Hawaii: the power of volcanoes

lava flow during the 2018 Kilauea eruption

The power of volcanoes forged the islands of Hawaii. The most iconic landscapes of the archipelago were formed by volcanoes.

The eight islands that make up the archipelago owe their existence to a well of magma deep under the ocean floor known as the Hawaii hot spot.

The hot spot is currently below the archipelago’s youngest and most active landmass, the Big Island of Hawaii. Molten rock fuels the eruption of this island’s four active volcanoes: Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Hualālai,and the offshore underwater volcano Lōihi.

the mighty forces of nature

The hot spot itself remains stationary however, the Pacific plate above it does not; it moves northwest at the speed of three to four inches a year. Consequently, the volcanic activity on the surface also shifts. This shift is what formed the islands and it puts the oldest island to the westernmost part of the archipelago. The more ancient islands are cut off from the magma supply and their volcanoes are no longer active. For example, the geologically oldest island of Kauai, formed roughly five million years ago.

Hawaii is part of a massive mountain range known as the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamounts chain, which stretches some 3,700 miles and nearly reaches the coast of Alaska. Volcanic activity in this area began 70 million years ago and counts numerous volcanoes. Hawaiian islands are the only ones above water though.

Many of the geologic beasts of the island chain have remained silent for thousands of years or more but Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most active volcanoes in the world.

lava flow on the south side of the island of Hawaii

Hawaii’s volcanoes are “shield” volcanoes, whose lava flows form gently sloping, shield-like mountains. A good example is Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on earth (it’s summit reaches 13677 feet in a very unique landscape), deceptively covering half of Hawaii Island. Standing with this sleeping giant beneath your feet will give you a greater respect for earth’s ever-changing landscapes. A volcanic eruption evolves continuously and we are lucky enough to witness it.

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984.

a lava filled crater

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano made headlines in May 2018. A month-long eruption on the lower East Rift Zone ensued, the latest leg of a lengthy burst of activity that started in 1983. At times the lava spewed more than a hundred feet in the air and flowed like water. These deadly rivers inundated local communities and cost millions of dollars in damages and lost tourism.

The following pictures are before and after accounts of the destruction that ensued. This is the collapsed caldera. The houses in the front of the bottom pictures are the visitor center of Volcano National Park.

Large lava flows covered huge swaths of land in the southern part of the island. Many homes were devastated in residential areas (Puna District). The summit of Kilauea was shaken by earthquakes and the caldera collapsed. The 2018 eruption altered the island forever but since then there hasn’t been much going on at all at the giant shield volcano.

Approximately 35.5 square kilometers of the big island were covered with lava. Roughly 3.5 square kilometers of land were added to the island about 0.3% of the area of the island of Hawaii itself.

Over 700 homes were destroyed along with other structures across the area from Leilani Estates to Vacationland Hawaii, where the lava filled in Kapoho Bay entirely.

the lava flow meets the ocean

What is Kīlauea going to do next. The volcano had 35 years of nearly constant activity at Pu’u O’o and the summit, but now, after this lower East Rift Zone eruption, everything has stopped. Will Kīlauea continue to erupt on the lower East Rift Zone around where the Leilani Estates eruption occurred? Will it reestablish the lava lakes at the summit and Pu’u O’o? That seems unlikely considering the collapses that occurred at both.

Low carbon dioxide emissions and lack of inflation suggest that there isn’t much new magma coming into the system.

only time will tell what might happen next at Kīlauea but the consequences of the eruption will be felt for decades to come.

Volcano themed were added to our redbubble store, follow the link right here to check them out. There are t-shirts and many other products. Thank you:


Memento Mori

Postpone nothing as you could leave life right now


Death is the one truth and as such an inextricable part of life. No matter what your beliefs are; you will die.

Is Memento Mori a reminder that you must die, or that you must live…

This famous painting by Philippe de Champaigne dates back to 1671 and illustrates the concept of Memento Mori admirably.

