So begins a poem by Robert Frost. The poem speaks of the destruction of the planet by either fire or ice. I thought it would be an appropriate title for today’s post, since the world was going to end again* today.
(* I say “again” because my second blog post (“Much Ado About Nothing,” May 22, 2011) was also on a day that the world was predicted to end, but didn’t.)
But fire can be a creative force as well as a destructive one. Many seeds require fire in order to sprout. Many artists put fire to good use. For example, I’ve done raku which is a form of pottery that involves taking clay pieces and putting them directly into smoldering organic material. (Talk about fun!) I can think of many examples of fire being used creatively, such as jewelry making and blacksmithing and cooking and baking…
But probably the most primal example of the simultaneously creative and destructive force of fire is lava. When I think of the concept of “molten earth” it truly blows my mind.
To watch molten lava flowing is to witness the creation of the earth, or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it the re-creation of the earth. To watch new land being formed is truly a miracle, and something most people don’t get to see…and survive!
Lava can of course be destructive and even deadly. Lava temperatures can range from approximately 1,300-2,200 F. And I’m sure you’ve heard of lava flows destroying villages and cities throughout history and up to the present.
One of the safest places to watch lava flowing is in the Hawai’ian Islands, on The Big Island (which is also called Hawai’i). The lava on The Big Island flows relatively slowly and with some predictability much of the time, allowing for a close approach.
“How close?” you ask. Well, when I went out to the flow a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed several people melt the soles off their shoes. (By the way, that’s TOO close, folks.) This was most likely because they were walking on lava that was still too hot. Lava can form a thin crust and still flow beneath it. It may or may not support your weight. Learning to recognize a brand-new flow is useful. Stay away from any steam. Don’t get tunnel vision. You DO need to use caution and exercise what I call UNcommon sense.
But the lava CAN be approached to within several feet if you’re cautious. Walk slowly. You will feel the radiant heat, and unless you want your kin to accept a posthumous Darwin Award in your honor, you will stop as soon as you feel the heat and not keep walking.
Today begins a series of posts about volcanoes and lava. All the images I’ve posted since Thanksgiving were taken on this last trip to Hawai’i, but none are “classic” Hawai’ian images, so I don’t know if more than a few friends realized where they were shot.
I’ll be explaining more about these images in the upcoming posts, so for today, just enjoy the pretty pictures.