19 February 2011


Locus Focus: Take Forty-One!

New to Locus Focus?
Read This First!

Sometimes, I have nothing to say before the main part of my post except, "Insert clever introduction here." But this is not one of those times because I can at least make an announcement. =P

Please take note of next month's special Saturdays:

5 March 2011: "Battlegrounds" Challenge Day, for any setting that has something to do with war

26 March 2011: Middle-earth Day, meant to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien

I hope to see you then! =)

Eden Burning
by Elizabeth Lowell

"How much farther is the kipuka?" he asked briskly . . .

"Twenty minutes, maybe a bit more."

Chase looked dubiously over the rumpled, furrowed landscape. There was nothing in all directions but lava, lava, and more lava.

"It's there," she said, pointing across the black, stony land. "See? It looks like a tiny smudge of green on the far side of that aa flow."

"Green smudge," he muttered, shading his eyes and looking.

"Yes. The green is the tops of the tallest ohia trees."

Let me begin by trying to explain the kipuka--which feels like trying to explain a freak of nature . . . or as some people (including Elizabeth Lowell herself) would say, a miracle. A kipuka is an acre or so of forest that somehow survives a volcanic eruption, while for miles and miles around it, the rest of the landscape is absolutely devastated by the deluge of molten lava.

On the uphill side of the kipuka, some irregularity in the old slope had divided the lava flow into two streams. Between the streams of molten stone, plants shriveled, steamed . . . and survived. When the lava flow combined again farther down the slope, it walled off the kipuka from the rest of the devastated land. Except for the kipuka's few green acres, life in all directions had been engulfed in burning stone.

Silently Nicole looked at the miracle of the kipuka's life in the midst of a barren, newly born land . . .

Every growing space from ground level to treetop was filled by some kind of plant. The explosion of life was all the more startling for the sterile lava surrounding it.

And this is important to know because a person can be like a kipuka--a survivor of past devastation and amazing proof of what Lowell has her heroine call "the grace and stubbornness of life." The latter should know, being a survivor of a more human kind of devastation in her past.

What I love about this book--what makes it glow whenever I reread favourite passages--is the incredible awareness its author has of her chosen setting. In a genre full of "wallpaper" settings, Lowell's Hawaii is a fresco worthy of a Renaissance cathedral. The landscape of Hawaii, its flora and fauna and most of all its volcanoes, are as essential to the story as the two leads.

Not once does this setting seem like a mere backdrop to the main action, although there are several instances in which the plot appears to be an extension of Hawaii's own history, which both the author and the characters know really begins when volcanic gases had just started to cool and form the earth's oceans. In this love story, the whole of Hawaii is a kind of kipuka of the Fall: the only part of the world that is still Eden.

Image Sources: a) Eden Burning by Elizabeth Lowell, b) Kipuka 1, c) Kipuka 2


Kate said...

I have been dreaming of warm weather and your Hawaii post is only feeding into this longing!

Sorry I've got nothing to offer today...the novel I'm reading has turned out to be rather boring and those Anglo-Saxon deviant burials aren't getting any more romantic :) I think I'm in a fiction slump.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Kate! It's always nice to see you. =)

Birdie and I like to extend the themes for the challenge to all the Saturdays of the month, but it's not required. If you really want to share something about an Anglo-Saxon deviant burial spot, don't let me stop you! ;-)

Kate said...

Actually I'm thinking the deviant burials might work nicely for the battlefield theme...mostly because I'm not reading anything else at current with battlefields in! :)

Enbrethiliel said...


To tell you the truth, neither am I! =P The idea for this theme probably came from my plan to reread a lot of Tolkien next month--but that is already covered by Middle-earth Day. At the moment, I have exactly one idea, and I'm saving it for the Theme Challenge Day. I don't know if I'll be able to follow the theme the rest of the month.

Which is my way of saying that your deviant burials are going to be 100% welcome! Bring them on! =D

Kate said...

Yeah, the Tolkein theme, I just downloaded the English translation of The Last Ringbearer, a revisionist LOTR written from the point of view of Mordor by a Russian author. I don't read a lot of Tolkein for fun, so I think this will do for my Middle Earth Challenge Day!

Enbrethiliel said...


What a great idea! I look forward to both your "unorthodox" posts. =) Feel free to shake things up anytime!

Kate said...

Oh, just wait till next week :)