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Vog and laze, MARFORPAC, Leilani Estates, and above all, Pele

[ by Charles Cameron — language at the heart of worship where the earth erupts in Hawai’i ]

Lava burns across a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision as an unidentified person takes pictures of the flow, Saturday, May 5, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Offerings of Hawaiian ti leaves, rocks and cans to the fire goddess Pele lie in the street in front of the lava. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)


Language! New words! Fresh realities!

Vog and laze are the first words to catch my eye:

Through the laze and vog, Kilauea is giving up some of its secrets.

Then there’s USPACOM and MARFORPAC:

The additional helicopter support from USPACOM and MARFORPAC provides the County of Hawaii and Hawaii’s Joint Task Force-50 tremendous capability

There’s a quiet, professional language of scientists and land management experts once we escape the immediacy of vog and laze — and which blends in easily with the alluring speech of realtors:

At present, Hawaii County Civil Defence officials say the “middle portion of the fissure system” in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens is the most active.

Leilani Estates — no doubt the brochures for the subdivision refer to homes there as desirable — and desirable, no doubt, they are..

And then there is Pele.


Pele goddess of fire is the restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands. The restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands is Pele goddess of fire.

Say it how you will, scientific realities meet the goddess on the road. Madame Pele, beloved and feared, spits fiery plumes five miles high, speaks lightning, opens mouths in the earth, belches gases:

Laze contains tiny shards of volcanic glass and killed two people in Hawaii in 2000 after they ventured too close to the boiling acidic cloud.

The flickering tongues of Madame Pele lick out as she pleases:

Flying lava shattered a man’s leg while he was on the third-floor balcony of his home on rural Noni Farms Road.

There is no arguing.

And yet many living in Kilauea’s shadow welcome the eruption, express reverence for Pele and thank her — even when the lava destroys their home.



Fire like snow in a high wind in the Himalayas..

Fire like a river, singing and swinging its way home..

Pele like an artist’s flaming trail of paint between the trees..

The slightest touch of Pele — who dares forge a sword in such a furnace?



Great she is, or to put that another way, the volcanic activity we are now witnessing has a long history and immense potential for destruction — and creation:

The devastation is poised to continue, and experts have little clue as to when, and where, the current flood of lava will cease to flow. But the belief that Pele is both a destroyer and a creator has offered many locals some consolation. They see the goddess’s unpredictability as a fact of life that they not only accept and prepare for but also internalize and revere. The goddess of fire alone decides when she’ll morph from ka wahine ‘ai honua — the woman who devours the earth — into the shaper of sacred land. The myriad ho’okupu (offerings) found all over the Big Island, from Halema’uma’u crater to black-sand beaches to paved highway roads, attest to her grip on its residents.

And Madame Pele has grace in plenty to bestow when she so chooses:

Pele has given us the grace of quiet for today, but we don’t know what tomorrow may bring,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said at a community meeting Monday night..


Giver of islands..

“My house was an offering for Pele,” said Monica Devlin, 71, a retired schoolteacher whose home was destroyed by a lava flow. “I’ve been in her backyard for 30 years,” she reflected, doing the math on when she moved here from Northern California. “In that time I learned that Pele created this island in all its stunning beauty. It’s an awe-inspiring process of destruction and creation and I was lucky to glimpse it.”

I offer flowers here in my written thoughts, considering her.



One Response to “Vog and laze, MARFORPAC, Leilani Estates, and above all, Pele”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    I posted this [above] on FB, and my friend Tom Elliot, who lives a few miles north of Leilani Estates, posted this comment, which I thought worth bringing over here with his permission. It offers a closer and more detailed look:

    Nice post Charles. I will note that one of the tendencies of mainland reporting has been to conflate the various events that are happening as if they are all happening in the same general area, they are not. The “five miles high” likely references the 30,000′ ash plume from the summit crater, which is 25 miles west of the lava eruption site. That plume contains no lava but is instead caused by constant rockfalls in the now drained crater at the summit. That rock falls until it hit lava and/or the water table which is now leaking into the drained crater and when those three meet it causes either small explosions or larger events depending on how blocked the column gets before the force of gas and steam below it blows it out of the top of the summit.
    That’s producing the ash fall that is nagging at communities SW of the summit in the Ka’u District. Places like Na’alehu, Pahala and Wood Valley which is a big coffee growing area are dealing with the ash.
    Meanwhile over here about 7 miles South of us is Leilani Estates and the East Rift Zone. That’s where the fissures opened up and the lava is now flowing and taking homes, even more this evening. Then those fissures are feeding another event, the ocean entry, in the Kalapana area downhill from Leilani and that is what is producing the laze and hydrosulfuric acid mist embedded with glass particles.
    The events are linked but have quite different impacts on the areas where they are happening and most mainland reports fail to understand that.
    But your post really handles the resilience of the locals well. We know the hazards where we live, much like the Gulf Coast residences now bracing for massive flooding rains and a tropical storm know the hazards there, yet still live there


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