Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | March 24, 2014

Vog Day Afternoon

One thing the Hawaiian tourism board doesn’t want visitors to know about is our vog. Even those of us who live here are told that there are no known health hazards with vog.  Which rhymes with smog.

I moved here five years ago from Los Angeles and there are days when the vog is as bad as the smog we had in So Cal.  Only it comes from our active volcanos.  And has a lot of sulphur.

This past month I thought I was sick the whole time from the flu.  Which is partly true.  But also, a friend told my husband that one of our volcanos has been spewing more lava, so hence we have more vog.  And the lava has set fire to our forests, so we now have smoke and vog.  At night when we walk the dogs the sky is hazy, with only the biggest, brightest stars visible, colored off yellow and orange.

Yesterday we drove 50 miles to Wiamea, a cowboy town in the middle of the Big Island near the Kohalla Range.  My husband was on his last day of spring break (he teaches full time, in addition to farming and running a produce business) and finally, we were determined to take a drive.  You see, it is typical for us locals to work several jobs to make ends meet what with the high cost of living.  Organic milk is $15.00 a gallon.  A jar of marinara sauce can cost $8.99.  Sweet potatoes are $2.49 a pound.  We have the highest electric rates in the United States.  Gas is a small fortune.  So while many people come here to vacation, those who live here, rarely get time off.  We would love to go to resorts and loll about in hammocks by the beach, but instead we are working, working, working.  Or, we get an occasional day off and see how amazing this place we live in, is.

The other reason we were motivated to go on a day trip was the vog.  The wind currents rarely blow vog over to Wiamea.  The air is clear and moist.  And driving through one ecosystem and climate after another it’s like an imaginary land, where every few miles you are in another, completely different, gorgeous environment.


The Big Island has gradually been getting dryer in recent decades.  There are areas where for years there has been severe drought.  But this winter the rains came, so with spring upon us, everything was green.  Cupcake Mountain was green.  The lava lands were carpeted in green instead of bleached white grass.  The jackaranda and silver oak trees framed the vistas with lavender and egg yolk yellow flowers.  As we climbed higher and left the vog and smoke behind –Wiamea is a mountain town– a vast scene emerged below the silky ribbon of highway.  There were miles of old lava flowing like black rivers, flanked by other-worldly yellow-green meadows.  The ocean was every shade of blue.  Further out, is was cobalt and indigo, turning to the brightest, palest turquoise along the beaches and lagoons where the island meets the water.

In Wiamea, we went to Quaker meeting in the old, historic Spencer house, built in the mid-1800s.  Rain rippled and pelted outside the wavy glass windows as we meditated inside.  It was cool and gray, only the gray was not vog or smoke.  It felt good to be wearing longs pants and a jacket and taking in the wind and the moisture and the clean, clean air.

When it was time to go, we wished we could fool around the cowboy town, but more work was waiting for us at home, along with the vog and the smoke.  So we gathered our courage and descended, back down the ridge, past Cupcake Mountain, past the black rivers and the green, green grass, past the blue, blue ocean, and on and on, back to Little House, tucked into the side of Mauna Loa Volcano on Magic Mountain Farm.


  1. We are relived that your fluish period has an environmental stressor and not all the terrible worries that happen when you think too much. We understand how hard you and your sweet heart work, every place has two sides. You explained the truth behind every paradise in the modern world. The yin and yang of tradeoffs. We know life is a balancing act, but you have become more beautiful since moving to Hawaii. Each visit you are glowing more. We send our love to everyone.

  2. We have been worried about you and the lingering flu . Strangely a relief to know that the flip side of paradise is the rough bit of air and expenses that can wear your body down. We are grateful that it’s a normal life stress . though all stress takes a toll . We send our love to all. The writer in you shines through in the vivid and pure descriptions. Thank you for the post. Hope the vog passes soon.

  3. Sarah is such an amazing writer! 🙂

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