The Sublime

It’s a sight I used to anticipate several times a year.

The area on the Big Island of Hawai‘i known as Volcano,

includes the famous Halema‘uma‘u crater, home of Madame Pele.

The main road, Chain of Craters, much of which is no longer passable,

used to take you either to the crater lookout if you traveled the right,

or to the Hōlei Pali if you went left, followed by a 4000 foot drop

to the bluest ocean, Kalapana, absolutely pounding below.

Emerging from the tree-line overlooking the ocean,

I would experience what I imagine to be The Sublime,

what that must have meant to people I studied long ago,

like Edmund Burke, who characterized it as a feeling

of powerful emotion associated with, among other things, enormous awe.

This sight, this rolling 4000 foot drop, inspires that kind of amazement,

the kind that takes your breath away –

a phrase that smacks of hyperbole to the modern ear,

or, more likely, of cliché from overuse to the point of meaninglessness.

But I have seen so many awe-inspiring sights,

from Antarctica to China to Norway, and I have never

encountered anything like the electrifying emotional upwelling that overcomes me

when I witness that vista exploding before me at 4000 feet.

Sadly, as I say, that road is impassable now, terminating at the Thurston lava tube,

and unless I make a day’s hike out of it – not so easy now –

I’ll never experience that extreme adrenaline driven exhilaration again.

Further hyperbolically more, it’s as if the most potent stimulant I’ve ever used

has been ripped away, and I fear

I’ll never soar to affective heights so overpowering again.

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