The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


by Steve Gajadhar

March. Volcanoes National Park. We park at the petroglyphs near the end of Chain of Craters road. We start down the path, over ancient pahoehoe like thick corded hair. My wife skips ahead like she always does and I scramble to keep up, laughing, trying to read the pamphlet.

She sees them first and calls out and I can see her face empty of expression. I come up beside her and I think I feel the same. The figures and the holes for umbilical cords and the swirls that are infinity or near enough, and the carvers that came hundreds of years ago to pound out their existence. And now us with only our camera and our memories to pit against eternity, which is kind of tragic and kind of beautiful.

The pamphlet tells how the holes were pounded out and the umbilical cords placed in so the children would receive the blessing of Pele, the goddess of fire. But I think the holes might be meant for so much more, and that one, at my feet, could be a beacon for the ghost of the last Hawaiian. Blinking in the dark. The ghosts of his ohana will already be there and they will whisper to him when he nears it, so that the last Hawaiian can crawl into this ancient hole and go to sleep leaving no one alive or dead to watch that last light blink out.

Ah, but my mind is too romantic and has not seen the end of the future. I watch my wife instead. How she is quiet and intent. She will bear the children and balance them with a job and the monotony of the day to day to day. I want to tell her this but cannot, so I let these crude figures speak and hope they speak to her like they do to me.

The sun beats down and drives us back to our car. I kneel down to do up my sandal and there’s a puddle under the car, condensation from our air conditioning compressor. I dip my finger into it and draw out my own tiny swirl in the pavement knowing that it will be gone shortly after we drive away.


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

A lovely letter for your wife and your family's future, Steve. Best wishes as you stand at the edge of what comes next.

Wed Nov 29, 12:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Steve, I'm coming to Hawaii. Roll out the futon and have finger poised over the blender button labeled "Crush Ice".

Thu Nov 30, 02:21:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous redpen said...

I loved this post, Steve. You paint the ephemeral struggle for permanence with subtle, personal colours, and the result is just beautiful.

Thu Nov 30, 11:02:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Thanks, Redpen. And thanks all.

Mel, you're welcome anytime!

Thu Nov 30, 03:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This is beautiful, Steve. I had to read it several times and let it sink in before responding. Were they real umbilical cords that went in the holes? The thought of the last Hawaiian is a sad one. I was on a plane on Sunday with a nice, young Hawaiian family -- the guy is on a work visa in Vancouver for a few years. They were returning from Thanksgiving in Hawaii.

Thu Nov 30, 04:36:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

These look so much like the petroglyphs around Thunder Bay! The other side of the world.

Beautiful post, Steve.

Fri Dec 01, 09:24:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

The pamphlet said that was what the little holes were used for. The mothers would come and place the cords shortly after birth. Who really knows though, they could've been used for many things.

Fri Dec 01, 01:30:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Really like this post, Steve, and I too had to read it a few times to extract all the lovely little embedded symbols of the story. (And I'm thinking I may just have to hitch a ride with Mel... Get lots of ice)

Mon Dec 04, 03:13:00 pm GMT-5  

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