... along the Avenue of the Volcanes: 32 volcanoes on our mainland and 15 volcanoes in the Galapagos Islands. Now, like me, you may have been taught in an elementary science class the definition of Life and. in that unit, you learned that rocks and mountains are inanimate.
And while you memorized the rock cycle and learned about the different parts of a volcano, you learned these things with the knowledge and certainty that these lumps of rock and soil, with their seething gases and molten lava, spitting out mud and rocks, spewing lava and vapor, these mountains with their underground chambers and springs and lakes, waterfalls and rivers, these ancient moving geological formations are most certainly NOT alive.
I was born on the flanks of the sleeping volcano Guagua Pichincha.
As a child I lived in the Ecuadorian Amazon and at night I would stay up late, my eyes pressed into binoculars, watching the volcano Sangay miles across the canopy erupt in blue and green gases that hovered over the crown while glowing lava flowed down the gleaming white cone.
Years later, I lived on the flank of the beautiful and seductive Isabel Tungurahua. I watched for her red rocky face at sunset and at dawn. I bathed in her thermal pools and witnessed the first thin spiral of vapor rise up from her crater in 80 years. I felt the earth rumble beneath me at her complaint and abandoned a town I loved, 7 months pregnant, 2 weeks in advance of a military evacuation of 22,000 people as Tungurahua erupted in spectacular fury.
One week later, in Quito, I watched in surprise from my living room window as an unexpected plume of vapor, gas and ash burst, without warning, up out of the Guagua Pichincha rising 12 kilometers into the cerulean sky.
I have swept ash from our porch and closed up windows and doors as a noxious sulfur cloud from Reventador seeped over our house. I have sent emergency volcano kits to school with my children including goggles, masks, band aids, suero fisiológico, bottled water, and snacks. I have driven through falling ash, thicker than a blizzard, as Cotopaxi erupted, the prickly sound of pumice smattering across our car.
As I write, 3 of our volcanoes--Reventador, Sangay, and El Cumbre in the Galápagos--are in an active process of eruption. This month a brand new scientific study warns that Tungurahua´s western flank may soon collapse.
The mountains are giving birth.
From my very limited experience--from this tiny window that is my life--I can tell you, most certainly, that these mountains are anything but inANIMATE.
I look it up:
Anima. ... The Latin origin of the word is animus, ‘rational soul, life, or intelligence,’ from a root that means ‘to blow’ or ‘to breathe.’
From the Latin. A noun. Declension: 1st declension Gender: feminine Definitions: 1. air (element) 2. breathing 3. life 4. soul, spirit, vital principle 5. wind, breeze
Did you know that volcanoes breathe?