Each day at work in the landscaping department at an eco-resort on the Hilo side of the island of Hawaii, I witness greedy vegetation reach for the sun at the expense of what slouches and festers beneath the surface. As lava rock cracks and ohia trees and sword ferns emerge from the black ground, sensitive plants and morning glory vines root in the fertilizer of fallen leaves and rotting lehua flowers.
The cycle of volcanic activity and the reclamation of lava by plant life is an organic process that transforms the landscape from the barren, rocky playground of Pele to lush swaths of variegated green growing at amazing speeds. The lovers Ohia and Lehua continue their love story high in the branches dropping life on the ground below.
I agree with Louise Erdrich, who in her collection of short stories “The Red Convertible,” describes the law of growth like this:
“In the woods, there is no right way to go, of course, no trail to follow but the law of growth. You must leave behind the notion that things are right. Just look around you. Here is the way things are. Twisted, fallen, split at the root. What grows best does so at the expense of what’s beneath.”