Waiakauhi Pond will heal. We will too.

In the course of my own short lifetime, I believe that one of my most important lessons learned has been Sense of Place, the feel of a place, and perhaps more significantly, our feel for a place. I believe that our sense of place is as intrinsic to the quality of our lives as family, health, mindfulness and spirit, those oh so necessary elements of our personal well-being, because it’s about our sense of belonging somewhere.

I’ve also learned how fleeting sense of place can be, physically. Living through brush fire, earthquakes and tsunamis have been highly emotional chapters of my history, and they have taught me that not even that “solid earth beneath our feet” is long-lasting: It can change instantly, and dramatically.

Afternoon Reflections
1. Waiakauhi Pond, at Hualalai

I’ve been visiting our coastal areas these past three days, in the aftermath of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami which also reached our islands, realizing how much of our shoreline will no longer look the way it once did. It’s hard to explain why I feel so compelled to visit these places and see the damage, for mostly I just sit somewhere for a while and cry. All I can tell you is that it’s just what you do when these places have defined your home.

Like so many of you are experiencing, I’m sure, my emotions have felt like they’ve been shredded, tumbled in the surging waters. On the one hand, I cannot begin to imagine what the people of Japan are going through despite all the news coverage enabling us to share in it: To say so would be a lie, for their devastation is just too large to comprehend without being there, personally affected by it. On the other, I feel such a strong bond to them, for we both are island people. We understand how our earth must shift sometimes, and we know how a swell becomes not wave, but surge.

Beach erosion
2. Natural wave erosion at Uluweluwelu Bay, KÅ«ki‘o

Respect and unstoppable awe curbs any anger — and so completely, that gentle softening (that there’s no anger at all) feeling strange, and strangely right at the same time. But we are not stone; we’re human. We have to feel something… So I cry, and I pray, just letting both things happen, allowing myself to be human as feelings run the gamut without understood reason. I can’t control them, and I’ve stopped trying to. Giving in, just like our shoreline had to.

I started taking some photos of the damage, but I had to stop; they were too painful. Not sure what I would do with them anyway.

So these, instead, are photos of places as I’d captured them before Friday morning’s tsunami, knowing they will one day return to their beauty again, changed certainly, but resilient. For after all, I had taken them in a sense of place created for me, for us, after the tsunami of 1946sense of place starts again, and now.

Tropical stripes
3. ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay at Waikoloa

Heliotrope Row
4. Kikaua Point Park

Village roof lines
5. A hale at Kona Village Resort

Coconut grove at Ku‘uali‘i fishpond
6. Coconut grove at Ku‘uali‘i fishpond

Once upon a fishpond
7. The fishponds of Kona Village Resort

Lagoon reflections
8. Shoreline reflections at the Four Seasons Hualalai

Sunset Silhouette
9. Sunset at the Four Seasons Hualalai at Pahui‘a

Local request
10. Within the Milo Tunnel at ‘Anaeho‘omalu


  1. Anne says

    Thank you for your sharing your deep feelings, observations and beautiful pictures of your “place”… A new beauty will evolve from the tsunami’s affect…nature just does that by itself, especially when “it” caused it… Aloha

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you for being here with me Anne, as you so often, and generously are!

      True what you say about nature… I had those thoughts about the water as well, how the surge covers in a destructive clearing at first, but one calling for us to begin our own cleansing as we follow-up, helping nature however we can. It has been a bit eerie for me that I just wrote about that the Monday before the tsunami too, talking about the clearing we have here in our drylands, by fire.

      Can’t read too much into it though!

  2. says

    oh Rosa, I know how important that sense of place is to you and my heart is aching. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos of such stunning places instead of the damaged ones. I am crying with you.

    They will be restored. We’re 2 months on from our floods, and already the green is creeping back – covering the scars on river banks and beyond. I didn’t take photos of the mess, the flood at its height. Like you, I couldn’t. I think there is strength in remembering things as they were and holding that picture in trust for the future… a talisman of what will be again.

    For Mother Nature, she takes, yes, sometimes viciously, violently. Without prejudice. But she also gives. Bountifully. Beautifully.

    Thank you xxx

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Káren!

      I have thought of you often in these past 3 days, knowing that you have just experienced these things in the Queensland flooding – and at so much more personal a level than I! We live upland on the mountain slopes, so none of this has affected our house; we have not had to deal with the burden you have.

      What stands out from your words gifted here, is “without prejudice.” I think that’s what’s connected to the complete absence of anger for me. I can’t help but have another kind of anger though, created by those same newscasts we normally don’t watch… I’d tweeted this too, that

      “Saddened me before, but in the aftermath of natural disaster these past 2 days I can’t stomach news photos of man-made destruction in Libya.”

