Nancy Lord’s piece titled “Volcano” is an excellent exploration of landscape, in a typical man vs. nature conflict. Julia, our narrator, is alone in her home when there is a volcano eruption that effectively cuts her off from the rest of civilization. The volcano acts as a motif for nature — even though Julia is in the comfort of her own home, the volcano isolates her off from all but the most basic comforts of a blanket. She recognizes the sounds that had become routine; the refrigerator, the clicking of the clock, and how their absence was profound.
While brief, her reprieve from the modern society is indicative of something that all long-term Alaskans must understand: Nature is beyond our control, and is extremely dangerous. It is not uncommon for those that don’t have proper respect for this country to die in it’s midst — or even for those that do know what they’re doing to perish, simply because of ill-fated circumstances. Isolation is a dangerous pursuit, and Julia’s inevitability, facing her death, is acknowledgement of this. While she does make it through the trial, she is aware that she could easily be blanketed by ash and suffocate — she even studies her reflection, musing on how she’ll look when she is eventually discovered.
While the volcano may be the embodiment of “nature,” as a whole, it is also an embodiment of Julia — it exists, working beneath the notice of the rest of the world, and will eventually make its presence known. Julia’s “eruption” is emotional — one thing she continuously focuses on is her husband’s absence, and the last lines bring the reader back to this: “Her eyes were on the wall calendar. She studied it and smoldered” (Lord 268). Eventually, Julia was going to erupt and she was going to do it without care for her surroundings — they would be collateral damage when she decided to make her mind known.
(photos are my own)