My mom said it best, "For Natalie," she said, "Life is a bowl of cherries." Natalie continues to explore life with great eagerness and enthusiasm, if not grace. These days, every time I turn around she has climbed onto the kitchen table, and is standing there with a marker in one hand and paper in the other. She can now "draw" for long stretches and I take great comfort in the fact that she relishes at least one quiet activity.
Last week we went to see the lava flowing. Natalie was on my back, and Anna and Hayden and Amy and I had to carefully walk over cool, crusty jagged lava for about 100 yards. It was a harrowing walk, as lava is made of 50% silica and it really, really hurts when you fall. We arrived at dusk, so we had to trust our flashlights and follow a makeshift trail of orange dashes to get to the ocean.
Once there, we watched a river of orange pour into the water, hitting with great force and hissing. The lava was constantly changing and swirling in unexpected ways. It had already consumed a subdivision and forest before we got here, and it was contently munching on the road when we arrived.
As we walked back to the car we looked back and there was a curving trail of white flashlights as others made their perilous way over the lava to get to the viewing area. It struck me that these onlookers looked like they were in a paschal procession, headed toward the lava, toward a glimpse of creation.
On the way home we listened to one of my favorite CDs, a Hawaiian singer named IZ. Before one of his songs he talked about how he doesn't really fear for his own death because "In Hawaii, we live in both worlds, we live on both sides." And watching that river of red flowing into the sea against the inky, smoke filled sky, I think I had a feel for what he meant.
Life here does feel fragile, precious, perilous. The earth is literally shifting and recreating itself beneath our feet. There are small tremors every night, which I never feel, but I accept the reality that nothing is quite as stable as I imagined, that creation and destruction come together sometimes, and that even the dark, gloomy lava breaks down into fertile soil over time, that what appears as death ultimately disintegrates into life, lush and surprising and fragrant. This is not a bad thing to see and feel beneath my feet, not bad at all, as we head into lent, on this perilous journey through death to life.