Tag Archives: Kalani Retreat Center

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.

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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.

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He is whistling and wearing a brown wide-brimmed hat, shorts and sandals. It’s our twenty-something son, aka His Majesty, who is now living in Puna, too, and was just dropped off at our house after hiking at the ocean with 20 other yoga enthusiasts he works with at Kalani Retreat Center, a 40 minute drive south of here. He looks like a hippie.

“Hey, Dude!” shouts the Bearded One from the lanai where he has laid out the gillion pieces of our new barbecue His Majesty has blessedly agreed to assemble.

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I look out the kitchen window and scream, “He’s here!” as if this is the Second Coming of Jesus Himself. It could just be this week, but there’s sure a lot of religion on this island. Native Hawaiians are a spiritual people, and so are the Japanese and Filipinos who live here. Whites or haoles are a minority. There is a small church of some kind on every other corner in Hawaiian Paradise Park.  Nothing big.

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On Tuesday, I meet Emily Naeole in the laundromat, candidate for County Council and as she says, “on a mission from God.”

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She is my age, 57-years-old, native Hawaiian, and full of the Holy Spirit. We talk story a bit, and then we hug and say goodbye before she starts praying with a spiritual hippie couple our ages who we met earlier.

We go to the grocery store and an elderly Japanese man helps me find a coffee dripper cup, and when I laugh and use the word “lucky”, he is horrified. “No luck,” he says and points up. It was God, is all I can understand. But he is adamant.

I finish our neighbor Jim’s novel and return it to him with compliments for his story and spunk. It turns out he is not only a survivalist and a 79-year-old first time novelist, but also a minister of the Ten Commandments and contributes daily on Christian websites.  His truck bumper stickers proclaim his religious beliefs plainly.

Then there are the so-called Punatics — the army of hippies young and old who are socially active for Mother Nature in Puna. The hot issues I’ve detected so far are GMOs and Geothermal energy. Marijuana is illegal, but widely used and minimally prosecuted. Political signs show lots of young politicians. One of the WWOOFers at the farm we stayed at for seven weeks is a Rasta. He actually cut his calf-length dreads while we were there. Fifteen years of growth. He will never ever cut his long beard, though.

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Spiritual seekers really do seem to congregate here.

“Hi, Sweetie,” I say and give His Majesty a huge hug.  He takes off his hat and he’s sunburned, except for his head which is just short of shaved bald.

I cut up a white pineapple,

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which the Bearded One harvested earlier from our acre where there are hundreds, and which our neighbor Jim says are so good you can eat the core.  I agree with him on this.

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The three of us talk on the lanai and munch and watch hundreds of giant black carpenter bees hover around the nearby dead tree that is their palace.  Like flying ping-pong balls. They’re a tropical island bee and not aggressive to humans, just to wood.  We watch them a lot.  “It’s a Zen thing,” says the Bearded One.

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We tell all our news – plans to cut new windows upstairs with Tom on Thursday,

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ordering the water catchment tank, the delay of delivery of the thin-film solar panels and the big generator for the solar batteries until mid-July, and the successful installation last weekend of the Eccotemp tankless propane hot water heater which works great.

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His Majesty will have a shower later, he says. After he assembles the barbecue.

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But before the barbecue, we go back inside and he lays a big baggie of Kalani granola — he works in the kitchen — on the counter for me and starts doing yoga on the kitchen floor. He tells me about teaching his first yoga classes.

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Seven people came to one of his 6am classes. They all liked it, he says, and are spreading the word.