We went from the laundry to the bus station, and found that our bus left at 1:25 p.m. and it was only about 11 a.m. Ruth, still feeling bad, lay down on the grass behind the bus station and Maggan stayed with her while Michele and I went back toward the Hilo Natural Foods to get her some iced tea. When we got to Kilauea Street, Michele wanted to walk the other way to see what was there. She was attracted mostly to plant stores and chinaware. I looked at seashells and the newspaper verbiage visible on the top halves of front pages at a news stand. I bought some Maya youghurt (their spelling for yogurt) and an avocado sandwich that was only $1.30 and some fruit.
When we got back to Ruth and Maggan, they were both writing letters. Soon the bus came and we got on. The bus driver was a older middle-aged man with some teeth missing. The ride cost $1.00 per person and $.50 per pack. The road sloped steadily up up up, a long gradual climb. There were a bunch of pretty Polynesian teenaged girls who smiled and joked with each other and giggled a lot.
We got off at the visitor center in Volcano National Park and saw the movie, a ten minute quickie of Kilauea’s Greatest Hits 1950—1980, and Mauna Loa’s most recent eruption. There’s a newer volcano, still undersea, off to the southeast of the Big Island.
Then we hiked the Sulfur Banks Trail to the Crater Rim Trail to the camp-ground. The sulfur pits were deep and rocky, like pores in some giant animal, usually with yellow sulfur deposits like some hot springs at Yellowstone. The steam was warm, moist, sulfurous. Michele especially liked it, compared it to a sauna. We saw some white and purple flowers sort of like irises or orchids, lots of them really, which Maggan especially liked.
When we got to the crater rim, the vegetation was very lush. One sulfur hole had a verdant growth of ferns on its rock face. There were lichens Michele and Ruth called “old man’s beard” which they say grows in Juneau, which grows where I live too. As we walked around the crater, the sub-crater Halemaumau got closer and the vegetation got more arid, scrubby looking.
The caldera is roundish, like Crater Lake, mostly surrounded by high cliffs. The floor looks almost flat, all pahoehoe, the smoother kind of lava, with lots of big cracks. Lots of steam plumes come up from the floor of the caldera. Sometime I guess I’ll sketch it. The sign at the Volcano Observatory said that the Kilauea Caldera was twice as deep last century as it is now, and was continuously liquid lava in Halemaumau for 120 years.
When we got to the campground a bunch of kids were having hot dogs, corn, and chili. Maggan and I had some of the leftover corn and chili. She had some hot dogs, Michele, who if anything is more organic than me, and Ruth, who still had an upset stomach, both passed.
Then we gave each other back rubs as most of us had sore necks and shoulders from our packs. Ruth asked for my version of the events of the day and I recited to her about what I’m writing now. We sat around a fire in the pavilion for a few hours talking and knowing each other better.
Maggan is quite an athlete at home, She does all the ball games, swimming, plays guitar, piano, and flute. Michele doesn’t like being photographed.
Friday, January 23, 1981
I’m walking the crater trails with Michele.
Pahoehoe is incredible stuff. The surface is shiny black with some blue streaks, and porous. It crunches underfoot like icy snow. It reminds me of bread dough, of baked biscuits in sloping, rolled mounds, cracked here and there. I don’t think either a photograph or a drawing could do it justice. There’s so many different shades of black, gray, and brown in the crater.
It also reminds me of waves in the sea, yes, waves in a sea of black bread dough. On the older flows, it’s brown and gravelly. Some ferns grow in the cracks and holes in a place otherwise barren.
Michele found a piece of lava that was colorful, weathered to sienna and ocher as well as the blue and black smooth surface.
Cold black lava flow
over a cliff,
frozen licorice waterfall.
Ferns and ohelo bush
grow in cracks
of iridescent pahoehoe.
A tree fern
with a two foot trunk
on a lava flow.
Pahoehoe from 1974 on the Byron Ledge Trail looks iridescent with golden and blue highlights. It’s much more porous than the other flow, the surface waves of the terrain cracked like whitecaps.
This section near the middle of the flow is flatter, as if friction at the edges cracked it up. Between Kilauea and Kilauea Iki is a forested ridge with more ohelos and ohia trees with bright red flowers that look like bare pistils, also lots of tall ferns and birds. Michele says she just flushed a huge bird. In Juneau, she would think it was a grouse.
