Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of Robins' Nests and Poetry

My friend Denise brought me the most perfectly made robins' nest this morning. It still had snow in it from the flurry that went through town early in the day. I can't believe how beautifully made this nest is and how perfectly exquisite.
I also can't believe that Denise would give up such a gorgeous prize to me! She knows I love birds' nests and thought I would like to have this one (oh, I do!) and so she just gave it to me.

The nest reminds me of this poem, of course, as I have been reading Mary Oliver since the weather is so foul here and I just want to curl up inside doing projects, read poetry and drink Snow Geisha tea.

By Mary Oliver

In winter

all the singing is in

the tops of the trees

where the wind-bird

with its white eyes

shoves and pushes

among the branches.

Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,

but he’s restless—

he has an idea,

and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings

as long as he stays awake

But his big, round music, after all,

is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.

In the pine-crown

he makes his nest,

he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,

I only imagine his glittering beak

while the clouds—

which he has summoned

from the north—

which he has taught

to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall

into the world below

like stars, or the feathers

of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,

that is asleep now, and silent—

that has turned itself

into snow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I have been reading Mary Oliver today. I'd forgotten how much I love the following poem, lonely and wind swept though it might be.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice--

though the whole house
began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do--

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 12---Lava Walk

The gentleman pictured above is Bo Lozoff, who leads walks onto the Kalapana lava field. Bo does a great job and if you really want to see lava up close, this is the way to do it. (You can reach Bo at (808) 443 7247, which is a local call anywhere on the Big Island.) I feel like I can make that statement as I tried several methods while I was on the Big Island. We did the Hawai'i Volcanos National Park trip, we did the open door helicopter tour, there was the ill-advised lava boat tour and finally, the lava walk.

Bo demonstrated that you can actually get some lava onto the end of a stick, then knock it off the end and you will have a piece of rock molded around the stick, the shape to last as long as the rock remains whole. It is really hot to walk right up to the lava this way, but it was so slow moving, not particularly dangerous.

The Kalapana lava field in the East Riff area of the Kilauea volcano. It completely buried the village of Kalapana in the 1980s-90s.
This sort of lava is known as pahoehoe. I sent my daughter a copy of this photo to show to my 5-year-old granddaughter. this little girl thinks it would be great to grow up to be a vulcanologist....or one of Santa's elves. Anyway, my daughter shows her daughter the photo and says, "Look at the photo that Gramma Gramma sent us from Hawaii.

"Do you know what this is?"

My daughter waits for the expected reply of "lava" but instead, "It's pahoehoe."

Well, she is a budding vulcanologist.

This is Peggy's old VW van. Peggy lived here on the lava flow until late in January of this year, when her house burned down. This van was old and apparently not running any longer. It surely isn't running now!
I think it's sort of eerie how the lava entered the van and drooped over the steering wheel. As our guide, Bo, said, I bet no one on the manufacturing line at the Volkswagon factory ever thought that this van would end up buried in lava!

I love the sign.

We spent the rest of our last day doing a lot of snorkeling....and packing. I liked the snorkeling part a lot, the packing and straightening up the rental house part not so much. I truly hated to leave.
Here's a convict tang. I love how the stripe continues right through their eyes.

A parrot fish.

And this lovely lady is a Moorish Idol. Isn't she elegant?
I hate to say it, but this is the last post from Hawai'i. I had a positively wonderful holiday, from start to finish. I'd love to go again sometime.
Aloha and mahalo to the Big Island.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 11

We woke to rain squalls and the "coldest" weather we have had since landing in the Hawaiian Islands. Not that it was "cold" but rather that it wasn't as warm as it usually was!

We drove the old road, Highway 132 (sometimes called the Red Road), to the end. Where the road used to continue on there is now a very large lava flow. Under the large lava flow is the village of Kalapana. I find it so sad but fascinating that whole towns are just gone. My heart hurts for the people who called Kalapana (and Kapoho, where we are staying, that village is gone, too) their home. There is now a parking lot and a very lovely little restaurant at our end of the road. We took the walk out onto the lava field to the ocean but when we came back we stopped at the Kalapana Village Cafe for lunch. The food was great, the service was friendly and the setting is beautiful. This little place bills itself as "The place where the road ends and Aloha begins." I agree.
The walk from the parking lot to the ocean is very interesting. The lava flow happened in the 1990s and you get a really good idea of how the vegetation begins to come back and in what time frame from taking the walk. Ferns and small trees, the occasional flowering plant, all were small but seemed to be thriving. There are many coconut palms that have been planted along the walk. Nola read somewhere that a local Kalapana lady, who was dying of cancer, brought lots of the coconuts to start to replant the lava flow were her village had once stood. She encouraged others to do the same and now there are lots of the little palms growing on either side of the walkway. She has died but others are still planting the palms to honor her and the village under the lava flow.

