IS FIRE GOODESS SPELLED WITH TWO D’S BY LINDAS TA FFORD
When I was eight years old, I saw a movie about a mysterious island that had an erupting 1)volcano and 2)lush jungles filled with wild animals and 3)cannibals. The island was ruled by a beautiful woman called Tondalaya, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano. It was a terrible low budget movie, but to me, it represented the perfect life. Being chased by 4)molten 5)lava, blood thirsty animals and savages was a small price to pay for freedom. Idesperately wanted to be the Fire Goddess. I wrote it on my list of things to be when I grow up, and I asked my girlfriend if Fire Goddess was spelled with two d's.
Through the years, the school system did its best to mold me into a no nonsense, responsible, respectable citizen, and Tondalaya was forgotten. My parents approved of my suitable marriage and I spent the next 25 years being a good wife, eventually the mother of four, and a very respectable and responsible member of society. My life was as 6)bland and boring as a bowl of 7)oatmeal. I know exactly what to expect in the future. The children would grow up and leave home, my husband and I would grow old together, and we'd baby-sit the grandchildren.
The week I turned 50, my marriage came to a sudden end. My house, furniture and everything I'd owned was auctioned off to pay debts that I didn't even know existed. In a week I had lost my husband, my home and my parents who had refused to accept a divorce in the family. I'd lost everything except my four teenage children. I had enough money to rent a cheap apartment while I looked for a job or I could use every penny I had to buy five plane tickets from Missouri to the most remote island in the world, the Big Island of Hawaii. Everyone said I was crazy to think I could just run off to an island and survive. They predicted I'd come crawling back in a month. Part of me was afraid they were right.
The next day, my four children and I landed on the Big Island of Hawaii with less than $2,000. Knowing no one in the world was going to help us. I rented an unfurnished apartment where we slept on the floor and lived on 8)cereal. I worked three jobs 9)scrubbing floors on my hands and knees, selling 10)macadamia nuts to tourists and gathering coconuts. I worked 18 hours a day and lost 30 pounds because I lived on one meal a day. I had panic attacks that left me curled in a knot on the bathroom floor shaking like a 11)shell-shocked soldier.
One night as I walked alone on the beach, I saw the red orange glow of the lava pouring out of Kilauea Volcano in the distance. I was 12)wading in the Pacific Ocean, watching the world's most active volcano, and wasting that incredible moment, because I was 13)haunted by the past, exhausted by the present and terrified of the future. I'd almost achieved my childhood dream but hadn't realized it, because I was focused on my burdens instead of my blessings. It was time to live my imagination! Not my history. Tondalaya, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano had finally arrived.
The next day, I quit my jobs and invested my last 14)paycheck in art supplies and began doing what I loved. I hadn't painted a picture in 15 years, because we barely 15)scratched out a living on the farm in Missouri, and there hadn't been money for tubes of paint, canvases and frames. I wondered if I could still paint or if I had forgotten how. My hands trembled the first time I picked up a brush. But before an hour had passed, I was lost in the colors spreading across the canvas in front of me. I painted pictures of old sailing ships and as soon as I started believing in myself, other people started believing in me, too. The first painting sold for $1,500 before I even had time to frame it.
The past six years have been filled with adventures. My children and I have gone swimming with 16)dolphins, watched 17)whales and hiked around the 18)crater rim of the volcano. We wake up every morning with the ocean in front of us and the volcano behind us. The dream I had more than 40 years ago is now reality. I live on an island with a continuously erupting volcano. The only animals of the jungle are wild 19)boars and 20)mongooses and there aren't any cannibals. But often in the evening, I can hear the drums from native dancers on the beach.
I'm free for the first time in my life. I am Tondalaya, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano, spelled with two d's and I'm living happily ever after.