Philippe de Champaigne (1671)

There are three main elements represented in the painting. Number 1 is the hourglass; time passes inexorably and without fail, then we have the rose which symbolizes the truth about life which is the fatality of death, and the skull is a representation of death; we are all going to die.

Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, Book 2:

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

Maybe this realization would trigger you to go on a hedonistic binge, but is this the wisest thing you could do?

Maybe you could narrow your life down to the essentials that are actually defining you as a person. Memento Mori is the perfect antidote to procrastination. If you stop believing you have an abundance of time, you will start doing the things you should now, because tomorrow you may be dead.

Basically you will be motivated to take care of business. Don’t squander your time doing petty things.

Memento Mori prepares you to the loss of people you love; the world is full of death after all…

Although it is obviously not easy not to be affected by loss; most of us are still human after all; it will be less of a shock and may help the grieving process.

Marcus Aurelius:

Don’t look down on death, but welcome it. It too is one of the things required by nature. Like youth and old age. Like growth and maturity. Like a new set of teeth, a beard, the first gray hair. Like all the other physical changes at each stage of life, our dissolution is no different.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book IX.

Since the dawn of time, humans have been fascinated by this subject and entire religions are based on it.

In ancient Egypt, excavated mummies, tombs, and pyramids reveal that remembering death was entrenched in ancient Egyptian culture. Egyptologists are certain the preservation of dead bodies and the building of elaborate death chambers were an act of celebrating life, and a reverence for its, in their eyes, transitory nature.

Egyptian death chamber

Before his execution the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates famously said:

“…he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world…For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying…”

Stoic philosophy focuses on priorities and purpose. Memento Mori was used to remind oneself not to waste ones life on the trivial and the vain.

Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus were the main stoic philosophers and each wrote on the subject.

From now on, whenever you take delight in anything, call to mind the opposite impression; what harm is there is saying beneath your breath as you’re kissing your child, ‘Tomorrow you’ll die’?” -Epictetus, Discourses, 3

All that you see will soon perish; those who witness this perishing will soon perish themselves. Die in extreme old age or die before your time–it will all be the same.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.33

Keep the prospect of death, exile and all such apparent tragedies before you every day–especially death–and you will never have an abject thought, or desire anything to excess.” –Epictetus, Enchiridion, 21

I am endeavoring to live every day as if it were a complete life. I do not indeed snatch it up as if it were my last; I do regard it, however, as if it might even be my last. The present letter is written to you with this in mind as if death were about to call me away in the very act of writing. I am ready to depart, and I shall enjoy life just because I am not over-anxious as to the future date of my departure.” -Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter 61

In early Christianity (2nd century AD.), Tertullian, a christian writer, claimed that during a triumphal procession a victorious general would have someone whispering to him:

Look to the time after your death and remember you are only a man.

Christianity’s strong emphasis on divine judgment, heaven, hell and the salvation of the soul brought death to the forefront of consciousness.

Many memento mori works are products of Christian art and are set in a moralizing context.

Remembering the inevitability of death is a core Biblical theme. It remains prevalent today.

the dance of death

13th century Icelandic poems attributed to Odin include many references to the Memento Mori philosophy. For example:

The Hávamál (“Sayings of the High One”)

Deyr fé, deyja frændur, deyr sjálfur ið sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern.

Animals die, friends die, and thyself, too, shall die; but one thing I know that never dies the tales of the one who died.

wood carving “the Havamal”

The early puritan settlers were particularly wary of death. They would often put a Memento Mori on their graves as a warning intended for the living. These were usually death heads or skulls.

Fear of eternal punishment kept people in line.

Puritan tombstone

Post mortem photography was a relatively popular practice at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

As a photography enthusiast the practice of photographing the dead is rather intriguing and for modern sensibilities rather unsettling.

On some of those pictures one cannot tell who is alive and who is dead. The bodies were made to look as “alive” as they could considering their limited means.

They were using sticks to keep the bodies upright as well as copious amounts of make up for example.

