Sometimes the earth can be scarred like skin. This is what I thought as we drove up Highway 19, up from the Kona airport, along a coastline charred with volcanic black rock. Burnt earth and a whispering silence.
So it was startling to see, scrawled into the black, white words, like voices in the dark. They call it coral graffiti, Hawaiian for street art. It’s not really, but it’s the closest thing I saw. Hawaii isn’t very urban, and I definitely didn’t go into the urban parts—but coral graffiti was the local take on tagging.
It appears to work like this: you pull over on the side of the highway, hissing wind and heat. You arrange white coral gathered at the beach; you write messages, declarations of love and tributes to the deceased, sometimes a little hometown pride. It blazes against the black, long after you’ve whizzed away—becomes, not a relic of you, but its own entity, its own little prayer, living on in the stretch of rock and wind.
I didn’t write any. But I did pull over to snap some photos. Enjoy.