Size and space are eerie things in Hawaii. When I visited the Big Island last summer, there was so much packed into so little. I was told that two-thirds of the world’s major geographical features could be found there. Over the course of a drive you could pass a volcano, a rainforest, and a desert. Dense cloudscapes would billow overhead then vanish; rain cascaded over the sun in sheets. Lush green fields bordered scorched yellow expanses which bordered black lava fields. Sulfur leaked out fissures, magma frolicked in calderas, waterfalls streamed over giant cliff faces, eucalyptus forests towered along ridges. It felt like you were traveling through time and catching a glimpse of what came before human life.
One evening after visiting a volcano I looked at the sky and was transfixed. Never had I seen a more colossal moon. Never had I seen rowdier stars. The sky hung low, the island shrank, and I didn’t trust gravity to keep me on the ground. I looked out toward the water and felt another rush, a taunt by another infinity. It was all too vivid. The sky and the sea had shed their roles as backdrop and muse; they were just there, staring and swallowing.
The beauty was melancholic, like a vast library where you know you can’t ever read a fraction of the books. And it was menacing, as you take in how little you do to take care of the world, and how easily it will exact its revenge.