When a disaster strikes, it can bring everything into focus and shift your life indefinitely. Below are selected stories from the 2018 Kīlauea Eruption and ongoing recovery efforts.
They, Too, Once Lived Here
Story by Imago Mana
"When I look out over this new landscape I am invited to remember the impermanence and uncertainty of life along with the amazing natural resiliency we all possess. I watch the reclamation of the jungle and open my heart to the lessons it holds for me as I travel my own unique path of recovery."
My backyard, back at home in Leilani, is a graveyard of trees. Still standing, tall tombstones remind me that they too once lived and thrived here, their pale, gray skeletons desperately reaching for the sky. What used to be an absolute feast of infinite shades of green, punctuated with colorful blossoms of seasonal hope, died. Or, so I thought. Now five months after the volcano retched its last bit of lava out onto what was once a neighborhood street, some of those trees are showing surprising signs of life.
I look out over the landscape…it’s so different, even the sounds are different. The melodic morning bird calls drowned out by the many helicopters flying tourists over our previously peaceful neighborhood to satisfy their morbid curiosity. The daily buzz of chainsaws taking down trees that had no escape and were left behind to deal with nature’s wrath in the circle of life.
I’ve heard it said that the leaves fell off the trees as a protective act to prevent the tree from being poisoned by the volcanic sulfur dioxide gas that inundated this jungle neighborhood during Kīlauea’s most recent eruption. If true, how noble of the leaves to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the tree, putting it into a state of suspended animation. Yet, even with the leaves’ offering, some trees did not survive, it seems. They stand gray, brittle, and empty. There is a beauty in their starkness, the edges of their branches a sharp contrast to the softness of their varied leaves when they thrived.
Some of what was so alive in us did not survive. Dreams, hopes, livelihoods, things dear to our hearts, the results of investments of our precious time and hard-earned money; for some of us gone and for others forever changed. All of us affected.
When I look out over this new landscape I am invited to remember the impermanence and uncertainty of life along with the amazing natural resiliency we all possess. I watch the reclamation of the jungle and open my heart to the lessons it holds for me as I travel my unique path of recovery, I daresay my unique path of evolution.
I find myself utterly amazed at so much that I behold by simply looking out my bedroom window. The bare branched 'ōhi'a, guava, avocado, umbrella, and coconut trees, along with countless unnamed others, still upright and proud. Their buried roots holding fast to the lava rock terrain that is our island. The gift of a new peekaboo view of our vast blue Pacific, always there, yet before the lava, curtained from my eyes by the infinite thriving leaves that now lay composting on the jungle floor. I can only see that blue view across the horizon through the huge stick remnants of the arboreal lives that were lost. I find myself torn. Part of me hopes their scattered branches sketched across the sky will fill with new life filled buds, once again pulling down the blinds on my new ocean view. While another part selfishly hopes that they will stay exactly the way they are.
Futile, I know. Nothing stays the same…ever. So, I am grateful for what brings a smile to my face even when I must look through death to see it.
As Always, in All Ways, I Am Infinitely Grateful.