Not That Volcano

The Bearded One smells it first. “Sulfur,” he says. The 2000 degree Fahrenheit lava is only a few miles west of the highway now.

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His Majesty is driving, the Bearded One is shotgun, and I’m in the back with the gas cans. We’re on Highway 130 leaving Pahoa, 7-8 miles from our house, and going south toward Kalapana, where lava last crossed the highway back in the 1980s. We’re taking His Majesty back to Kalani Retreat Center where he works in the kitchen and teaching yoga, and imagining what it might be like in the next few weeks if Mt. Kilauea’s June 27th flow makes it this far and cuts off all of south Puna from civilization.

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I look out at the scraggly ohia trees lining the 2-lane highway as it winds downhill 10 miles to the ocean. Warm wind blows my frizzy hair and I, too, get a whiff of rotten eggs, the sulfur dioxide that surrounds flowing lava and pollutes the air downwind. Vog, they call it. It lasts less than a minute as we pass through it at 60 mph.

“Peee—yew!” I say loudly over the wind and wait for His Majesty to smile. Which he does. It’s what we said every time we passed the pulp mill in Everett, Washington.

I remember the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. This is not that volcano. I was 23 years old and had just moved to Seattle the year before. Some people in Seattle heard the colossal bang that Sunday morning, but I was in church.

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It went off like a nuclear bomb. This one is more nearly a determined trickle, a relentless march to the sea.

Highway 130 veers and I see the immense ocean ahead, dark blue, defining the horizon at an impossibly high level. We are descending the one currently active shield volcano on the planet, Mt. Kilauea (Kill-uh-Way-uh). One of low elevation but massive girth, shaped like a warrior’s shield lying on the ground. One currently riddled with lava tubes and streams of oozing lava that take 5 years to cool. The word Kilauea means “spreading” or “much spewing” in Hawaiian. And, culturally speaking, Kilauea also happens to be the body and home of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes.

We get to the bottom and the Wizard of Oz sign that actually says, “END OF THE ROAD.”

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You can see the barren twenty year old pahoehoe lava fields in the distance. Pahoehoe lava is smooth and swirly and looks like intestines. It’s heavy and dense. A’a lava, lightweight and full of air bubbles, is the rough, spiky kind that’s 10 miles in the other direction, at Kapoho, from the 1960 flow.

His Majesty turns onto the Red Road and it’s just 5 more miles to Kalani. He spent the previous day at a training for emergency workers (CERT), one of 15 from Kalani. We talk about the community meetings and the newspaper articles about evacuation and blocking or bombing the lava flow.

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The native Hawaiian community is against these as being violations of Pele’s will. The scientists agree that stopping or even attempting to redirect the flow is dubious at best.

The ocean sparkles and the layers of blue mesmerize. I feel grateful to be riding in this truck with the Bearded One, who turns 59 this week, and His Majesty, who is the same age I was when I married his father, 23, and who has his father’s eyebrows, calm temperament and math brain. We three have moved to an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

We hear the Kalani campus before we arrive. It’s the Ecstatic Dance program they sponsor every Sunday morning. The music is rocking the large EMAX building that’s usually a yoga venue. We wave to the attendants, park and hug His Majesty good-bye. I watch the Ecstatic Dancers for a few minutes while the Bearded One buys us organic sandwiches.


The young bodies gyrate and pulse in the heat, I am struck by their beauty and intensity, but I have no interest in joining in. I’m literally in the second volcanic eruption of my life – this is as ecstatic as I get.

26 responses to “Not That Volcano

  1. I laughed out loud at your closing remark 🙂 Yes, this I completely understand! I sigh when I read of the [arrogant] attempts by ‘men of learning’ to divert, bomb, block or other wise control the will of Pele 🙂

    In reply to your earlier question, that I never got around to responding to [was it on fb?] We have several active volcanoes in this country – couple of them have been on high alert recently. Our history is littered with big bangs as well as earthquakes. The last big eruption was about 15 years ago and we lost a friend in that one. The middle of the North Island, around Rotorua smells permanently of rotten eggs – there are dozens of bubbling mud pools there and some spectacular scenic walks – it’s a top tourist spot – here are some images if you are interested

    Stay safe xoxo

    • Aloha Pauline and wow, I am so sorry to hear you lost a friend in a volcanic eruption. And those pictures of mud pools look downright spa-like. Thanks for the link. I agree about trying to control lava flows…nuts. They actually bombed Mauna Loa (huge volcano next to Kilauea) lava flows in 1935 and 1942. Here’s an article about the attempts. Hugs from Hawaii xxoo

