The Wall of Love

While living on the Big Island of Hawai`i, my brother, Kainoa Jr., mastered the art of building rock walls made with nothing more than lava stones. In his youth, he was befriended by a Tongan man, and his son, who lived in Kona. They shared secret methods, passed down through their descendants, to my brother, the Hawaiian.

 Kainoa's rock wall at Poho`iki in Puna, Hawaii.

Kainoa's rock wall at Poho`iki in Puna, Hawaii.

Eventually, he moved to Puna, to be closer to our parents, and the rest of the ohana. Under the hot Puna sun or the unrelenting Puna rain, my brother labored to lay rock upon rock, perfectly fitting them together joint by joint. His rock walls were smooth, straight and strong – formed by the talents of the flesh and mana of the spirit.

Most of his rock walls have been absorbed by the `aina. Lava liquified by lava, that hot molten mana of magma. Only one rock wall remains in Puna, which also happens to be, the last rock wall he ever built.

Perhaps you have seen Kainoa’s rock wall, wrapping around a little red house tucked inside the bay known as Pohoiki. In the past, when Uncle Hale kept watch over Pohoiki, the little red house was surrounded by a grove of coconut trees, lava rock and green grass. The landscape changed, as is always does in Hawai`i. All the same, that little red house has weathered the tests of time.

Before leaving for the mainland, Kainoa knew that it was time to gift a rock wall, in honor of our dad, to our ohana. The coconut trees had fallen, one by one. The grass became worn thin, trampled down by a fresh wave of tourists who didn’t understand what it means to malama the `aina. Too many dirty diapers had been left to rot along the shores of Pohoiki. Too many plastic bottles found their way to the ocean. For the first time, the little red house needed the protective embrace of a rock wall.

In my brothers words, “Long before I offered to build the rock wall, or they asked to, I knew inside my heart it was the right thing to do.”

So, he called his friend, Nuku, saying, “I need to build another rock wall, for Love.” When he pulled into Pohoiki. Nuku was already there, preparing their gear. Weeks went by while my brother worked one side of the rock wall as Nuku worked on the other side. They worked this way until my brother was hurt, loosing the use of one arm. Nuku still came to work, and my brother still came to work. My brother knew that he could function with one arm, just like our dad.

When the work was finally pau, the ohana collected a little bit of money and tried to pay my brother. But he said, “No! Go pay Nuku. He is the one with a wife and three kids.”

Soon after, the economy crashed. There were no more jobs for rock wall builders like Nuku and Kainoa. A couple months later, my brother left for the mainland which began a new journey. There, he has remained except for in his dreams.

This is what he dreamt at the beginning of the month of May, in the year 2018.

“In the first dream I was at Pohoiki, standing on the outside of my rock wall facing Uncle Hale’s house. I turned to see the lava coming. I could hear people. I could hear the crying and wailing of many voices as the lava came closer and closer.
In the second dream I was at Pohoiki, once again, standing on the outside of my rock wall facing Uncle Hale’s house. Looking toward mauka, I could see both the house and the lava flow as I turned my head left to right. Again, I heard people crying but this time they were saying to me, “Tell the flow to stop.” The flow was fast-moving; I stayed and prayed for as long as I could. Then, someone came and scooped me up. When I looked back the lava was inches from the wall.”