Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn
Change is in the air!
Our good friend Michael dropped by today for a visit. He and I stepped out on the lanai to take in the scenery. At 4,000 feet, we have a spectacular bicoastal view, but not this morning. The usually majestic West Maui Mountains were hidden behind a veil of haze.
“Vog,” he said. “It’s a mess.”
“Vog” (verbal shorthand for volcanic fog) happens when sulfur dioxide reacts with sunlight, oxygen and dust particles in the air. It creeps in from the Big Island and on windless days it sits “on little cat feet” until the trades return to carry it away. The phenomenon isn’t new. Kilauea has been erupting since 1983. But recently a new vent opened, doubling the volcano’s capacity to let off steam. The result has played havoc with our air quality.
“Yeah, it’s been bad,” I agreed, then startled him (and myself) by announcing, “I’ve decided to embrace it.”
Michael has the best smiling eyes. They crinkle up in the corners and sparkle with life. “What?” he laughed out loud. I was outed.
“Vog is evidence of Pele’s creative nature,” I defended my position. “It reminds me that everything is in constant change. I like that.” Madame or metaphor, Hawai‘i’s volcano goddess created these islands, created the very ground we were standing on. And still is. Every now and then—I imagine when, like any self-respecting female, she’s feeling a bit pressured—Pele pours forth streams of lava, hurls cinders and sulfuric smoke into the air. In Hawai‘i, as nowhere else in the United States, the creative process is going on right before our eyes.
And creation is messy. I know that, partly because I am the mother of boys, partly because I work in a creative environment—and wherever that creativity takes place becomes unabashedly messy. My desk is the vog of our office. I work amid piles and piles of stuff: memos, catalogues, junk mail, submissions. . . . You think volcanic haze is hard to see through? But out of that mess come new ideas, connections that flow between seemingly disparate concepts . . . out of the mess comes clarity, even order. It just takes venting a little steam, wading through a little haze, to get there. It takes gathering the courage to accept change—and welcome what’s next.
That kind of creativity and courage is nothing new to the people of Hawai‘i. This issue explores an era of enormous change, when, in 1959, Hawai‘i became a state. I was nine years old when I heard the news. From my sequestered world in the San Fernando Valley, statehood for Hawai‘i simply meant a new star on our classroom flag. But here in the islands, statehood was the symbol of a journey forward that would be met with hope, trepidation, and vision. The photo essay that begins on page 53 captures the innocence of the time, and questions of the future to come. Fifty years later, the islands continue to change—to face challenges with disparate viewpoints, yet with an abiding faith. Ilima Loomis’s article on the Akaka Bill explores the turmoil, and the hope of an island nation that will invite dramatic change to honor the past. Should that mean autonomy? Or will recognition as an indigenous people allow the most good? The debate is still unfolding.
I felt a shiver; a cool, brisk breeze catching me off guard. “Weather’s changing,” Michael observed. The vog had lifted. We could see the coast clearly now.
Change is in the air—and it feels great.
A hui hou,
Diane Haynes Woodburn