Written in Stone: A Writer Wednesday PostAugust 22nd, 2012 | Posted by in Essays
We enjoyed the Shaw Festival, but here is my promised Hawaii post. To listen, please click Written in Stone
Broken crocodiles. Lizard tails. Altogether reptilian. Antediluvian. Elephant skin. Spiral. Wrinkle. Shatter. Blackened tortoiseshell. In the varying terrain of this wide petrified flow in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park, I like what lava has written.
Blasting sun above, rippled umber underfoot. Ninety degrees. On our way to Pu’u Loa, a petroglyph site, my husband and I hike baked lava trail, sanded by eight hundred short years of footfalls.
Eagerly we go.
Writing always has her challenges. For twenty-first century writers, challenges are mostly internal: psychological or time-based. Our ancestors create both surfaces and implements before they even start to record experience.
We pick up a notebook, open a glowing screen. They slay animals, cure skins; pulp plants, layer and dry their tissues. We buy a marker, a ballpoint. They hunt and excavate pigments; gather and soak oak galls for ink; find flight feathers, cut quills. We speak a memo to a phone. They journey with smelly torches deep into caves; hike barefoot, waterless, over adamant lava fields to a place sanctified by intention.
We crumple in our tracks. We doubt the worth of our experience. We thirst for faith in personal impulse. We shame ourselves with distraction, forget what can be sanctified.
Forty thirsty minutes later my husband and I arrive at “The Hill of Long Life, ” a rise in the landscape, towheaded with tufty dried grass. A boardwalk rings an area. Fifteen thousand petroglyphs are carved below our feet. I like what the people have written.
Spirals. Dots. Targets. Lots more dots. Compelling human forms. It’s said that sailing and animal adventures are told here. But so many plum-sized dots!
An information board tells us parents traveled here in hopes of ensuring long lives for their children. Each “dot” was carved to cup an umbilical cord which was then covered with a rock. This hill shimmers with wishes.
Those who flourished returned to carve their stories, and their wishes. I love this old human impulse to inscribe, to write, to leave a mark. Whatever the challenges. I like what hope has written.