It is a strange and wonderful thing to see earth being born, and lava will forever change you as it does the earth it rides over. Cynics may deride this, but cynicism is hard-pressed to stand firm inches from creation.
Here on the slope of the volcano called Kilauea, there is all manner of activity proceeding at its own timeless pace. Ten yards off our toes, fat black tongues creep down the slope, their leading edges blushing red. Now and again the tongues vomit forth glowing ooze, the most fiery of sunsets captured in pancake batter. The lava flows forward like some morphing jewel - blood orange perhaps, or silver - moving with a certainty you see in few places. Smoke wafts from the ground that has so far escaped the flow. It rises in sooty tendrils from the sand and broken rock and skeletal scrub, smoke with no fire, an odd sight. Punctuating the quiet is a light tinkling, as if someone is gently waking a chandelier - this is the sound of volcanic glass shedding off the cooling rock - and here and there is the hissing you hear when you turn on a propane grill. These lesser issuances are now and again lost behind a sudden whump, like distant cannon fire that makes the dozen or so people gathered on the slope jump. These would be methane gas explosions. Sporadically, a doomed scrub bursts into flame, the bare, sun-bleached branches flaring brightly, the blackened aftermath, given flexibility, curling into the ground.
There is heat, too, the sort you might experience in the last second before you plunge face first into the campfire.
Malcolm, once a lava cynic, stands beside me. Malcolm is from Perth, Australia.
" 'Oid seen the pictures,â he says, his rapt gaze fixed on the lava. " 'Oid talked to heaps of people. 'Oi didn't see much to it. It looked to me like a ruddy bunch of scorched earth.â