Something Is Happening
There is a plant in my room here at the church. It was there when I arrived. Not knowing much about plants, I took a look at how it seemed to be surviving (with water) and I kept it up. I added water to it, kept it in the spot in my room where it was thriving, and just kind of liked looking at it.
Two weeks ago, I was reading the book Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawaii by Jon M. Van Dyke as part of an ongoing process of learning more about the lands upon which this building where I live rests. As I read, a friend who has lived here on this island for more than fifteen years stopped by to visit. I told him what I was reading and why…and he laughed. He explained that what I wanted to know was not in a book. He said that what I really wanted to know was in the stories of those whose roots are deep in this land, those who know this land in ways I can’t comprehend. And he added, “I mean someone who has a kalo plant in his room would know that.”
My friend took me to visit sacred religious sites in the Nu’uanu Valley and told me to give the books a rest for now. We visited some of the historic sites nearby that hold so much of the story of this land’s rulers. And all of this was in search of more stories about the physical land. And in conversations with our neighbors, my friend and I were directed to a loí, a place that cultivates kalo, hidden back in a neighborhood just on the other side of Nu’uanu from the sacred royal burial grounds.
It was over the course of the next two hours, receiving the unspeakably generous gift of a tour of the loí, that something began to happen. Something new to me, but older than any time I have known, began to take root while listening to the ways that this loí shapes the minds, the hearts, and the bodies of those who visit it. We heard of hula danced by daughters of this ‘aina next to where the water flows over the roots of the kalo. We heard of sons of this ‘aina helping parents to move the earth in ways that makes growing the kalo possible. We heard stories of family, of generation, of connection, all rooted in the ancient ‘aina yet flourishing anew.
When Wakea and Papa conceived a child, they waited and longed for the arrival of their beloved Haloa. But tragically, Haloa was stillborn. After he was laid to rest in the land, his mother wept with tears so great that they watered his place of slumber until a plant came forth from the earth. With its leaves shaped like a heart grown around a mother’s teardrop, the kalo plant links the ‘aina to those it shelters and feeds—its actual family.
There is so much—so, so much—I don’t know. I didn’t even know what that plant was in my room, I must confess. But what I know now is that earlier this week, when the kalo plant in my room, for the first time, grew a tiny, new precious shoot and leaf, I shed a tiny, new precious tear in gratitude.
Mahalo for all of you, my family.