I don’t have a lot to say in retrospect about our walk. We went from the Volcano Observatory to Halemaumau Trail to Byron’s Ledge Trail, across pahoehoe on the bottom of Kilauea Caldera and around the edge of Halemaumau. This Chinese or Phillipine orchid was growing on Byron’s Ledge, between Kilauea and Kilauea Iki.
Michele didn’t want to go down into Kilauea Iki, so we went around the edge as far as Thurston Lava Tube, where there was drinking water and restrooms. The lava tube itself reminded me vaguely of the big corridor of Mammoth Cave, but the texture of the wall was different. There were narrow cracks. At both ends of the lava tube was an extremely verdant fern forest.
The tree ferns are an incredible trip. They don’t grow very high, I think because their trunks are so skinny and fragile.
At the visitor center I managed to identify the orchids and ohia trees. Then I saw the Volcano Art Gallery, which indeed had lots of nice art. And two Hawaiian poetry magazines, which I bought.
Then I got a ride back to the campground from Michele’s friends from Juneau, Maggie and Steve. Michele wanted to walk the whole way back and still is on her way.
Maggan and Ruth made their own backgammon game, with light and dark brown acorn caps for pieces, a board drawn on a piece of paper with a marker, and a system of using six coins for two dice.
This evening we went to the bar at the Volcano Hotel. Dianna Aki and her band were playing. She had a Polynesian bass player, a young white guitarist and an older Japanese playing pedal steel. She played ukelele. Their music was relaxing but hard for me to tune into in my post-hike wearied state.
I listen to Hawaiian music,
wine swirling around my mind.
Sleep rises like the tide.
In a Hawaiian bar,
I listen to music, drowsy
with wine in my mind.
Saturday, January 24, 1981
Somehow I didn’t have my ballpoint pen in the bar, so I borrowed a pencil. The light was dim and the pencil hard, so I ended up going over every line way more than I should have done.
Michele not only doesn’t like to see photographs of herself. She doesn’t want to hear anything I’ve written about her, more than we other three thought.
At the bar last night, at the prompting of the others, I read them, in a light-hearted spirit, what I wrote about Maggan’s English lesson. After Michele left so abruptly, Ruth said I wasn’t responsible for Michele’s feelings. I just thought, oh my god, she’s horrified about what I wrote about Maggan, and won’t talk to me for fear I’ll record the whole conversation verbatim. Maybe this is Michele’s way of defending herself against being trapped by other people’s ideas of who she is.
I wish I knew who other people think I am— at least I’d know how I’m being distorted. I think others don’t see me as the same person I think I am.
Why do I feel like the outsider here? Because I’m the only man, the only “mainland” American, the only one as old as I am?
Do I or don’t I fit your model of my behavior, and can you accept me as I really am, or do I need to disguise myself somewhat?
Ohia trees here, sparse, scrubby.
I climb an old spatter cone
like a brushy gravel pile.
Tall ohia trees with tree ferns,
short ohia trees in the Kau desert,
the same bright blossoms.
There’s Halemaumau again, sulfur fumes blown south by the wind against my back. From here I can see it all, this Mordor we hiked yesterday, and me with no magic ring to throw in the volcano.
I walked back to camp singing, and talked to Ruth and Michele. We went on roughly the same walk again, all four of us, We were joined by a man from Denmark named Sveen.
Michele and I went to the art gallery again. I bought a tape of Hawaiian meditation music and exchanged poems with the woman behind the desk, who wrote the poem about her hula teacher in the magazine I bought.
A gibbous moon
overhead at dawn,
raucous birds in the eucalyptus.
Sunday, January 25, 1981
Michele has a quality I can best call wisdom. She has a good solution, not necessarily the only good solution, for every moral dilemma she gets presented in a conversation. My dream yesterday morning, about settling a dispute by fighting, was a perfect metaphor for our discussion of Iran that evening. I think that poster of Mickey Mouse waving an American flag and flipping a finger at Iran is a perfect metaphor for the U. S. reaction. We should have called almost all the embassy people home as soon as it was clear how crazy and anti-American the new regime was.
Monday, January 26, 1981
We spent last night in a cabin for the first time. Michele was sick the whole day. Maggan and I played five games of backgammon. She won the first two. Then I played Sveen and won and said wait a minute I’ve got to go take a shower. Well, now I know how to play backgammon.
I was explaining to Ruth about how me making a wish in Ka’ahumanu’s cave, or at least wishing I could make a wish, brought us all together, when Maggan burst in and jumped on me and started tickling me. She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever wrestled with.