Sunday, October 21, 2012

Volcano Dreams

"I can't believe we flew all the way to Hawaii to hike," J muttered. (He was kidding. I think.)

I gazed up at the undulating, rough lava flank of Mauna Loa. "We can turn back if it gets too awful," I promised. We both knew it would have to get pretty awful for us to turn around.

The lava fields of Mauna Loa.

Ha, ha.
We had left for Hawaii the day that B. killed himself. I needed something like this hike to take my mind out of the groove it seemed stuck in. It's difficult to explain. I sometimes think of friends as being like circles spiraling inward. Your closest friends are on the inner circles, and others spin around on outer ones. Friends can move in and out of these circles like phases of the sun, and B. was on an outer circle, kept there by the chronic travel demanded by his job and something else, something under his skin, maybe the very thing that caused him to pull the trigger. Still, in the weeks before he died, he was reaching out to people in the only way he knew how, and none of us recognized it. There would be plenty of time in the winter, I always thought. I felt like I let him down; I knew what it was like to be alone and sad in a small town. I played it over and over in my head like a record on an old turntable.

So this trip seemed frivilous, but it turned out to be something I needed: to scramble over tricky lava in dripping heat, to snorkel for hours during an inshore swell that made the sea feel like a muscle. There was no lounging in hammocks for us. Of course, there wouldn't have been anyway.

A beach you have to work to get to.

The most perfect beach ever. You have to hike to it.

The best part of the trip was at dark, staring into the glow of the new lava lake, a vent opened up on the volcano in 2008. It looked like a distant fire from a mile away. We could hear the thunder of rocks splitting in the heat as the lava rose to its greatest height recorded so far. It was primal and raw, creation and destruction.  Life beginning, life ending.
This is what the lava lake looks like (the Park wouldn't let us this close so I took this from


  1. Hawaii's a good place to heal the spirit and soul. There is such a soothing energy, isn't there? And your beach looks like our beach from this past summer. I loved that beach. I miss it terribly.
    When we were in Kona there were white rock formations along the lava rocks spelling out people's names and messages. Maybe a tribute to B? At twilight the white rocks almost glowed, as if they were ghostly. Very powerful.
    Take care, and have fun.

  2. I have just left my first season in Glacier Park, and I'm back in my hometown. "Sad and alone in a small town" is something I am fighting. Working to see the beauty in my Appalachian home. It's been a success so far. I lost one of my best friends 8 years ago yesterday, to a wreck on the interstate. I think when a person passes, all their love is dispersed to the people they knew in life. Thanks for all your posts, I'm enjoying going through to see what I've missed since I went out to MT! 'Permanent Vacation' remains a favorite, especially with this first season under my belt.


Hello out there. If you liked this post, please leave a comment so I keep writing!