Facing Volcanoes in Life

We all face volcanoes in life, whether we realize it or not.

explosive volcanic eruption
An explosive stratovolcano eruption. Photo by Yosh Ginsu on Unslplash

The recent eruption of White Island/Whakaari in New Zealand has had me pondering this thought. Maybe it’s because I was there for Mt. St. Helens in 1980. For anyone who was in the Pacific Northwest, they can tell you exactly what they were doing “when the mountain blew”. (No need to specify what mountain.)

Volcanoes come in different sizes and types. Some are shield volcanoes, erupting slowly and steadily, like those of Kilauea on the Big Island in Hawaii. Others are explosive stratovolcanoes like those of the Ring of Fire, including the two above. But whether you have tasted the grit of ash in your teeth or felt the heat of lava beneath your boots — or just seen pictures of the same — you have experienced events in your life that turned it upside down, whether from a slow buildup or seemingly out of the blue.

The easy volcanoes to spot are the losses of loved ones, through death or broken relationships. Those tend to be the explosive kind, sudden, often unexpected. Like a sudden firing or layoff from a job, a fire, tornado or other natural disaster.

A fresh lava field in Hawaii. Photo by Jiaying on Unsplash.

The shield type or “Kilaueas” may have a starting point or peak to them, but usually occur over a long span of time, and often have longer lasting effects. Some examples might be going away to college, or a geographic move that changes job, family and social relationships. Or a shift away from the cultural and/or religious traditions that one was brought up in.

No matter what kind of volcano that comes your way, it’s how you deal with it that determines whether you get stopped in your tracks or are able to move on and grow. I was reminded of this by an interview I saw with a relative of one of the victims of White Island.

Tipene Maangi (Tipene James Te Rangi Ataahua Maangi) was a tour guide in his early 20s and the only Maori Māori victim of the eruption. From the accounts I found online here and here, he was very active in his home community and beloved by many. I went looking for information on the young man because of the video interview I saw.

The interview was with a woman in a flowered dress that flowed around her lower legs as she and the reporter walked and talked. As she spoke of Maangi, (her nephew, I think), her face was animated and full of laughter as she described the young man. The reporter seemed a little surprised, and finally asked her, “Why do you seem so, [pause, searching for the word] animated?”

“We move forward with grace. It’s the only way to move forward,” she replied.

[Note: I copied the quote from a screen pause before emailing the video to myself. That note is time stamped 12/13/2019 7:40 am CT. But the email is missing. If anyone comes across the interview, please send me the link so I can update. I believe it was originally posted on 12/13/2019 or 12/14/2019 NZ time, {sigh}]

Her words have stuck with me ever since.

That Monday, 12/9/2019, was a bad day for me (see last week’s post), but I hadn’t just lost someone to an explosive volcano. No, I was mourning old losses, some sudden, many slower, but all old. Instead of moving forward with grace, I was once again visiting old hurts and picking at scars that should have long healed. Digging for blood again.

And I am ashamed at my selfishness, my self-centeredness.

Whatever volcanoes we may be facing, you and I have a choice of how to move forward. I want to be like the woman I saw: animated, full of life, full of good memories of a life gone too soon but remembered with love and laughter. I want to move on with grace.

What about you?

Flowers growing on post-eruption Mt. St. Helens
Lupine (blue) and fireweed (red) were some of the first plants to grow back on Mt. St. Helens (background) after the eruption. Image by Pixjuan on Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Facing Volcanoes in Life”

  1. Hi Marty, Up late tonight I see. I am sorry you feel ashamed, selfish, self-centered. I don’t doubt your feelings although I disagree that you are selfish or self-centered. I admire you here and on Randy’s site for forging ahead despite huge obstacles, taking detours in your life as needed, being realistic in your expectations of relatives and others, and through it all being optimistic and cheerful some of the time (and maybe much of the time). That’s not selfish, it is courageous. I think you are the definition of resilient. Anyway, I hope you feel better very soon, and that you have a warm and peaceful Christmas despite all that has been going on in your life recently. -Alice


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