I left my Kapoho community today for the first time since the volcano eruption began and realized life had continued with business as usual on other parts of the island. I had some anxiety as I drove up the hill towards Pahoa, being afraid of not being able to get home once I left, which was exacerbated when I saw a fountain of lava shooting up in the air in the distance. Surreal. I was going to my first meeting of the Mystery Writers of Hawaii Island in Hilo. Yes, there is such a group. My first book, “Blood on the Orchids” was published in February of 2018 and I had been looking forward to this meeting, but worried I would find it hard to be present and “normal”. I needn’t have worried because the conversation was fascinating.
On the drive home, I passed a distribution center in Pahoa, which was created to provide food and necessities for lava evacuees and felt grateful I wasn’t one of those unfortunate people. I entered a section of the highway we call Lava Trees, where there had been a magnificent tree tunnel until 2014, when Hurricane Iselle blew most of the trees down. At the end of that section where the road forks, a blockade now prevents cars from taking the highway towards Leilani, where the eruption continues.
Over the past few days we have taken many walks around our neighborhood and on the Kapoho lava flow, reminiscing. I’m trying to document the many different colors of hibiscus. We walked into the yard and stood by the pond at an empty vacation rental, formerly known as “Peggy’s Place”, and said out loud, “Here is where we got married”. April of 2019 will mark our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and only a month ago, on our anniversary we planned to arrange to renew our vows. Time will tell whether that will be possible. From there we walked to University Pond, where we swam early in the morning on our wedding day, and where our children first learned to bodyboard in its gentle waves.
The happy sounds of birds chirping in the early morning reassures me that all is well for now. The birdsong chases away my nerves from earthquakes that occur lately during the nights. My island friends and I check in with each other daily now and ask questions like, ”Are you still in your home?”
Our longtime friends have voluntarily evacuated due to poor air quality near the top of Kamailii Road in Opihikao. One will stay in Hilo, near her work and her husband will stay in his office in Pahoa until they arrange something more permanent. My daughter tells me that the koi in a friend’s fish pond in the Black Sands subdivision are dying, a sure sign that the area is no longer habitable for humans either.
Our neighborhood is slowly becoming a temporary home for refugees of the lava flow, aided by the generosity of vacation rental owners. Some have lost their homes and some have evacuated with the state of their homes unknown.
A young woman my daughter’s age, whom I’ve known since keiki days posted a video this morning of a song she’d just written about the lava flow. Listening to it moved me and the tears that have been building up for days finally begin to flow.