The cameras used in those days were much different from our digital tech wonders and had some limitations. The shutter speed was usually quite long for example. Living people tended to look slightly blurred because they may move …dead people don’t anymore obviously, and are much sharper in the picture since they are perfectly still.

Photography was a luxury in those days and post mortem photographs were often the only pictures people had left of their loved ones.

In Buddhism mindfulness of death is a central teaching. Maranasati means death awareness and is a meditation on the validity of how you use your precious life.

The following quote is attributed to the Bouddha:

Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.”

In ancient Japan, the samurai culture was greatly influenced by the practice of Zen Buddhism. It is part of this tradition to contemplate death. The following excerpt is from the Hagakure, a treatise on the samurai way of life:

The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.”

The seven virtues of Bushido is the code by which the samurai lived:

The samurai believed things were most splendid at the moment before their fall, and aim to live and die in a similar way, inspired by the beauty of cherry blossoms and the fiery colors of autumn.

Death has inspired artists throughout the centuries.

In modern culture although it is a taboo subject, discussed only when necessary, and even then usually only in hushed whispers, it is very much part of cinema, fashion, music and philosophy. Examples abound in our daily life.

day of the dead (Mexico)

To conclude, remember Steve Jobs famously said:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”

If you wish to support me please check out “Memento Mori” inspired merchandise right here:


Nyepi, the day of silence.

Are you interested in the cultural side of Bali?

Here is a link to my YouTube channel. I created a little video about Nyepi. Check it out.

If you’ve traveled to Bali, you must have heard about Nyepi Day, also known as the Day of Silence or the Balinese New Year which is celebrated in March depending on the moon cycle.

It is a Hindu celebration and a public holiday which involves fasting and meditation for the locals.

Before and after this special day, a series of rituals and celebrations are held, which are meant to restore the balance between good and evil, Gods, men and nature.

Melasti pilgrimage

Highlight rituals essentially start 3 days before Nyepi, with colorful processions known as the Melasti pilgrimages. Pilgrims from different village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines for elaborate purification ceremonies. It’s one of the best times to photograph an iconic Balinese procession, with parasols, banners and small effigies offering a colorful spectacle.

Nyepi is like the best of New Year and a carnival, a huge feast for the eyes and ears, followed by silence and introspection (instead of hunger and hangovers)!

The famous Ogoh-Ogoh parade takes place across the island. Large scary creatures depicting evil spirits and monsters are made by each village as a

communal effort for weeks leading up to the parade. They are built of papier-mache on bamboo frameworks. Gamelan music accompanies the men and boys carrying the massive figures through the street. The monsters are supposed to attract the evil spirits. The monsters are then burnt at the end of the parade to get rid of all the evil spirits for the new year.

Each village will make at least one Ogoh Ogoh and the best places to watch the parade are along Kuta Beach, Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Sanur. In the main towns (Sanur, Kuta, Denpasar and Ubud) contests have been held for the best Ogoh-Ogoh since the early 80’s.

an Ogoh-Ogoh

Most regard Nyepi as a much-anticipated occasion but some tourists are disappointed as Nyepi Day itself is a full day of complete silence and staying indoors takes away one entire day of their holiday, so many non-Balinese living in Bali often escape the island during this period.

Nyepi is actually a great time to experience real silence, to be deprived of this constant sensory stimulus. You get to take the day off everything.

Go swim in the pool if you are in a hotel or just relax and read a book.

Hotels are usually exempted to partake out of necessity but guests are advised to keep noises low and lights dim.

Wherever you happen to be staying this would be a good day to spend indoors.

Next is the actual Nyepi day. From sunrise to sunrise until the following day, the whole island is shut down. Everyone stays in their home or hotels. You won’t fine any cars on the road, no loud TV’s or music, no fires.

Pecalang (local watchmen) are deployed all over the island. Time for meditation and retrospection. At night if a plane was to fly over the island it would not be seen form the sky. Life is turned off…

Nyepi is a very unique celebration and it should be on your bucket list.

There is so much more to Bali than just surfing…

The face mask: key to a return to normalcy?

