Wednesday, August 04, 2010

enacting a metaphor (a Wish - part 4)

Are we ready? Well, yes. But facing the prospect of actually managing the hike, I admit to being a little intimidated. So we started small.

Steam vents, said the sign, and oh, maybe we could picnic there? said the mama. Well, no. The steam was oh-oooo-eep! hot, and the wind was happily sending the stuff around unexpected corners. It was rather like playing peekaboo with the volcano, and we ditched lunch long enough to tromp around from vent to vent.

When they ran out of steam to squeal at, or vents to nearly-but-not-quite fall into, the boys invented their own.

That's my boys, kicking a little ash, the Man muttered, recovering from a fateful of the stuff. Grinned. And informed me that the above should be the caption for the relevant photo.

Suddenly, it seemed, momentum gathered. Lunch in the parking lot, loin girding, map checking - and with a speed and dispatch unusual for Imperfects, we were off. A brisk tromp from the Kilauea Iki overlook towards the Thurston Lava tube. Which, with great restraint (and a lack of flashlight) we passed by. Instead, we headed for the caldera floor.

Nature's blacktop, the Man joked. But a distant blacktop - it was way far down. I peeked over the edge. Whoa.

Look what you did, I told the Eldest. You got us here - and now we're going to go there. He grinned. I tried to look plaintive. Yes, we are, he told me. And bounded off down the path.

A switchback trail leads down to the caldera, overflowing with opportunistic greenery, loving the volcano's warmth at this cool, misty height. Alongside the trail were even more holes in the ground for the boys to admire. Ooooo, we said, and peered at stubborn bits of green growing out of the sides of the gaps, as far down as light would reach. Cracks in the ground do not exactly inspire confidence in the trail, but small boys bounding around close to the edge of oh, many things, doesn't bring much zen, either.

The kids took endless enthusiastic photos, determined to get the best angles and views while the Man tried not to start shrieking. Too far, too fast, too oh dear - gahrgh - you are about to fall in/over/throughohcripesohhelloh oh oh who left the bungie cords at home? We counted to parental ten (today's ten clocked in at 63, hooray!) and tried again.

Let's buddy up, kids, said the mama, and the Toddles jumped at me. Um, being a buddy means not knocking the other person off the trail, hey? Helping each other, instead? Sticking together?

The Toddles thought it over. Okay, buddy, he said, cheerily. Let's run! No? Oh, buddy, said the Toddles sadly, and patted my arm. Shall we walk briskly, then?

We shall, indeed. And we did, to the Toddles' cheery exhortations (and occasional, breathtaking bounce), all the way down. Whew, said the Man, but we were all too busy staring to respond. The Toddles pushed back his hood and considered.

The caldera floor is an oddly alien landscape. Crisp horizons of pahoehoe (pronounced poh-way-way) stretched before us, dusty and clean of plant life. Here and there, a pile of stones, or amu, marked the path. In some places, a parallel set of amu defined it rather precisely, and with cause. Walking, we passed places where the pahoehoe crusts had collapsed, a silent admonishment to keep to the path. Do not, said the guide, build your own amu. I helped the Toddles jump a foot-wide collapse, and jumped myself. Not a place to go awry, this.

Unnerving as it was to see, these collapses allowed plant life to enter the landscape. Twisty little trees - the kind that is adored by the honeycreeper - grew in the gaps, promising a gentle, vegetative revolution. But there were no birds, nor insects. Clearly, they were waiting, patiently, for the trees and ferns to do their work. This made for a quiet space, nearly barren, in which our voices were the only noise, and the little trees provided a slight break from the lava's grey-back.

The caldera floor glimmered with heat, but the boys clung to their sweatshirts, maybe anticipating their return to the chilly, misty crater's rim. Or maybe, appreciating the deep pockets in their sweatshirts, which they filled with rocks.

Here, said the Eldest, oh, Mum, look here! You can see how the lava cooled.

Spiky rocks, rippled rocks, crushed rock dust all told stories as we tromped along. The boys loved every fragment, and filled pockets with beloved specimens. By the end of the hike, most of these would have crumbled into a rather coarse - but beloved - sand.

And onwards we went.

Almost suddenly, it seemed, the pahoehoe was replaced by a spikier spatter (not a'a) and rocks from the caldera wall's collapse, and we were climbing - just as the Toddles began weaving on his feet. We slowed, sacrificing momentum for a mellow, subtly careful walk. I'm not tired, the Toddles told me thoughtfully. But bits of me are very near to exhausted. Over his head, the Eldest shot me a meaningful look. I nodded.

Step by step by step by step, that's how we make the mountain small, we chanted. I slipped my arm under the Toddles' armpit, and we began to climb. The stairs were steep, and some had long since crumbled, making narrow perches for our feet. Step by step by step by step, said the Toddles, cheerfully. That's how we make ourselfs so tall!

And then we were at the top. Tired, triumphant and with the odd muscle jumping from weariness, we circled the last two miles of the crater's rim. We'd hiked a challenging 4-5 miles, and oh, we felt it.

Look what you did, I told the kid. He grinned.

Look what we did, I whispered to the Man. He glowed.

And kindly drove us the long way home, following the curving, lush edges of a (flatter) coastline.


Anonymous said...

That was great for something somebody might want to read, especially the volcano. Keep it up!

The Eldest

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