We took some video and we made coffee on a camp stove before beginning the 5-mile hike back across the wide-open, desolate open fields of black rock, back to our little hut in the jungle by the sea…
But as we were leaving, I realized there was one more thing to do besides behold this incredible sight and take pictures. We needed to make an offering to Pele.
So Pele—made of fire—destroys and creates new land when she flows.
We watched the lava flowing down the mountain, into the ocean, creating new lava rock, for 2 hours. I wondered how much land had been created in that amount of time alone! The river of fire was strong—like a waterfall of FIRE spouting over a cliff into the Pacific.
Tourists were all around, even at the break of day, taking pictures and shouting out all kinds of “ooos” and “AHHHHS”. Literally every minute was new, as clouds of steam and ash below in the wind, occasionally allowing us all to see the “waterfall of fire” from a quarter-mile away….
But with the exception of jubilant squeals of delight, I didn’t see any offerings being made to Pele…until I looked down…
There, literally at my feet, was a lei, decaying on the lava rocks. I couldn’t tell if it had once been made of flowers, or if it was simply woven from leaves. I’ve seen Hawaiians make leis with flowers—or without. In any case, someone had left this lei there, clearly, as an offering. How did I know? People don’t cast leis on rocks in Hawaii by accident….
Tobacco is expensive in Hawaii—$17 for a pouch. I had bought some the day before, for this purpose, and brought it with me. The fact that it was expensive only symbolized that it was harder to come by. We all know that the best gifts aren’t usually “quick and easy,” right? I could have grown the tobacco. But instead, I paid more. In any case, it was the perfect offering, because when I knelt down to put some tobacco in the center of the circle of the lei, something happened to me…
The “ooos” and “ahhs” and “squeeeels” of awed onlookers faded into the background, and I was alone. Even as my lover stood behind me, witnessing me, I was alone, at the foot of a volcano…a man, forehead down to rocks, alone…dwarfed by a HUGE mountain and in infinite ocean, and…I wept.
In my heart, I could see all of the faces of the people who had come to me in recent days, weeks…years—some crying, but most of them wanting to cry, but not. And so I cried…not just for me, the man who knelt alone at the foot of a mountain by a river of fire—but for ALL of the people who had not cried, who couldn’t or wouldn’t or thought they shouldn’t.
I cried for what seemed like a very long time. There was a woman standing no more than 3 feet away from me. She had literally been jumping up and down and squealing like a kid getting on a ferris wheel. I was so glad she was happy, and now, I wondered if she could hear me crying, down into the rocks. I could see myself there, crying. I wondered if other people saw. I mean…it’s not just something you see every day, a grown man, crying like a baby, next to a river of fire meeting an ocean of water…
And when I saw myself there, doing that…I cried harder.
I cried for you, an for all the women—and men—who couldn’t, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t.
Somewhere, deep down inside of me, I heard a voice saying, “Thank You. Thank you for your offering of sadness and grief. Thank you. I needed it.” I realized that Pele was thanking me for offering tobacco—and a whole lot more. There, I recognized the gift of sadness—the best gift I can give to the earth, water, and fire. Amen.
Hours have passed since I started writing. The birds still twitter in multiple voices. The sun is even warmer now. Life has blessed me. May each day of our lives be as easy as showing up, paying attention, and enjoying a swim in the Ocean of Humanity and a dive deep down into the heart of the Earth to offer her our grief…and our squeals of delight.
I love you!