February 3, 2012

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.  Psalm 33:8

I was glad to see an article on Haleakala in the December 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine. It’s a great piece on the magnificence of this Hawaiian national park.

Around one million people visit Haleakala annually, and many ascend its 10,023-foot summit, as Joe, Mimi and I did this past September. We walked along the rocky path, peering down into the lava-carved and –strewn field below. The Smithsonian article notes that the writer Jack London, during a 1907 visit, called it “a workshop of nature still cluttered with the raw beginnings of world-making,” a very apt description.

Haleakala is Hawaii’s largest volcano, now dormant, taking up three-quarters of the island of Maui. It was created not by an eruption, but by two valleys merging. The three of us didn’t descend down into the ochre and ash-colored depression—we thought about it, but realized it would be a long hike (the crater covers 19 square miles). And the only public shelters along the paths are three redwood cabins, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.

Haleakala means “House of the Sun” in the Hawaiian language, and many visitors go to the summit at dawn to see if it lives up to its name. In 1866, Mark Twain called the Haleakala’s sunrise “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.”

We’re not morning people (or, I should say, Mimi and I are not), so we went up in late afternoon, figuring sunset might put on a pretty good show as well.

We were not disappointed. The sinking sun threw shadows thoughout the crater, and we watched them grow and change as time moved on. On the other side, fantastic sun rays, first fiery then more muted, shot out over the Pacific Ocean.

We could have stood there forever drinking in the spectacular show, except we realized it might be hard to pick our way back along the path to our car if we waited too long.

Joe took many photos of the scene. If you keep refreshing this page, you’ll see a few of them. And check out the Smithsonian’s photos—they’re terrific!

Not surprisingly, Halekala’s summit was the site of many ancient Hawaiian ceremonies. Today, Hawaiians still use some of the ruins of these places for a variety of rituals—seasonal celebrations, and worship of different deities. Pele, the goddess of fire, and Maui, a lesser god, remain part of Hawaiian lore and culture.

One rite still practiced on Haleakala, says Kiope Raymond, associate professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College (and a native Hawaiian), is the burial of the umbilical cords of newborns alongside the bones of family ancestors. “As with many Native American people, the bones of the dead are [considered] respositories of spiritual energy, or mana, and are revered by native Hawaiians,” he notes in the article.

Haleakala is a beautiful, awe-inspiring place. Hundreds of words could be used to describe it and still not come close to fully conveying its splendor.  But—and I mean no disrespect to Hawaiian culture—its majesty and power are not from anything interred there. Rather, they come from the awesome, living God of gods and Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17), who fashioned Haleakala, and whose eternal power and divine nature reside in and testify to all He’s created (Romans 1:20).

As the saying goes, happiness is seeing a sunrise (or sunset) and really knowing Who to thank.

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