Before me, the mountain reached the sky. From the visitor’s center the rain clouds started rolling in. It poured — the rain beating down with a drum-drum-drum-drum –crashing against the world.
One minute and everything was soaked -i everything but the inside of the crater. No matter how much water poured in, the earth still cracked and steamed as it gobbled up the water and left itself looking as parched as before. This is the wet side of Hawaii at Mount Kilauea where I vacationed with my family last Christmas.
A skyscraper could have stood in the center of the crater and barely touched up to the tip of the road where we peered down into the desert-like, bare hole. After looking with fascination at the pictures on the visitor’s sign of the volcano when it erupted, my family and I proceeded down the trail on the side that would eventually lead us hundreds of feet down into the center. Compared to the nothingness we could look down upon, the vegetation on the first half of the hike was luscious, like something I had never seen before.
It was the perfect example of what every gardener would want to grow, but this one lived with no care other than what the sky dropped for it. The green was so vibrant and alive on my right side, but on my left was a railing and bland death. When we descended into the crater, the heat and wind became so strong that the quick change from calm and beautiful to muggy and gusting winds became almost unbearable.
The uneven shaken surface of the bottom of the crater was a hike in itself. As we stumbled along, random relief clouds gave us brief moments of shade. The life stopped maybe ten feet from the steep sides that we had just walked down.
One single plant, a fern, stood further on as we walked along, trying to grow amongst the midst of hard, unforgiving rock. The green on the leaves was bright against the dirty brown and harsh black ground. But even it looked wilted, with its drooping leaves and dead sections.
We drove through the lava fields for an hour to reach the spot where the lava was still building more black hard rock. The asphalt of the road did not look much different than the surrounding hardened lava except for the fact that the asphalt was perfectly smooth and the lava was anything but smooth. As we were winding down the mountain, almost at the ocean where the new lava was, we looked back at the towering mountain.
A frightening image appeared in my head as I saw the destruction of the lava. From the sight of it, I imagined I was in a bowl and from outside of the bowl lava was spilling over the edges into the bowl – quickly and in a threatening manner. The now ebony and ash gray lava had spilled over the mountain edge and raced down killing every tree and bush, whipping right over the road, and building speed as it fell down into the ocean and hardened.
Oddly though, it had only come over the side in a maybe three hundred foot wide distances. On either side of the foreboding blackness, there were green trees and grasses that grew up the side, completely unharmed by the rushing lava that had massacred all of the greenery that used to grow next to them.
On the ocean, lava was still pouring into the ocean. The freshly solidified lava stretched on for several miles in an area that will one day be prime real estate. The pastel blue sky and the teal colored ocean were beautiful against the land that was so choppy and bleak. Awe filled my mind as I stared at nectarous life compared to the gleaming death at that volcano.
What a lesson in life to see such contrasting landscapes and how the earth can rejuvenate itself out of nothing. One day all of the sharp lava will have lush growth on it too and the landscape will not look so – lifeless. Someday when I reach a tough point in my life I know that just like the crater I will sprout new growth, even if it takes a long time.
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