Friday, June 17, 2016

The Heights, the Depths, and the Invisible Cows

Psalm 139:6-9 sets the tone for this post:

Where can I go then from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
   If I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
   Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.
                  [BCP version]

Here on the Big Island of Hawaii we've been able to meditate upon and enter into God's great creation--from heights to depths.  One evening we drove up on the Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa--the 2 biggest shield volcanoes on the island.  The visitors' center there (altitude about 9000 feet) runs an evening program.  Lights are reddish and low in the wavelength spectrum so as not to throw off a lot of white light that disturbs all the observatories above on the summit (altitude a little less than 14,000 feet).  It's really dark there--hence the Invisible Cows sign (see below).  There were 3 reflecting telescopes set up for people to see Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.  The young people giving the program were terrific--intelligent, informed, and funny.  Nice combo.  It was so chilly there--about 45 degrees F.  I took a warm parka donated by our B&B owner and the hat and gloves I'd packed for the Southern Hemisphere.  It was glorious and wonderful to be able to see a little further into the heavens.  The Milky Way is so amazing at that altitude away from local light.  There were some high clouds so observing wasn't optimal, but I did get to see Jupiter and 5 of its moons... And the Southern Cross is visible, low on the southern horizon.  How beautiful--that's my favorite constellation for sure.  A few days later we returned to the visitors' center and got nauseated by just sitting still--a spot of altitude sickness--cured by coming down off the mountain.

Meanwhile we've been to other places on the island, currently leaving Volcano, the little town just outside Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.  We again were able to do the long walk around and across the caldera of Kilauea Iki--one of the best walks we've ever done.  Yesterday we took another walk across a huge lava field, a strong reminder of the vastness of the creation as well as its constant upholding and replenishment by God.  Last night we drove to the vantage point for the current activity in the crater of Kilauea proper.  The lava lake was active and now and then we'd see a fountain of molten lava shoot upward...very stunning at night.

It's a good exercise to reflect on the Creation as the declaration of God's glory--and to see humanity in proper context.  It's also appalling to see how small we are--and how poorly we take care of our little sphere.  God help us.

1.  Invisible Cows sign from the visitors' center.
2.  A few of the observatories on Mauna Kea, with Hawai'ian worship platform in the foreground.  The mountain is still sacred in native spirituality.  Photo from the slide show at the visitors' center.
3.  Barry walking on a flow of pahoehoe lava (pa-HOY-hoy)--the "ropy" lava.
4.  Lava tube created by flowing lava during an eruption, and later on emptied.  The outer shell remains, and this one is lighted now for the tourists to walk through.  The Thurston Lava Tube, affectionately known by us as the Thurston Howell III lava tube.
5.  An Hawai'ian green sea turtle taking a rest on a black sand beach in southern Big Island.
6.  A natural arch on southern coast of Big Island.  All rocks are basalt, naturally.

1 comment: