Would I have to start planning outfits around the tattoo like I plan for weather?
Last week I escaped the fury of Nemo by visiting family in Pahoa, Hawaii, a rainy jungle town where food stamps are accepted at the local organic health food co-op. I spent most of the week camping on the beach and lazing about in these really amazing volcanically heated hot ponds.
Between the camping and the lazing, I also accepted an invitation from a family friend, Dave, who lives -- I shit you not -- in a tree house, to join him an expedition to explore what locals call the "yoni cave." This was not a clever way to ask if I was down for a bone.
He was referring to an abandoned lava tube created zillions (hundreds?) of years ago by flowing lava. The tube contains multiple caves, stretching over 30 miles long from the active Kilauea volcano to the coastal village of Kalapana. It's one of the largest caves in the entire world.
I know what you're thinking: Can Dave get HBO in his treehouse? But also, why is the cave called the yoni cave? Doesn't yoni mean vagina? While Dave is missing the second season of "Girls," you are right about yoni being sanskrit for vagina. The entrance of this particular cave is marked by a 10 foot vagina that Mama Nature created all on her own out of molten lava.
Dave told me that the cave was once used as a sacred Hawaiian burial ground, but Google also let me know that for several hundreds of years, the cave was used for rituals of conception and birth. I am not quite sure what these “rituals” were...all of my research turned up vague results.
I am pretty anxious by nature, and when you couple this with my affinity for horror movies, well you can see why cave exploration has never been a hobby of mine. However, Dave hooked me with his mention of a massive stone cooter.
It wasn't until we were leaving and he reminded me to “bring my headlamp” that I really stopped to think about what an abandoned lava tube would look like: a long, dark, drippy cave. Shiver!
I brought along my boyfriend, P, for moral support, and also because he looks very manly and rugged whilst sporting a headlamp. Dave drove us 20 minutes through the winding backroads of the Hawaiian jungle before pulling off into a patch of dirt. We got out of the car, and the boyf and I followed Dave down an unmarked trail, past an ominous “no trespassing” sign. About 100 feet from the road, set in the side of a small stone base, was a gaping hole sloping down into darkness.
I'm not gonna lie: I was totally freaked out.
I strongly dislike the dark. It terrifies me. I'm a big ole baby. But doing things that scare you build character. At least, that's what I told myself as the three of us climbed down a rocky slope into the dark, turning on our headlamps as the opening behind us became smaller and smaller.
Immediately, the temperature was much cooler and I could feel dank air on my skin. I demanded to walk in the middle of Dave and P because, again, I'm a big baby. The inside of the initial tube was tall enough for me to walk through, although I constantly stared at my feet to avoid tripping over a rock and cracking my head open. To make things eerier, thin, stringy tree roots hung intermittently from the ceiling and would graze my shoulder and face leaving a cool, slug-like trail of moisture on my skin.
Once the light from the opening was no longer visible, Dave suggested we turn off our headlamps for a moment. I did this with great reluctance. I have never experienced such darkness in my life, and I nearly peed myself. It wasn't just the darkness that was freaky, but also the silence. The only sound was the slow drip drip of what I assumed was either water or the blood of virgins pooling somewhere deeper in the cave.
As we stood in the dark I began to run through horror movie plots in my head. P and I had a fancy island fuck about 45 minutes before we left for this field trip, so clearly that meant we would both die. In horror movies, premarital sex equals death.
Most likely P would die first, because he was the one taking all of the artsy pictures. In horror movies, artsy picture taking of sacred burial and birth grounds equals death. His death would leave me and Dave to forge a new intimacy as we fought off cave goblins or aliens or backwood jungle hillbillies attempting to create a sacrificial trampoline by stitching together our skins.
Dave and I would probably both die at the end, or maybe he would eat me. He does live in a treehouse, after all... (In horror movies, off-grid living equals cannibalism.)
After I imagined Dave making an intestine salad out of my hollowed-out pubic bone, I flipped my headlamp back on and we continued through the tubes. At times we had to walk very close to the wall, as points of the tube dropped off to black pits, most likely filled with the remains of those who dared to travel before us.
The first passageway lead us into a large chamber and before us lay the 10-foot vagina. Actually, if you want to get anatomical, it was a 10 foot vulva, lips and clit included. When I originally envisioned it, I thought the lava vulva would be vertical, adorning the wall. To my surprise, it lay on the ground before us, like a vaginal welcome mat, or a sign from mother earth that said “Do not walk further, or you will feel the wrath of my huge stone labia.”
I'm not an expert in symbolism or anything, but I know that caves have long been thought to represent the female entity. With their falopianesque tubes and uterusy chambers, they are womblike in nature, even before you tack on a 10 foot vulva.
Caves are thought not only to symbolize the womb, but also an internal place of refuge, as they were the first place we sought shelter back when we were cave-peoples. They are also thought to symbolize -- especially in dreams -- our own potential that is left unexplored.
So if you are dreaming of caves, you may be attempting to get in touch with your feminine aspect, exploring your inner self, or maybe you just really want to go spelunking. After oohing and ahing over Pele's vagina, we continued past the initial yoni cave and explored several more chambers. I've never experienced this type of natural phenomenon before, and while it was truly amazing, its magnificence didn't override my sheer terror.
We stayed underground a solid 45 minutes, creeping deeper and deeper down the tubes, walking through more open chambers, none of which sported any sort of stone genitalia. In a few places, light shone through from above where tree roots made cracks in the thick lava stone. P took a bunch of hipstery photos, Dave ate a chocolate bar, and I whimpered about aliens until everyone agreed to turn back.
Upon retracing our steps, I noticed that the original yoni chamber was filled with small parcels and offerings, stuck in the cracks in the walls and in the low ceiling above us. Creeptastic!
If you're ever in Puna, Hawaii (Puna...I know!), then I suggest you visit those naturally heated ponds, the black sand nudie beach, and for all of you brave, adventurous types, Pele's vagina.
You can find Zoe cowering on Twitter.