The habit of wearing face masks began in Japan in the early 20th century.

The Spanish flu was sweeping over the planet at the time. 20 to 40 million people were killed (more than World War 1); it killed 5% of the population in India.

Covering your face with a scarf or any other sort of garment was the way people were trying to ward off the sickness. The method was ineffective but it gave them some sense of control.

In China a similar pandemic had similar cultural effects a few years earlier. It was the pneumonic plague. Incidentally it was this event that helped western medicine break through in China. The plague which caused pneumonia, killed most people it infected sometimes in 24 hours. The masks helped to slow the spread. The masks became more than protective equipment; they were stamped by the monks of the local temples and thus became talismans.

Back in Japan in 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake triggered a massive fire that destroyed Tokyo and Yokohama.

As the sky was filled with ash and smoke for weeks and the air was barely breathable, face masks became prevalent again.

In 1934 a second global flu epidemic sweeped over the globe and the Japanese brought out the masks again this time out of social courtesy as sick people didn’t want to infect the healthy.

After the second world war the rapid industrialization led to massive air pollution forcing the Japanese to wear masks year round.

As other countries in the area began to have the same issue most notably South Korea, these folk also adopted the practice. But enough history for now.

A mask may be the reason society functions during an epidemic.

Although there is little or no scientific proof of the efficacy of face masks, it makes sense to wear one if you have a cough or the sniffles. I reckon it is courteous not to share these…

Another psychological reason may be behavioral mimicry; if most people are wearing a face mask chances are you may fall in line and do the same. While walking through a city you may see people wearing face masks on the underground or the supermarket, this may convince you to wear one too. It reduces ones anxiety about getting sick.

In Hong Kong the shock of the SARS epidemic and the 2006 bird flu panic revived the wearing of masks.

Understanding epidemics are more than just biological events but social processes is paramount to their successful containment.

In many countries accustomed to wearing medical masks they actually have become fashion statements. They come in all sorts of colors, patterns and branding along with chic designs or cute animals.

In Japan wearing has become so ingrained in their culture; they are viewed as social firewalls. You wear them along side your earphones if you don’t wish to interact with other humans. They provide anonymity and are often used by young women to avoid harassment on public transport.

Some habits may be worth adopting if they allow life to normalize.

The difference in perception of the mask comes down, in part, to cultural norms about covering your face. In social interactions in the West, you need to show your identity and make eye contact. Facial expression is very important.

Maybe us westerners need to change our ways in a world that is constantly evolving.

If we want the economy to get back on track we will have to wear masks, carry hand sanitizer and socially distance while carrying out our jobs for the time being, along with protecting the most vulnerable in our societies.

Esan Life: the straw puppet festival

🌾🌾🌾 The Straw Puppet Festival is set up by local farmers and promoted by the local tourist initiative in Mahasarakham province in the north eastern part of Thailand. It’s certainly very original and shows some fantastic creative work. There is also a food market and a stage area for your musical entertainment. Fun for the whole family!! I certainly found it enjoyable and one of a kind.

Let’s hope it will be held again in the future!

The scattering of light

The colors of the sunset result from a phenomenon called scattering. Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of light rays, causing them to scatter. Scattering affects the color of light coming from the sky, but the details are determined by the wavelength of the light and the size of the particle. The short-wavelength blue and violet are scattered by molecules in the air much more than other colors of the spectrum. This is why blue and violet light reaches our eyes from all directions on a clear day. But because we can’t see violet very well, the sky appears blue. Scattering also explains the colors of the sunrise and sunset. Because the sun is low on the horizon, sunlight passes through more air at sunset and sunrise than during the day, when the sun is higher in the sky. More atmosphere means more molecules to scatter the violet and blue light away from your eyes. If the path is long enough, all of the blue and violet light scatters out of your line of sight. The other colors continue on their way to your eyes. This is why sunsets are often yellow, orange, and red. 

These pictures were taken in Thailand and in Indonesia on the island of Bali.