II’m sort of a collector and connoisseur of rocks. Me and Fred Flintstone. I guess there are worse hobbies.
So when I was moving around decorative rocks (some of them back benders) in our backyard today, it made me think of one rock I had to leave behind. My life has had very few “rocky” moments in recent years and maybe my decision to abandon that craggy keepsake has something to do with it.
Below is my Tribune column from January 2014 about that particular rock. Why am I sharing it now? Sometimes even veteran writers like myself can end up “between a rock and hard place” when it comes to trying to create a fresh story.
And I feel fairly confident that you regular readers aren’t the types who would be too “hard” on a mostly “rock-solid” fellow like me, right? I’ll stop now.
As I stood on the deck of the USS Missouri — just feet away from the spot on the battleship where Japan officially surrendered to end World War II — I was trying to make my own peace.
I rolled the little black lava rock around in my hand, peered down into Pearl Harbor and then gave it a toss. I did it with mixed emotions after carrying around that pocked-mark beauty for several days.
When I go on a vacation trip (although this one was as a travel agency’s tour host), I usually come home with two souvenirs — a T-shirt representing the area we visited and a small piece of the landscape. Last week, I bought my shirt on the Big Island of Hawaii and picked up the lava rock on a beach in Maui.
I take those little keepsakes for physical reminders of where I have visited and as good luck charms.
I didn’t find out until later that “stealing” lava rocks from Hawaii will put the curse of Pele — the goddess of fire and volcanoes — on you.
“You can’t believe all the lava rocks that are mailed back to Hawaii from the mainland after people are suddenly beset by all kinds of bad luck,” said our Hawaiian guide in Hilo.
“Don’t worry about it,” said another guide on Kauai. “That’s all a myth started by bus drivers who got sick of people hauling stuff back on their vehicles. As long as you don’t take a lava rock from a national park — which is illegal — it’s OK. I took one to relatives in Oklahoma and nothing bad happened.”
I was torn.
I really liked my lava rock and wanted to keep it, but I certainly didn’t want the wrath of Pele on my case. Sarah from our group had already gotten rid of hers after receiving a few unpleasant reports from back home in Ohio.
Things were going great for me, though. My wife may has lost a favorite earring down the drain in our cruise ship’s shower, but that had nothing to do with me. Right?
So I decided to take my lava rock home and put it on my desk to remind me of what a great trip we had.
We loved everything about Hawaii — the beautiful beaches and green-clad mountains … the vast changes in vegetation … and the people. Especially the people. Man hugs were expected by the Hawaiians we had the pleasure to meet.
Kelly, short for his true Hawaiian name, was our final guide when we returned to Honolulu for our flight home. He was Hawaiian — and American — to the core. The Islands were tattooed across his hand and the tusks from a wild boar killed for his son’s first birthday party hung around his neck. He brought tears to our eyes talking about Pearl Harbor and Dec. 7, 1941.
“Toss the rock,” he softly said. “Keep Pele happy.”
So I did — off the USS Missouri’s deck. Kelly smiled. I hope Pele did, too.
I have to wonder how much more snow would have greeted us back home if I hadn’t.