      • Your man Harry Kim sees to have the right response to the crazy proposals – I like what he said about not believing all the Hollywood hype and the volcano just stopping and the wall idea ……… one of the great crazy ideas surely 😀 I feel so strongly that when we are kinder to nature, she will be kinder to us – but it is such a hippy la-la way of thinking to folk who have no spiritual appreciation of our bond with the planet. Sounds like you need more Harry Kim’s over there [and maybe here too] We live on the Ring of Fire and that means we sometimes shake and sometimes blow! 🙂 We get to see nature’s extraordinary beauty every day and experience her terrible wrath on occasion. Stay safe xoxo

  2. Volcaones and earthquakes are fascinating, aren’t they? So long as we aren’t too close, of course . . . I heard Mt; St. Helens erupt in ’80; I was sitting outside on a hillside next to the old log house, meditating. We’d been listening to the build-up on the battery radio, but I didn’t connect it until I heard about it on the news that evening. I’d no idea they could be heard so far off.

    I can’t believe that anyone would even consider bombing the lava flow to change its course; doesn’t anyone think before they start planning these things? I think Nature would do a whole lot better if we would get ourselves in tune and work with her, instead of these futile attempts to control everything. Crazy!

    I suppose if the flow does shut off the road, people will have to find other ways to get around. Maybe you will need a boat . . . 🙂 ~ Linne

    • Aloha Linne! You were meditating and I was singing a hymn on that Sunday morning almost 35 years ago now. Wow. I was student teaching and the kids came in on Monday talking about the darkness on the east side of the mountains and the ASH! Inches of it on the road and everywhere. I didn’t know there were kinds of volcanoes, and now I do. Today the lava turned north. It’ll be interesting to watch~! Hugs and love, Christi

  3. To be with the earth and the ocean and all that bubbles up. Thank you, Christi.

  4. Fabulous illustrations, Bearded One! My tap and shower water’s been smelling like sulfur for over a month now. You think??

  5. Christine Widman

    The power of nature.
    On your island you are sitting on a piece of earth that could spread oozing hot lava & cover everything.
    Here – in the desert – we are on a piece of earth where we could drown or die from lack of water.
    The monstrous monsoons here made the NYTimes this morning. Photos of cars caught on I-10 in Phoenix with water up to & beyond their windows.
    Den was out photographing early yesterday morning and when the sky started to open up, I wondered where on earth – where on what earth, my love was on. Mountain creeks – which have been dry from the drought – turned into torrents of roaring rivers.
    He came home drenched but safe and sound.
    Life is a crazy dance.
    The earth can bring ecstasy in its beauty and its power and in its utter stillness.
    I often join the dance.
    But then I have days like today – where all the power of pouring heavens finally subdues me.

    • Aloha Christine. Yikes, I saw those monsoon flood pictures on the computer news and was boggled that so much water was in the desert. Such extremes. Good to hear that Den got home and with some terrific pictures as usual, I hope. Peace to you as well, my soul sister. xxoo

  6. Glad all is well with you Christi 🙂 I’m always excited to read what happens next on your little place on the earth. Love Keith’s pictures but I wonder why he draws himself without his beard?

  7. Your words are strung together like a fine necklace that I can’t stop looking at. The light reflecting off of each gem, enhancing the craftsmanship with natural beauty. It’s not just how you write, it’s what you notice and write about. Hawaii is not lost on you and the BO and is lucky to have such attentive observers. As I told Leslie, I save several entries of your blog before diving in. We laughed at my being a “blog hog” More please. Ross

    • This has got to be the nicest comment on my writing that I’ve ever received. I choked up reading it, and then recovered quickly so that I could read it out loud — very loud — to the Bearded One who was upstairs at the time. Mahalo from my heart to yours, Ross. xxoo Hawaii is magical, and I hope you get to live here some day, too. 🙂

  8. Holy mackerels Ms Christi, looks like it’s gonna blow BIGTIME! How exciting to be living on the cusp and to be ferrying His Majesty to his retreat whilst considering lava flows…how very different to your old life that is now pale in the background as Hawaii pulsates vitally in your veins. Love your new life, love you :). Keep safe Ms Christi and happy birthday to the B.O. 🙂

    • Aloha Fran, it is all very exciting. I was ready to move from Olalla, but had no idea it was lava in my veins. 🙂 The B.O. got his birthday present in the mail yesterday, so he’s happy. A book, of course. Either that or a tool, and he’s happy. Hugs to you in warming Sidmouth!

  9. What a brave and exciting adventure!
    Thanks for teaching us all this cool stuff!

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