Monday, September 3, 2012


You may have heard the saying that "pride goes before a fall", but I think there are times when that old saying just isn't true. Samuel is the example that comes to mind. I have probably never met a person with pride like Samuel before, and I may never meet another like him again.

Almost a year ago now, in November, Syd and I visited the big island of Hawaii for the first time ever. It was the experience of a lifetime, and we made the trip with dear friends  we've known for over 40 years, Donna and Gerry. D & G had been to Hawaii many times, and so planned most of our itinerary, which was awesome - lots of sightseeing, with plenty of rest and relaxation, good food, and wonderful places to stay and visit. Toward the end of our time there, we were wandering in the Kailua-Kona area. It is a beautiful place right on the ocean, with a bustling waterfront street full of shops and people, and a beautiful sea wall. After walking out of the core area of activity, we came across an ancient restoration site which had been closed to the public with yellow tape strung between posts pounded into the soft grass, and a closed metal gate where you would usually go through to view the grounds. We walked around a bit, and watched as others peered through the bars of the locked gate. As we were standing on the pathway, a person came from the site area and invited us to enter - to step over the tape and come to see what was on the other side. This person was Samuel, the only one who could give us permission to enter. Samuel is the honored restoration master of one of the holiest places in all of Hawaii: Ahuena Heiau.
Samuel - portrait
9" x 12" charcoal on grey paper 
Heiau is the word for ancient Hawaiian temples where worship took place. The priest of the temple would communicate with the gods, and advise the chief what was revealed to him. Sacrifices, rituals and prayer also took place at the heiau. Ahuena Heiau was built in 800 A.D., and now sits directly behind the King Kamehamha Hotel. The thatched structure was the king's retreat, with its doorway concealed by a smaller guardhouse. This platform allowed one to see any threat coming in Kailua Bay. Apparently, King Kamehamha died on this site on May 8th, 1819. 

 Ahuena Heiau is such holy site that only Samuel is allowed to go across the little breakwater that connects the rock platform which juts into the bay to the mainland. He alone is allowed to enter the buildings and work on their restoration, which he has been in the process of for over 11 years now.
Samuel is a person of average height, but he is lean, sinewy and muscular. His age is hard to determine as he looks both old and not-so-old at the same time. His face is wrinkled, and his long hair is shockingly white, but he has the strength and physique of a younger man. Under his thick black eyebrows he has very dark eyes...eyes which his smile did not quite reach most of the time. Every inch of Samuel sang with pride. He was a master in his craft, was honored above others, and had a position of religious significance. He has a small living space in a hut on the beach area, and when he was not working, he either sat in his chair or cooked and relaxed in his little building. 

Although you will find that visitor guides say the site is fully restored, that is no longer accurate. A recent flood from a tsunami destroyed much of Samuel's hard work, which he had to begin over again once the waters receded. He has once again repaired the main building, and is working on the other structures you see here. It is amazing that these buildings last so long when they are made with such elementary materials. It takes a craftsman to do this work all by himself.

After Samuel had invited us to step over the tape, I asked if I could take his picture as I was an artist who would enjoy doing his portrait. Samuel was suspicious, but agreed to having some photos taken. He would not accept any money when offered. Instead, Samuel gave us a history lesson in who he was, and what his purpose in life is. It was such an interesting experience, meeting Samuel. He is a person who knows his value, knows his craft, and is filled with pride in doing the work he feels his gods have called him to, and blessed him with. Samuel's pride is not so much in himself, but in the service he is able to give to his people, and to each person who visits this site. Oh that each of us would be able to say that about our attitude and work!

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