We here on the Big Island - as others around the world now too - are watching in awe, horror and sadness as Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano, marches her molten walk through the community of Pahoa. It is indeed a big island; I live far, far away from that and am quite safe, but we who live here feel a kinship with our neighbors. We all hoped and prayed it would stop or change direction, as it can and has been known to do, since it started this past June.
But now, as it has indeed reached the town itself, I can't stop thinking about it. In particular, the lava recently crossed over the 100-year old cemetery down there, covering the headstones, statues and burial places. What are families going to do now? People who have lost their loved ones must bear this next loss now too. My heart goes out to them. Grief compounded. Buried twice. Markers lost forever.
Many lives are now going to have to change. Important roads and access are now breached. Homes, schools, pastureland, gardens and businesses are threatened, and another beautiful corner of this lovely place will be eternally buried under the slow but unstoppable fiery rock.
Driving home today I was thinking how all the islands were formed this way. One day many hundreds or thousands of years ago, even the road I was driving on was molten, hot and steaming. Not an inch of the place I live is free of the experience. Because of the lava, Hawaii exists. Destructive - and yet also creative.
I realized that the lava reminds me of the process of grief. It is unstoppable, searing, and can bring unwanted changes and terrible destruction to our lives. And eventually, unfortunately, it will touch most, if not all people, somehow. It is unavoidable, because everyone dies. But generations pass, and the world continues being created, changed; morphed into its new being.
Many of the residents of Pahoa are facing Madame Pele with a grim calm and resignation. Such is the nature of life on a volcanic island. I imagine there will be a period of grief for them, as they will mourn the loss of the way things used to be. That sounds familiar. Many have already left the area. Some are in evacuation mode as I type this. Others, I have read, hope to continue on even despite the moves and changes that are to come. To restore and rebuild this beautiful and unique community however possible. To see the lava flow as another story, another chapter, of this already unusual place. Because it will never go away, that giant scar through the land in Pahoa. The community will just have to learn how to live with, and around, the long, gaping wound of that lava flow.
That also sounds familiar.
I sometimes feel like I'm being dragged along, pulled screaming and writhing through the molten morass of my own grief since Mike's death into a future I never asked for. I sometimes want to just curl up into a ball and make everything go away. I sometimes don't want life to go on...and I don't mean that how it sounds. I just want things to stay exactly how they are...or more exactly, how they were, maybe around Christmas 2012. But they can't. Time is a vicious, cruel creature that cannot be trained, corralled or controlled...also, much like the lava.
One day, many, many years from now, life will again begin to grow on top of the now-molten flow. It will take ages and ages, but it will happen. Eventually, the island will heal itself and nature will rebound. Similarly, facing disaster, we humans, somehow, some day, begin working towards that inner strength to persevere. That survivor instinct. We pick up our lives, piece by piece, from the torn and scattered bits. It might take ages and ages, it might be really hard and terrible, and it might come in fits and spurts - but it can, and will, happen. I have to believe this is possible.
Some days, I do feel an inner strength quietly forming; one that wants to release me from the bondage of this horrible fate, and set me free to explore this strange new world. I have no choice but to find a way to live without Mike; I have no choice but to wait for the heat to subside, wait for the new ground to solidify, and rebuild upon the ashes and ruins of the old.