Recently I witnessed the raw beauty of Earth and sky and a ceremony to greet them, and I remembered something vital about living on this planet.
I was spending a week in Hawaii, staying in a small cottage in the rainforest, just a few miles from Volcano National Park. The Halemaʻumaʻu Crater of Kilauea Volcano had erupted recently, and the owners of the B&B told me that, as soon as it got dark each night, hundreds of cars were entering the park to snail around the area where the lava glowed in the darkness.
I wanted to see the shimmering lava, but I didn’t want to share the experience with thousands of others, so I got up early and arrived just a few minutes after 4:00 AM. I was wandering around in the dark, trying to figure out where to go when a man emerged from his car and started walking purposefully. I asked him where to go to see the lava. “I’ll show you,” he said, so we walked along a path to a fence set far back from the rim of the crater.
Out of the dark Earth wafted pink, tangerine, and red plumes of steam and gas. They wove, shapeshifted, and drifted off in the fierce, cold wind toward the constellation Orion. In the east the delicate crescent of the waning moon was just rising. I decided I would bear witness there to Earth and sky until the sun rose.
It turned out that the man who had guided me, whose name was Roy, was a Native Hawaiian. We stood there together for almost two hours, not talking much, just watching, and he took lots of photographs (see above). He did tell me that he lived on Oahu, but he came to the Big Island “whenever Pele wakes up.” Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire and the creator of the Hawaiian islands. The steam rising out of the Earth looked to me like breath, whether the breath of Pele or the unquenchable life force of this planet.
As the sky began to lighten, Roy turned on an app of his phone, and a voice began singing. “This is the song we sing to greet the day,” he told me. He faced the east and played the song several times. At last the sun peeked through a tiny slot between the horizon and the low clouds that stretched all around in this place where, together, volcano and rainforest make their own weather. Roy and I said goodbye to each other and went to our separate cars to get warm.
We humans have done so much damage to our beautiful home in the universe. And yet, what I saw that morning was the fierce, burning power of the volcanic Earth and the ancient, untouchable stars. If we keep looking and listening, the Earth will always reveal her magic.