

Hānau 2022

For years, I worried about the tradition of burying the afterbirth of my children in a proper location that would be our land in perpetuity.

Considering the state of overdevelopment in our archipelago, however, I could see that pursuing that desire would be a conundrum. Years passed, my children began to have their own children, and the desire to have my issue become spiritually tethered to the land of their ancestors returned. This time, the house that was now a generational sanctuary was mine. I owned it and the acreage of land it sat on. So, I decided to build and dedicate my own pōhaku hānau, my own heiau, for birthing stones for the succeeding generations of my ʻohana. I gathered all the needed materials, but first, I picked out and dedicated the place on my land to the birthing of a new life. Then, the kinds of rocks I would need, which I would have to separate into flat stones, rounded ones, and oblong ones. Finally, I got the type of wooden four-by-four to build a frame bracing at a twenty-degree angle to keep all the weight of the stones centered in the middle. With everything in its place, the project was ready to start early the following day. I was up at four, having my coffee and a big breakfast because it would be a long day, and I needed the energy. By four-forty-five, the sun was coming up, and I was headed out the back door, eagerly following the path leading to the back of the property, which went right up to the edge of the tree line.

At first, I was upset because I thought I had encountered a group that had gathered to steal all the stones, which I painstakingly separated into different piles. It took a few seconds or even more to realize that these people were not here to steal anything; they were already building the pōhaku hānau without me. They were ancient spirits of the makaʻāinana, the ordinary everyday people of our past wearing malo, covered in sheens of perspiration, silently working together, arranging a stone here, adjusting another one there, and filling the gaps in between where it was needed. Was I stunned? Afraid? No, I was emotional; I cried tears of humble appreciation, realizing how small and insignificant I was in my present existence. I was nothing compared to my ancestors, who were attached to this land. I fooled myself into thinking I owned this place when I did not. I got down on my knees, bowed to them, and thanked them. When I looked up, they were gone, and my project of handset stones to dedicate the afterbirth of my grandchildren and their families yet to come was complete. How fortunate I was to see that the land to which these spirits were attached approved of the intention of my project and completed it for me.

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