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Kilauea, Far From Ordinary

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Kilauea, Hawaii; Photograph by Eric Leifer

I took a photograph the other day like I occasionally do. It started out like such an ordinary day; the sun rose from the East as it always does. The birds began to chirp and the chickens began to stir right at dawn, perfectly on time like they always are. I opened my eyes like I always have, greeted by such fine and familiar things, drawing myself away from my dreams, reluctantly as usual. Surely just another ordinary day, another revolution in space and the further progression of time.

I went to work like I often have, almost without a second thought. I put on my headphones and helmet, geared up the bike, topped off the tires and ride the road that I so commonly have ridden. All the potholes and cracks and divots and bumps were still there, like they always are, proudly holding their place and purpose in this world. I weaved to and fro and back and forth, reading the road like a book, like one that I have read countless times. Indeed, just another ordinary day, linear and static, like most of them usually are.

I punched the proverbial clock like most of us have to. I log in the hours necessary to maintain an income required to preserve the amenities and benefits of a first-world society, and all the inherent costs that come with it. I digress in my train of thought like I naturally tend to, and dwell on things that I can never change, and how I wish I could. I soon come to peace with it like I tend to, and realize that my job is not that bad at all, that I actually enjoy it, and that I am one of the lucky ones.

I grab the keys to the van and the paperwork necessary to legally sign away any and all liability to me and my guests due to negligence, road hazards, volcanic eruptions, and other unforeseeable scenarios and make the drive into town. The radio plays the same songs as they typically do, singing essentially the same lines, often of love and sadness, of good times had and old friends lost, of life.

We leave downtown Hilo, Hawaii, and begin to drive southbound. I tell the same stories that I commonly do, as the same jokes and trivial facts and somewhat interesting information rolls off my tongue. The road remains like it always has been, precisely 29 miles in length, painfully straight, as it slowly climbs the flanks of the Kilauea Volcano.

I take the same left turn like I always have. We cross the boundary of Hawaii-Volcanoes National Park and make all the scheduled stops as the itinerary describes, perfectly on time, pointing out the typical trees and ferns, explaining the geology of the area, the history of the Hawaiian Islands, and why it all really matters. I speak of Kilauea Volcano, which we now walk upon, its past and present eruptions, for those who are still listening to my ramblings.

The sun begins to fade to the West like it always seems to, as the day begins to end in such an ordinary fashion. The air begins to cool as the sky puts on its typical parade of colors, as the trademark blue fades to a deep orange, soon giving way to a wondrous red. Far off over the horizon a final tribute to that burning sun has begun, as beautiful as it always is, burning brightly as it always does. We all patiently wait as the sun gives way to the night sky and the shining moon, as things finally begin to unfold in a rather peculiar way.

To those around me the sight before us is a foreign one, far from the mundane and predictable sunsets we are so often used to, as the glow of Kilauea’s Halemaʻumaʻu Crater takes over where that old sun left off. Even to my own eyes, a vision which I have seen many times before, it is still far from ordinary. I begin to contemplate, like I always do, the source of that fiery glow. For in reality it is the edge of creation. It is the birth of our planet. To those around me I don’t have to say anything at all. I never do anyways. Such a spectacle speaks far more than I ever could.

I took a photograph that night like I sometimes do. The moment I snapped the shutter I knew it would never do it justice, for it never does, and as predicted it failed long before it even had the chance. But I took that picture not to capture those timeless stars or that dazzling moon, such distant and peculiar lights, nor to remind myself of that bottomless and fiery crater, creating life before our very eyes. No. It was supposed to be an ordinary day. It began like all the rest. Just like they always do. Yet in the end I realized there is beauty even in the mundane, that there is novelty even in the ordinary. That even the predictable progression of life is a damn beautiful thing.