      For people to hurt each other when they don’t have to, becomes even more selfish and senseless, unfathomably and unforgivably so, when seen in comparison.

  3. says

    Such a difficult time, my friend, and yet you find the first of hope and the bare seeds of renewal, while feeling it all. What a blessing your spirit is, to hold the sadness while also seeing a further light…. Surely, our human wars and problems and our self-made pain stands out against the real landscape. Another friend has often said to me that these problems, whether natural disasters or the disasters we make for ourselves in our too small self-involved world, are all teachers.

    May we learn.

  4. Rosa Say says

    Update: People have asked me about the significance of Waiakauhi Pond ~ you know me too well, reading into my title as you are! I’m thinking about doing a follow-up post to explain a bit more, but meanwhile, these are good articles about the work marine biologist, and very good friend David Chai has done there:

    1. On Golden Pond, Hana Hou Magazine

    Chai had fallen into an anchialine pond, one of Hawai‘i’s most threatened and mysterious ecosystems. These seemingly landlocked bodies of brackish water are found along the Islands’ coastal lava flows, connected to the ocean via subterranean caves, tunnels, cracks and crevices. In the United States, these habitats exist only in the Hawaiian Islands, with the vast majority of the 700 or so ponds and pools found on the Big Island.

    2. Hawaii Island Biologists Restores Ancient Hawaiian Fishponds, Diane Ako for KHNL via HawaiiNewsNow

    Chai and his staff restored 14 ponds in the mid 90’s. The 2 ½ acre Waiakauhi is his crowning achievement. The fully restored fishpond tees with life. Native grasses fringe the perimeter, while indigenous Hawaiian fish swim occasionally burst through the surface with a jump or a fin. The early Hawaiians used the ponds, so Chai stocked this one with fish and shrimp like “awa, milkfish; mullet, ama ama; papio, aholehole, manini- all traditional Hawaiian fishpond fish.”

    In the middle of the pond are several islands, which Chai built for native birds like these endangered Hawaiian stilts. “Islands afford protection from mongoose, cats and rats. So they really need islands to be protected.”

    David also leads the stewardship efforts with the ponds at Kona Village.

    The Ku‘uali‘i fishpond pictured above in my post is the largest one at ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay at Waikoloa, and as happened at Waiakauhi, a significant portion of the sandbar protecting it was cut into by the tsunami surge this past Friday, opening the pond up to the sea.

    The significance of this, is that they essentially can no longer be considered true anchialine ponds which are defined as ponds with brackish water, having no surface connection to the sea, yet exhibiting tidal rhythms due to a subsurface connection through cracks and crevasses. Anchialine ponds are exposed portions of the groundwater table, and a window into the vast underground realm where virtually nothing is known about numerous creatures that inhabit the earth’s darkness below us. Rare and unique groups of aquatic creatures inhabiting this subterranean realm will come to the pools of the anchialine ponds to feed.

    There are more sites inbetween of course, but if I had ordered my post photos the way the shoreline proceeds from North to South, they would have appeared this way (numbers are as pictured above):
    ~ Waikoloa
    ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay at Waikoloa (3)
    Coconut grove at Ku‘uali‘i fishpond (6)
    Within the Milo Tunnel at ‘Anaeho‘omalu (10)
    ~ Kona Village
    A hale at Kona Village Resort (5)
    The fishponds of Kona Village Resort (7)
    ~ Hualalai
    Sunset at the Four Seasons Hualalai at Pahui‘a (9)
    Shoreline reflections at the Four Seasons Hualalai (8)
    Waiakauhi Pond, at Hualalai (1)
    ~ KÅ«ki‘o
    Natural wave erosion at Uluweluwelu Bay, KÅ«ki‘o (2)
    Kikaua Point Park, KÅ«ki‘o (4)

    I live in the ahupua‘a of Waikoloa, and much of the setting of my book, Managing with Aloha, was the ahupua‘a of Ka‘Å«pÅ«lehu, which includes Kona Village, Hualalai and KÅ«ki‘o, thus, my mana‘o.

    My most recent photos of our pond habitats were taken at KÅ«ki‘o in July and August of 2010, and you can see the full photo set on Flickr: KÅ«ki‘o Anchialine Ponds
    Click directly on any of the photos above, and you’ll be taken to the Flickr page it comes from… most are in other sets there.

    • Rosa Say says

      Oh, that comment means a lot to me Joe!
      Mahalo nui loa to you, for reading and for taking the time to speak here.