Tag Archives: volcanoes

Pinkerbell

“I’m coming, too!” I call to the Bearded One who is spraying his tanned shins with mosquito repellant out where the truck is usually parked.

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It’s between rain showers and I can’t go swimming this Monday morning because the truck is in the shop. The Bearded One just got his hat and stick and sunglasses for his morning walk, so I decide to join him on my new bike that I got for Mother’s Day – Pinkerbell.

“Yay!” he calls back and waves his walking stick. Lots of pit bulls on the Big Island.

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It’s 9:30am, 68 degrees. It’s also Mt. St. Helens Day, I see in our Hawaii Tribune Herald. Thirty-five years ago today Mt. St. Helens blew, and I was in Seattle, just a hundred miles away. In church. Now I’m living less than 25 miles from Mt. Kilauea, currently active and rumbling – 25 earthquakes up there this weekend. Our daughters, one of whom is pregnant and had a baby shower on Saturday, still live in Seattle. I fly to the mainland, as we say here, late next month to welcome this grandchild, whose sex remains unknown.

I check the Magic Number – the solar battery read-out in the guest room – 85%. Excellent. This is the best of off-grid life. The sun charges the solar batteries and we don’t have to run the propane generator, and the rain keeps the catchment tank full. The solar system got some needed fine-tuning last week, and we’ve reached 100% every day since.

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I walk through the tiny hallway of our 900 square foot 2-story Hippie House into the den and admire the working sliding glass door and the windows full of green and yellow light. The crocus looks like it’s on fire.

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I step out onto the newly finished lanai. There’s the washer and dryer. And there’s Pinkerbell, dry under the new tin roof, ready for a spin.

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Pinkerbell has a kickstand. As well as a basket, 7 gears, wide tires and seat, and is the hottest shade of pink outside of a lipstick tube. We bought her at Target, select Schwinns on sale 25% off, and paid $180 including tax and my Hawaii Bike License ($15) which will come in the mail.

My sister named her, although my brother came up with some good ones, too. My brother and I rode our bikes everywhere growing up in Houston, Texas in the 1960s. My bike was a blue Cruiser, a lot like Pinkerbell. His was a bit smaller and red.

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I’ve ridden Pinkerbell every day since I brought her home on Mother’s Day. I rode her to the labyrinth last week and wowed the women. “Whose Schwinn!?” one of them cried out on sight. I ride my fairy bike up and down our rode a couple of times a day, inhaling the ocean breeze, looking at the vast sky.

Nala blocks me as I wheel the bike down the lanai, then lies on the step and meows. “Shoo,” I say. Nala sleeps outdoors now. Unlike in Seattle, there are no coyotes or raccoons here to kill outdoor cats. Nala will be a year old next month and she is a great hunter and companion, even if she won’t stay in your lap for 5 seconds.

Smoke’s in the air. Our 80-year-old neighbor starts his fireplace whenever it gets below 70 degrees. The Bearded One collects wood for him as he works the farmlet, spreading cinder soil over the lava, pruning the Monkeypod tree,

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cultivating the pineapples (100+ yummy white ones),

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transplanting palms and boosting the compost on the bananas. I wheel Pinkerbell around the house, past the huge mango that rains down mangos when the trade winds come, past the barbecue that’s already rusted, into the yard where the truck usually sits.

A huge dove crashed into it yesterday and busted the sunroof out of its weld. The Bearded One heard it from inside the house and saw the wounded dove, seemingly the size of a small turkey, and its mate fly off. “A great way to use up a chunk of bad luck,” he said.

We head out to the road, me pedaling slowly, the Bearded One marching his happy walk, swinging his stick.

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We meet neighbors and dogs, everyone waves. The Rottweilers croon, the dog named Shane barks and wags hello, and the old man named Richard waves from his lanai with his dog JC. On our way back, a neighbor comes out to the road to introduce us to Kula, a silky soft 9-week-old Golden/Border Collie mix. “We got her at the Humane Society, half price off on all yellow dogs!”

The Bearded One and I don’t want a dog now. Or chickens. Or goats. Just a cat and each other.  We go to the Maku’u Farmer’s Market on Sundays to get eggs and produce and farm honey, and a pizza for him. For now, we’re buying our meat at the grocery store in Pahoa, pasture raised beef, no factory chickens – until we go to Hilo and the Bearded One has to get chicken strips at Safeway. Along with sushi.

I think about these things as I ride my bike over the cinder gravel road, past the new construction.

There are 6 houses going in on our mile-long road. They poured the concrete foundations for two of the kit houses (roughly 1000 sq ft on 1 acre for $200,000) this past weekend. Tiny houses, indistinguishable from the Bearded One’s and my first rental in Seattle 20 years ago.

I get home before the Bearded One, park Pinkerbell back on the lanai and head in. Magic Number? 87%! Such a life.

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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.