When Lava is at Your Back Door

When lava is at your back door, it feels personal almost. I hear people talking…searching for the deeper meaning or reasons behind a lava eruption in their neighborhood.

Over 700 homes destroyed, tide pools and jungle erased, and videos of turtles boiling alive in the ocean.

I understand lava is a natural process. I know it’s a force of nature. Some here in Hawaii call her Tutu Pele.

I have my own personal reason for the eruption, or rather, an explanation of what it did to me. It arrived to incinerate my past, and to bury and seal the remnants of it beneath 50 feet of lava.

The months before the eruption were the worst of my life. A relationship had ended. A long one, an entangled one, one where a house was built and memories were made, both the kind that make me smile and the kind that make my stomach coil into a knot.

After countless negotiations, the house was sold to him. It was no longer mine, even though that house felt like a part of my soul.

In my new house, I cried and yelled and thought about cutting myself with a razor to create a release valve for the pain. I had made choices that I wasn’t certain about. But I pressed on, afraid I’d return to that dark place I had struggled to leave.

My mind kept drifting to the life I had left behind. It wasn’t far away, just a couple miles down the road.

There had always been coffee in the mornings while the chickens clucked and pecked in the driveway. I’d work on my laptop while he took business calls. In the afternoons, we’d often drive down a winding road encased in a tunnel of giant mango trees to the local swimming spot- the hot pond. That was our place. Sometimes we’d go at night, and it’d be just us. We’d strip naked, float in the warm water, and look up to the stars.

I took daily walks around the neighborhood. The cat and dog would follow me. Sometimes the cat would run ahead and hide in the foliage, waiting to pounce, where he would then playfully claw at my ankles. It made me laugh every time.

I had a connection to the landscape. On my walks I got to know the nuances of the environment. Like the smell of wild ginger blossoms infusing in the humid air, delighting my senses, or the wild orchids waving and nodding with the breeze. I always imagined that was their way of greeting me as I walked by.

There was a surinam cherry tree that grew alongside the road, and when the cherries were fat and red, I’d walk up an extra street so I could pick some and pop them into my mouth, savoring their tartness. If I went another direction, there were wild avocado trees  that would sometimes drop fat avocados onto the ground below. Usually the pigs got to them first, but if I was lucky I’d find an intact one, and carry it home and make guacamole with it.

Sometimes I’d walk after dark. There were no street lights to illuminate the roads, but I liked that. I’d blast my Ipod and skip and dance down to the end of the street, cat and dog trotting close behind.

The land that the house sat on was teeming with life. There was never silence, always some sort of sound in the background,  whether it was the chattering of the birds, toads splashing in the ponds, or the coqui frogs’ familiar chorus.

The land was abundant with tropical plants and fruits- there was coconut, macadamia, tangerine, starfruit, ice cream bean, jackfruit trees, pineapple. There was a butter avocado tree that I planted, which would have finally started producing in just another year. Underneath the bushy lemongrass plant, I once buried a list of new year resolutions.

I remember soaking in the hot tub in the pouring rain with a glass of wine. One time I strung the jade flower vine that was hanging down into the driveway around my neck to see what it’d look like as a necklace, and was bit by hundreds of fire ants.

I also thought about him. The past years had been full of intensity. Bouts of rage and resentment I couldn’t understand. Feeling alone. But there was also friendship and kindness and laughter and forgiveness.

I mourned it all.

Before the eruption, the neighborhood roads swelled with cracks from the pressure of the lava moving through. The cracks formed in a diagonal line that went from my new house to his. Like a physical manifestation of our lives breaking apart.

When the earth had finally found a channel to pump out unfathomable amounts of her lava, the house where the memories were made and the roads that were walked on were destroyed forever. The road with the mango trees and the place where we swam was gone. And no one was there to see it happen.

There will never be coffee in the mornings, walks down those familiar roads, or another swim in the hot pond with a lover. The landscape has been erased and replaced with a river of lava and miles of black.

But it’s done.

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