Talking Story


Living in the shadow of a volcano, there were many nights when I imagined lava pouring down Haleakala’s mountain sides and pooling in the hall outside my bedroom door. My sister and I even had a game where the floor was white-hot lava and you had to leap to safety chair by coffee table by couch.

Our mother was not amused.

Like Californians and earthquakes, mid-westerners and tornadoes, Big Island residents know that someday Pele’s fires will dance again, a ticking time bomb on a geological time scale of a minute or millennia.

Developers and bankers want to think a hundred years or more. My grandfather was in the insurance biz when developers in the 1970s and ’80s wanted to build on lava flows. He refused.

“There’s a reason it’s a lava flow, Lehua. Never build on a lava flow or a dry river bed.”

Probably some of the best advice he ever gave me.

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