The first time I witnessed a volcanic eruption was three years ago in Iceland when Eyjafjallajökull shut down airports across Europe.
My first glimpse of Eyjafjallajökull came just as my airplane began its descent into Keflavík airport in Iceland. In the distance I could see the dark plume of ash rising into the blue sky. Even from afar, it was an awesome spectacle to behold. The hundred or so miles between us did little to diminish the majesty of witnessing a volcanic eruption for the very first time.
I’ve just returned from a trip to Hawaii where I was able to experience a volcanic eruption in an entirely different way. Instead of ash plumes, there were clouds of toxic fumes blowing across the landscape. The dust and grit of Eyjafjallajökull was replaced by a’a and pahoehoe. Streaks of lighting were now rivulets of molten lava flowing slowly towards the ocean where they met the cold water in a colorful display of nature; red lava, dark blue waves and virgin white clouds of steam.
At night, the red glow of the volcano against the blackened sky is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. It’s as if the heart of our Earth is exposing itself to us, displaying it’s love and power … its capacity to destroy and create at the exact same moment. With the stars glowing just as brilliantly millions of miles away as the volcano at your feet, it’s hard not to feel insignificant.
In the scheme of it all, maybe we are insignificant. Maybe we aren’t the center of the universe. And maybe our troubles aren’t as important as the seem … our stress, our fears, our worries … maybe they’re just as insignificant too.
Being there, I understand why the ancient Hawaiian religious beliefs are dominated by nature. It’s impossible to ignore the power of the wind, waves and fire.