The earth is a volatile, shifting being, its wonders both hidden and exposed. Magma bubbles and flows thirty kilometers below its exterior, forever searching for cracks and weaknesses, places to squeeze through to the surface, to make itself known. To be seen.
You’ve held secrets that have behaved in much the same way, squirming in their tightly locked chambers, seeking release, wanting to feel the light on the curve of their shame. Some secrets you have kept well, but for many you make a crack, lever it wide enough for a new beginning.
Volcanoes are classified as active, dormant, or extinct. You wonder if a secret can ever be extinct. The truth of it surely lives on even after death. Like the trees in the forests, the dolphins in the seas, the orchid in the meadow, all are still there even if there’s no person to see it.
The lava flows of shield volcanoes have low viscosity, travelling slowly for many miles. These volcanoes are wide with smooth slopes. Stratovolcanoes are tall, have many kinds of lava erupting from their mouths alongside rocks and ash. Cinder cone volcanoes erupt briefly and then settle, as though they feel the turmoil beneath but are mistaken by its intensity. You wonder if these volcanoes are disappointed or relieved.
You have known many secrets like the cinder cone volcano. You felt the shifting heat deep beneath your crust, knowing that release was inevitable, the consequences for yourself and others unknowable in its severity. But once the ash and lava flows you find the eruption of your imagination is a phantom, merely a fire born of fear. Mostly you are relieved by this movement towards growth, but sometimes you are disappointed by another’s casualness, an air of easy acceptance. You are not sure why this is so.
The Volcano Explosivity Index is the scale used to measure the amount a volcano releases during eruption. Mount St. Helens reached 5 out of 8 when it released a cubic kilometer of the earth’s belly. When the volcano in Toba erupted 73,000 years ago, it spewed out 1,000 cubic kilometers of itself, creating a devastating effect on the climate and plunging the world into an ice age. Toba is estimated to be 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index.
You would like a way to measure the destructive power of a secret. Your logical mind wants a way to evaluate the potential pain for yourself and for others, and if the pressure of keeping it safe beneath the surface causes less equivalent damage to your own mind and spirit. You would like this to be a colourful chart, or some kind of mechanism with a golden arrow to indicate a sliding scale from gentle discomfort to eruptive destruction.
Olympus Mons, on Mars, is the tallest volcano in the Solar System. It is a shield volcano that is 27 km high and 550 km across. One possible explanation for this mass exodus of material is that there are no tectonic plates on Mars, so this single weakness on its surface is burning and blistering, layer upon layer, in a place where time doesn’t exist.
You have kept many secrets for other people and will continue to do so. Some people have few fissures but still they have secrets that burn, that need an Olympus Mons to release the slow lava of their thought and soul. And when this lava begins to rest and cool it remains as a solid testament to your friendship, its surface rippled with trust, its gentle slope indicating a steady direction of travel, unifying and eternal. Forever there.