What I Am Learning Living on an Erupting Volcano: Do Not Fear the Cracks in Your Heart

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She told me, stand in the fire of the sacred feminine. She told me, stand and know that you are worthy. She told me, stand and know that you are all of creation. Never doubt or grovel or shame yourself. You are the fire of life. Do not fear the cracks in the road. Do not fear the cracks in your heart. Stand in the fire of the sacred feminine. Purify your courage with the light of your soul. You are everything. You are me. We are one.

~

I drove last night the 118 miles to where the lava has been exploding, oozing, overpowering, engulfing, destroying, creating, mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and renewing this island we call the Big Island for the last 90 some days.

If you did not know, the island is big. I am 118 miles away and I am only midway to the farthest point of the island. A nearly 14,000 ft shield volcano stands between me and the eruption, the Long Mountain, Mauna Loa.

What I do feel, daily, is the vog, a sulfur dioxide elixir blown around the southern tip of the island, which nestles against our own volcano, one of five that comprise the island of Hawaii, Hualalai.

As I drive along the slopes of Mauna Loa, green and verdant and full of life, I feel like I am falling through geological time. The time it takes for raw lava, raw creation, to grow the layers and depths of soil, roots, grasses, weeds, trees. Of erosion to allow for irrigation, building, planting, blossoming. I am driving towards Kilauea and its flanks, the newest land on earth, going backwards. Grassland disappearing. Trees thinning. Colors fading.

It gets rawer, edgier, chunkier, rougher. I know this landscape from many trips to Volcanoes National Park, where I have been awed and blessed and humbled by powers that feel immediately core, divine, otherworldly. Where I have peered through portals of science and the sacred, which are not so far apart as they seem.

Now, an armed guard stands at the entrance of the national park.

Because inside, the park is different. The caldera, where I have made offerings and stood in awe of creation, seen the glow and heard the hiss of the lava lake, is enormous. It has collapsed, continues to collapse, expunging its lava deep through the earth’s channels into the rift zone 40 miles away. My destination.

I feel a sudden spinning as I pass the summit and its caldera, a counterclockwise vortex. I can feel the energy swirling all around me and through me. The feminine, releasing vortex. The energy that is usually held at the summit is swirling and spinning up, and her seat, her power, is somewhere else.

My phone keeps registering the earthquakes in the area. 3.6, 3.3, 3.9. Yesterday, there was a 5.3 that I felt in Kona, some 80 miles from the summit, undulating beneath me.

I stop for dinner in Volcano Village. Thai Thai Restaurant is brightly lit and ready for business, calling in the few tourists, the economy also struggling for air in the cloud of the eruption.

As I eat, I notice hundreds of trinkets lining shelves around the restaurant. I ask the waitress if they withstand the earthquakes? Yes, she says, for some reason they do. Then she describes to me the different qualities of the quakes she feels — dozens in a day — some shaking and rocking, some like waves. I cannot quite tell how she feels about this intimacy.

It is dark and rainy as I descend from the summit, 4000 feet, on my way to sea level, where the volcano now pours forth rivers of lava, flowing into and under the sea.

Road signs and cones warn of fault zones and damaged roads. An ominous “do not stop for the next 12 miles” guides me through a slalom of cones and metal plates, freshly patched cracks that keep opening and opening. One reason I am on this road, at this moment, is because there is a chance that Highway 11, the conduit that passes by the entrance of Volcanoes National Park, might fail. They do not know how long they can sustain the patching, and if the whole highway might become destabilized. I love this highway and need to be on it again.

The rain intensifies as I pass through small towns that have become familiar to me from the lava maps. Kurtistown, safe. Orchidland Estates, safe. Ainaloa, safe. And close in on Pahoa Village, the hub of food and commerce in the area which has been hardest hit by the eruption. Entire communities surrounding this village have been swallowed by lava. Homes, gone. Lush forest, farmlands, pasture lands, orchid farms, glorious trees, gone, some under 30 feet of lava, flows still building and billowing and breaking through new channels. Surf spots, gone, parks, gone. Schools, gone. Animals, sea life, gone.

I am back, nearly, to the beginning of time.

I turn and finally see the glow. My heart breaks into a million particles, trying to assimilate what I am seeing and feeling. The GLOW, the glory, just the hint on the horizon that I should right this minute pull my car over and fling myself to the earth in supplication. The scope of it, the penetration of pink and orange into the dark night, rising up higher and stronger than I could have imagined. I honestly cannot recognize the emotions welling through my body. They seem important, of the times, and indescribable.

The roads to the lava are guarded by police and barricades. Even residents do not have access. To see the source first hand requires a boat or a helicopter, but I don’t need to be much closer. The luminescence is everything.

I come to the end of the road where Kapoho and its glorious tide pools once warmed and glowed, and the barricaded road turns me around.

I take a turn and find myself at a parking lot for community springs, fresh water for Puna, though I do not know anymore if the water is safe to drink. What captivates me is the treescape. The billowing orange and pinks. The rain has suddenly stopped and I stand in puddles at a sacred spring, this scene rising before me.

I have brought flowers for Pele. I have been taught that the offering is from our hearts. That it is sincerity that matters more than the “right” gift. I am wishing I knew more, was more, in that moment. I am on my knees by my truck, mouth agape and heart trying to form the words.

I feel the instruction to rise. That there is no need to kneel. That we do not kneel.

I still cannot put words to my words. I hear myself say gratitude, but none of the letters are big enough. I am standing in the heart of creation. I feel images and feelings and ignitions on a cellular level but I cannot come up with language.

The smell, the burnt-ness, mixed with the wet and the mulching of the soil and leaves beneath my feet, it is just too many things to take in. It is the end and the beginning and everything in between. It is what we are, what we can be. I feel tears that I do not know how to name, fullness and elation and loss and release and the intensity of birth and a strange fullness of joy in grief, and I feel my humility well.

Once again, I am brought into my heart, its particles forming back now, infused with something new, and guided out of humility into…connection. Into stewardship. Of each other. Ourselves. All that we are.

My offering complete, I get back in my truck, reluctant to leave, reluctant to unplug from this power source. I drive around awhile longer on the black roads, pierced by occasional floodlights from emergency shelters, roadblocks, officers, all the while the glow and its particle perfection vibrating through my being.

Then, suddenly, I have to pull over, and write this down, as it keeps repeating, words finally forming.

These same words, I share with you, again.

She told me, stand in the fire of the sacred feminine. She told me, stand and know that you are worthy. She told me, stand and know that you are all of creation. Never doubt or grovel or shame yourself. You are the fire of life. Do not fear the cracks in the road. Do not fear the cracks in your heart. Stand in the fire of the sacred feminine. Purify your courage with the light of your soul. You are everything. You are me. We are one.

And it is done.

I turn my truck towards the 118 mile drive home, grab chocolate for the road, and drive into the deep dark night, knowing, trusting, that we are changing. That we are here. I am not sure what happens next.

But whatever it is, we are one.

 

 

Sheila GallienComment