All the shapes of the lava are just fascinating and are caused by the speed of the cooling of the lava as it makes its way to the sea.
When we got to the sea we found one of Hawai'i's famous black sand beaches. Because of the weather, we dared not to go into the water, but it was wild and beautiful there.
Nonie at the black sand beach.
This beautiful stretch of road became Nonie and my favorite drive. The trees arching over the roadway make a lovely, green tunnel.
The photo below shows some steam venting from the cliffs along the ocean, south of the Kalapana Village Cafe. We took a lava boat tour that turned out to be the only miserable thing we did the whole time we were in the Islands. DO NOT TAKE A LAVA BOAT TOUR UNLESS YOU HAVE VERIFIED THAT LAVA IS FLOWING INTO THE OCEAN. We did, alas, not check but took the word of the tour operator. You can check, I now know, by calling 961-8093, which is a local call from anywhere on the Big Island. There are a lot of sleazy tour operators who will claim much and deliver little. We'd had such good experiences everywhere else in Hawaii we fell for this crummy outfit. There were NO life vests in sight on the boat. It was horribly rough, really rough, and I knew I would get seasick (oh, boy howdy, did I!) but going out in that rough weather was my choice. What I am unhappy about is that we got no info from the captain during the "cruise." He was silent as we bobbed about in at least 5 foot seas for about 45 minutes, waiting for sunset. We did see the hillside with lots of red, glowing dots that showed how the lava was working its way downhill from higher up on the slopes of Kilauea. I thought the captain was not very concerned with the care and comfort of his passengers, that he made an unnecessarily hard passage back to the launch point but that he was obviously skilled at handling his boat in the local waters, no matter how rough. The entry into the boat ramp at Issac Hale park looks to be very tricky under optimum conditions and believe me, when we came in on Tuesday night, it was NOT optimum, but he made it look easy. I just think he was bored by the whole tour and wanted to get home to the comfort of his house (and probably a beer or two). In all things, Dear Reader, I am old enough to know you get what you pay for. Do not, repeat DO NOT use They claim to be the cheapest lava boat tour on the island and they probably are...and they are awful. Check around if you really want to see lava entering the ocean, be mindful of the weather and call the hotline to verify that there are ocean entries of lava on the day you chose to go.

Caveat emptor!
Another shot of the steam along the ocean cliffs. No sign of lava.

Of all the photos I took while on the lava boat "tour" these are the only three that are usable. It was too rough to get a decent shot at night and there were only red dots on a far away hillside to see, anyway.
Next time I'll show you where and how to spend your lava viewing dollar, if you want to see lava up close and personal.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hawai'i---Day 10

Here is our little house on the water. Isn't it cute?

And here is a shot of my favorite palm tree in the early morning light.

Yesterday we took a helicopter flight from Hilo Airport over the Kilauea Volcano. Wowzer! That was really something, to be flying right over the caldera. We saw lava and could actually feel the heat even though we were 500 feet above the crater's floor. If you look closely at the above photo you can see a gray area that looks like a lake. On the left hand side of that "lake" is a red area. That is lava. It is bubbling up in a lava pool. The crust is formed of cooled lava and the hotter, red, lava is bubbling up through it.

This cloud is formed of steam (from rain water that works it's way down to the superheated rock and lava underneath), carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. The main Kilauea crater is closed at the moment due to elevated levels of sulfur dioxide.

This was an amazingly interesting tour....and a little bit scary. I was harnessed in a four point system, but sitting in the door-less cockpit was somewhat unnerving. I knew I couldn't just tumble out but during some of the banked turns when the horizon was at 45 degrees, I couldn't help feeling I was going to just slide out into thin air. If you are ever on the Big Island and want to take a tour by helicopter, I can highly recommend the Paradise Helicopter Tours.

After we'd finished the Kilauea portion of the tour, our pilot few us over the longest river on the Big Island (and all of the state of Hawaii, too!). It's 26 miles long. There are some beautiful waterfalls along the river.

An aerial view of Hilo.

Here's Nonie at the end of our tour, leaving the helicopter.

Orchids just growing on trees...there ought to be a law! Every time I see this I am green with envy.

And in Hilo (on our way to the Puka Puka Kitchen for lunch, our third visit!) we spotted this floral shop. Will you LOOK at those anthuriums?!!!