Kona's airport is an outdoors affair, with little roofed walkways. We meandered towards the baggage claim, where a lovely lady with an armful of flora - and a clipboard - met us.
Oh, said the Eldest as he bent his head for the lei she offered. The more cautious Toddles fingered his, declining to wear it.. It is soft, he informed me. And lovely, I agreed. Flowers draped around our necks, we took lungfuls of air, scented with sea and green. We waited, sitting on small puddles of green grasslike matted stuff, while birds swooped around us, competing for seeds, perhaps? They were utterly different from any in Boston, and therefore, wonderful.
We gathered up bags, a rental car and headed off. Around us, Hawai'i unfolded, a stark landscape of lava in patchworked stretches of black, brown and even rusty red. A few twisting, low trees grew on the lava, alongside tufts of African fountain grass, a plant whose presence speaks much to Hawai'ian ecological challenges, as we'd learn. In places, the lava looked like thick crusts, cracked and sometimes fallen, revealing surprisingly deep holes. Elsewhere, it was jumbled and lumpy, but always a tribute to the volcano's implacable presence. Even the graffiti by the highway seemed to be a metaphor of the landscape, words spelled out in white coral on the dark lava rock. This is an island of the volcano, I thought, brutal and strong.
When we arrived at our rented condo, the kids ran outside as quickly as they'd run in - laughing, they rolled on the grass outside, gathering armfuls of fallen, scent-rich white flowers, and waxy long, green leaves. A golf course unrolled outside of our back door, crisply manicured and lovely, but with tufts of the inevitable fountain grass insinuating itself throughout the landscaping. Drying it up, almost, with poufs in a flammable shade of straw - and inevitably echoing the starkness that lies a mere birdie away. At night and in the early morning, we'd hear the sprinklers going, reminding me of the Negev. If they turn the water off, what will happen?
Unpacking my armfuls of avocadoes, pineapples, mangoes and greenery, I sniffed at human hubris. Bah - insisting on making so thinly veneered a paradise where none is meant to be. Bunch'a idjits wasting water, and who's buying it, anyway? Not us, that's for sure. The Man and the Eldest talked geology, volcanoes, and fingered bits of porous rock. The Toddles lined up his rocks, murmuring about colors and the size of the air bubbles. Stark and brutal, we reminded ourselves.
But then, we had not yet met the overlapping, teeming life at the volcano's