I shook hands with a volcano today. I’ve been watching her from afar and imagining what she might be like: Wondering if she had rivers of lava frozen in time; if her peaks were smooth or jagged; if she had deep pits with hardened lava in the bottom; and much more.

As the boat sliced through the angry and spitting blue sea, getting closer to where the waves break on her edges, she became less of dark mountain in the ocean and more intimately unique. There were black jagged rocks that waves lapped against, green grass on her rolling hills, and lighter colored gravel that covered much of her surface. She was nothing like I imagined.

My first step off the boat was on to dark fine sand. As I walked up her hills pumice crunched under my feet. There were massive red jagged boulders and many of her rocks sprouted with a dusting of orange furry fungus. The further up I walked the more she looked merely like a rocky hill. There were volcanic stones, but no rivers of lava. There were no peaks, only mounds of rocks and sand. There were low spots, but no deep pits. She was beautiful and simple and so different than I imagined.

There was a stone pillar, probably 8 feet tall and as wide as a bar stool that man had made in the center of her tallest plateau. I climbed up and sat on top, facing the wind. Within moments the wind became stronger and stronger, almost pushing me off my perch. Instinctively my eyes closed and I sat there hearing the roar of the wind in my ears, feeling its force against my chest, and noticing it pushing my hanging legs around like two pegs on a wind chime. Sitting there in the darkness of my eyelids, I realized I could be anywhere.  For a moment I even wondered where I was as the deafening roar of the wind drowned out everything I knew.

It was almost like Christmas, wondering what I’d see when my eyes opened. Then it happened and there in front of me were rolling slopes of green grass, bordered with jagged red volcanic boulders, framed by the Agean sea, which was dotted with islands as far as I could see. How did this happen? What luck and miracles brought me here, to sit in this spot and have this solitary experience with and on a volcano?

Santorini Volcano Greece

I sat and watched the wind roll through the green grass in waves, tasted the salt air, and smelled gentle whiffs of sulfur scent that had traveled from deep within the earth and found their way inside my nose. Then I realized I was no longer by myself on the volcano. I slipped down from my perch so others could experience sitting atop a pillar with an ancient volcano while each and every sense was stimulated.Santorini Volcano

As I sauntered around atop her rolling rocky hills, I left the beaten path to explore. Then I saw it: a trace of smoke or steam. I waited, wanted and watched. There it was again, almost invisible, but it was there. I slipped and slid down her slopes, rocks the size of oranges rolling under my feet. Finally her warm humid breath met my face and I was surprised how moist it was. There were several tiny caves that bellowed the steam, each crusted with yellow sandy crystals. I wondered how deep the tiny caves were. The holes in her earth that were whisping steam weren’t large enough for a grapefruit. So I reach out and then in: my hand instantly wet, and suddenly scalding. I instinctively drew back.

Then I gently reached out again, this time slowly inviting her to say hello.

I shook hands with a volcano today…


A video of the tiny caves and view from the site of the handshake:


Nea Kameni is an active, though dormant, volcano in the Agean Sea; Santorini, Greece


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