Feeling A Burning Mountain Falling Upon You
What it’s like to have Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano destroy your way of life
It is strange to have this fiery, seemingly enraged, black sea of burning rock pushing flame and poison air before it. No doubt you have seen some of the videos, the slow-moving terror seeming to almost sedate people who stand mesmerized and inactive while the monster red and black beast engulfs trucks, cars, forests, and even our homes and ways of life.
Along with that power, the thirsty magma carries more uncertainty each day. As the burning ooze becomes solid rock you can see your entire future change. You may not have this house, this neighbor, this job, this grove of bananas, pineapple, papaya, or coconuts. You may not have the little dreams, or the big dreams, or the little patch of paradise you planned. You may not have the same health, or son, or daughter or Ohana (family) because people move apart and drift away, like fragmented cinders pouring into the sea.
This week, neighbors in the Kapoho Beach Lots, and Kapoho Vacation Lands were ordered to evacuate. A one-way road was set up. What would you choose to rescue from your home if you had a very short time and no guarantee to ever return?
It is heart-wrenching and hard. The forests are burning, the birds’ nests, the hollow dens, the tiny ecosystems that sustain the soil, the huge and mighty Ohia and Mango trees, and each tiny leaf of grass.
What I see is the many hours spent loving planting those heart-burst red anthuriums, frilly hibiscus and timid orchids. I feel the endless pulling of sensitivity leaf plants with their thorny reminders of nature’s indifference. I sense a sadness for my mother’s dream of a more carefree retirement after more than fifty years of teaching. What I hear are the many saws, and chains, and blades, and pruning teeth that gnashed the ever-growing invasive foliage as we dug out a home from the jungle. What I taste is the salty ocean and hopes growing quiet as they are buried under solid rock or hiss into the sea.
I think of my little dreams amplified by thousands of dreamers, who are waking to a nightmare.
Eruptions are nothing new, around here. Pahoa and Puna were severely tested in recent years with lava flows that threatened the entire town of Pahoa. Then they mysteriously stopped just at the city edge. Nor is that the first, or last, flow we will see.
This time feels different. There is the usual confused, and uncertain, faces who truly do not know how long they may be without power, or water, or access, or food, or whether pets and livestock surrendered to foster homes will thrive there. This time, together with the dawning realizations of increased storms, hurricanes and water rise that climate change is delivering, and the useless offers of rescue from national government for “the forgotten no more.” On all sides we are struck as if by a miasma of toxic smoke.
When I awake, far away, on the Kona side, housed, fed, and entirely safe, I look out upon the ocean spread before me and watch the vog (volcanic smog) spread out like a grey wall. Yet, each tendril of that air seeps into every being that breathes. I catch the scent of lost dreams. Some were choked out by the gases. Some were cut up by the shards of microscopic glass called Pele’s hair. Some were just fogged out in the confusion. Some watched it all go up in flames. Some drove away, and others walked.
Some of those dreams will return. A volcano is God’s creation after all. There is no destruction without creation, and no creation without destruction. But, just for today, those dreams drifting away on the wind look dark. I dare not try to hold them, they are only dark wisps of everything we knew, blowing away, falling back to Earth as particulates that form raindrops first, and then, our tears.