Gretchen Powers – talented filmmaker, photographer, and good friend to MiiR – reflects on the latest Chris Burkard Collection. In her personal essay below, she connects the powerful Hawaiian volcanic landscape to the vast Icelandic glaciers across the world captured in Burkard’s collection.
I spent my free time as a kid outside. I used to spin in circles in the fields next to the playground at recess by myself, usually in a flowery, twirly dress. I twirled and twirled, staring at the sun before I’d fall to the grass, stain my dress and giggle to myself, as I watched the clouds pass overhead. Friends weren’t easy to come by as a super creative cool kid who moved a lot. But I found fairy friends in the woods, hiding under moss-covered downed trees, and I always found a bit of peace anywhere the air smelled fresh and clean.
When I strode out of the Hilo Airport on the Island of Hawai’i last week, bags in hand heading for the thick of the jungle near Volcanoes National Park, the first thing that hit me was the smell. A sweet musk that was almost tangy. And with each inhale, I smelled hope, a dash of trepidation but mostly just a new sense of calm. The combination made me smile wider than I had in weeks. As I drove the winding, bumpy roads to my jungle cabin I listened to Kolohe Kai on the radio, singing along to words I’d learned by heart after calling the Hawaiian Islands home for 18 months.
The first thing I noticed when I lived here was just how much Mother Nature flexes in Hawaii. It’s as though she’s saved her best stuff for these volcanic isles, covered in lush greenery and flowers that spill from the sides of the road everywhere you go. Bright pink Gingers, coral Heliconias and garnet Anthuriums, alongside massive Monsteras, Ulu trees and Ti leaves. The brilliant contrast of these saturated shades against the dark lava dirt that makes up many roads on the eastern side of the Big Island is truly breathtaking.
As lava spills and bubbles from the Kilauea volcano, flooding the floor of the Halemaumau Crater, a new skin is formed on the island of Hawai’i’s surface daily. The land here is constantly reborn and the slopes of this island are scarred by the spilling of this new lava. New life and new memories are formed over old landscapes. I had the most lovely time sharing this space with friends who hadn’t experienced the magic of Hawai’i yet, and there is really nothing better to remind you of how special a place is than standing next to someone appreciating it for the first time.
The Big Island of Hawai’i is a place where you can feel the energy of the earth - much like the landscape of Iceland pictured on these Chris Burkard collaboration vessels. The spewing, sputtering lava a reminder of what the interior of the earth is made of. Visiting this island and immersing myself in the lava tubes, crater rims, steam vents and jungle paths is a greater balm for the soul than any homeopathic salve I’ve ever tried.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world on the island of Iceland, the oldest ice on this earth is melting an alarming rate. The juxtaposition of the glacial runoff captured by Chris Burkard and the new earth sputtering to life here on Hawai’i has me at a loss for words. Life and death, beginnings and endings. No one wants to imagine a life without these spaces, whether enjoyed from deep within the wilderness, the accessible paved trails of National Parks, or that little patch of green you go to in your neighborhood when you just need to breathe.
I wish I could tell that little girl dancing in the field alone, “one day you’ll be living a life unimaginable to you right now. You’ll learn how to paddle a canoe through the Pacific waves. You’ll scale cliffs and learn not to be afraid of the height of the fall. Because, the fall is where you feel most alive, where you find the grit to keep going. Keep climbing. Don’t quit kiddo, the earth depends on people like you.”
Gretchen Powers, filmmaker and photographer