Story: Growing Memories

November 13, 2022

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 21:5-19

Last week’s story was about a kolea who came back from a summer in Alaska to find Pohoiki completely changed by lava. It was a hard thing to accept that this is how an island grows. He saw a landscape that had been green and growing transformed into one that was rocky and barren.

He might have taken more comfort if he’d talked with a tree – though I’m not sure whether even a kolea really knows how to listen to a tree.

The trees whisper on the wind. They let their soft voices swirl about on the breeze like a sigh. A lot of what they say is simply, “Do you remember?” and “Yes, we remember,” and the memories float through the forest.

Higher up Kilauea, surrounding the crater we call Kilauea Iki, there are a lot of trees and they have been watching that crater for a long time. “Do you remember?” they sigh, and yes: they remember. They remember when it sloped down into a notch. Trees and bushes sprouted along the sides and the bottom. They remember when lava fountained over a thousand feet into the air and poured down into valley. They remember watching the lava pooling and the lava pool rising. They remember that when the lava stopped fountaining and flowing, the valley floor was four hundred feet higher than it had been. They remember watching parts of the flat surface crack and tilt as the liquid rock cooled to solid.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember.

They remember when it was just black rock, steaming in the rain, baking in the sun.

They remember when ohi’a seeds fell upon that hot rock and did nothing. They remember watching seeds landing on the rock in a small crack and doing their level best to sprout and grow, but even the pushing of their roots could only find a couple grains of sand. They remember when the first ohi’a landed in a spot where cracking and rain had created enough – just enough – small bits that a root could take hold and begin collecting rainwater. They remember when the first of the little ohi’a plants – so small, those plants – they remember when the first of them had enough soil and water and sunshine and strength to form flowers and set its own seeds to scatter.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember, and that includes the small trees, some no more than inches high, that you’ll find one here, one there, on the floor of Kilauea Iki.

The kolea, I’m afraid, didn’t think to ask the trees, and he was in the wrong place to ask them down at Pohoiki if he’d thought of it, and he may not have understood what they said to him if he’d asked.

But the trees along the steep sides of Kilauea Iki remember, and they sigh their memories just the same way they scatter their seeds: cast out upon the blowing wind.

“Do you remember?” they ask, and they answer, “Yes, we remember.”

On the flat black surface of the Kilauea Iki crater, roots crack the rock into soil, shoots stand ever higher above the stony surface, ohi’a blossoms flutter crimson in the wind, and they share their seeds and their memories upon the blowing wind.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story above was told from memory of this prepared manuscript. In my opinion, I told it better than I wrote it this time.

Photo of an ohi’a blossom in the Kilauea Iki crater by Eric Anderson, 2016. The Kilauea Iki eruption took place in 1959.

Explain Yourself

May 15, 2022

Psalm 148
Acts 11:1-18

The mālolo is known in English as the flying fish. They don’t really fly, although I must admit that they fly better than, say, I do. They can get themselves moving through the water at near forty miles an hour, which is faster than you should be driving through the streets of Hilo. Then they spread their forward fins and glide above the water. They can stay in the air for about a quarter of a mile, which is about the distance across Liliuokalani Gardens.

I know I can’t stay in the air that far.

The mālolo didn’t always fly that far, or fly at all, however. They swam like fish do, and they swam in big groups, or schools, and they could swim really fast. That allowed them to get from one source of food to the next, and it also allowed them to swim away from fish that wanted to make them into food.

But there was a day when swimming fast just didn’t seem like it would be enough. Some great big ‘ahi had found a school of mālolo, and they were very hungry great big ‘ahi. Soon the school was scattered as the big fish charged through it.

One mālolo found himself pursued by an ‘ahi who was not only big and hungry but also very fast. The mālolo churned his tail and paddled his fore fins and he could feel the ‘ahi’s teeth getting closer and closer. A panicked curve of his fins brought him closer to the surface. The next thing he knew, he’d actually come right out of the water into the air and splashed down again. It confused the ‘ahi for a moment, so the mālolo put on as much speed as he could and spread his forward fins to curve him toward the surface.

This time when he emerged above the water he started to glide along with air streaming beneath those great fins. He held them stiff and kept on above the ocean surface, hoping the ‘ahi wasn’t following right beneath him. He stayed there as long as he could before he slowed and slid into the water once more.

The ‘ahi had turned aside. Perhaps it hadn’t seen him above the surface. Perhaps it had just thought he made a sharp turn in its confusion. It didn’t matter. It went elsewhere.

The mālolo went looking for his friends and family. The school was re-gathering. Some of them weren’t happy.

“What did you do?” they demanded. “Did you go above the water?”

“Well, yes,” he said. “I didn’t mean to.”

“We don’t go above the water,” some of them said. “We’ll die.”

“With the ‘ahi right behind me, I’d have died if I stayed in the water,” said the mālolo.

“How do you explain yourself?” the asked in the cold tones of judgement.

“I really can’t explain it,” said the mālolo, “except to say that it worked.”

I can’t say that the other mālolo took up gliding right away. They didn’t. Some of that generation never did. Others tried it but didn’t do it very well, and they ended up back in the water right in front of hungry predators. But each season more and more mālolo took up that glide through the air, for no other reason than… it worked.

Watch the Recorded Story

Photo of a mālolo by Mike Prince from Bangalore, India – Flying Fish, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63637092.

Of Itself

“The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” – Mark 4:28

I am the seed, cradled in the loving embrace of God.
I am the seed, held in the richness of mercy.
I am the seed, surrounded by blessings.
I am the seed, cracking my shell to grow.

I am the stalk, stretching toward the heavens.
I am the stalk, nourished by my roots below.
I am the stalk, proudly waving in the wind.
I am the stalk, upheld by the ground divine.

I am the head, making space for the seeds.
I am the head, barely aware of the soil that feeds me.
I am the head, dancing among the grasses.
I am the head, confident of my own grace.

I am the grain, ripe and rich and precious.
I am the grain, and I have no memory of the Earth.
I am the grain, the fruit of my own growing.
I am the grain, flying out upon the wind.

I am the seed, fallen now to the dust.
I am the seed, fearing the burning sun.
I am the seed, praying for soil to cover me…
I am the seed, cradled in the loving embrace of God.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 4:26-34, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 6 (11).

The image is by Jim Padgett, an illustration for Read’n Grow Picture Bible Illustrations (Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984); used by courtesy of Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18886335.