Images by John Hook
Protected by massive cliffs, Green Sands Beach, the gleaming bay at the southernmost point of the United States, emits hues of sage and citrine when the sunlight hits its sand. Heralded for its beauty, and for the sense of peace it instills in those who visit its shoreline, this Big Island beach boasts a glimmering display of one of Hawai‘i’s most unique facets: olivine. This translucent green mineral comprises 50 percent of the Earth’s upper mantle, but it is rarely seen on the planet’s surface. However, olivine is plentiful on the Big Island, home to the world’s most active volcano, since the mineral surfaces with magma, crystalizing as the molten rock solidifies, and dislodging via erosion over time. At Green Sands Beach, where the weather and waves erode the encircling cliffs, olivine crystals dot the beach in such plentiful numbers that the sand actually appears green. On this island of olivine, several residents have felt the calling of such mineral manifestations, and have become crystal collectors.
On the Big Island’s southeast coast, in the Puna district, waves lap energetically at the large rocks that, when molten, flow over the town of Kalapana. At the edge of the rocks, a new beach is slowly forming. Nearby, lava from Halema‘uma‘u Crater continues to pour into the ocean, putting on fiery displays for legions of visitors who travel by land and sea to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
Along the viewing path to the current flow stands an outcropping of tiny homes, where feet erode gravel paths and sweat drips down the brows of excited tourists. Here, local resident Kerry Long tests boundaries of former expectations about the life he once had, eroding away unnecessary ideals and expanding his mind.
The solitary man’s tiny home, low on Mauna Loa, is easily recognizable. Along the road to the lava sits a small shed with an image of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, that was painted by local artist Dan Madsen. Nearby, a small platform lined with turf is marked with a sign inviting tourists to sit down and rest amid the sweltering, arid heat. Orchids and tree ferns that Long has tucked into lava niches offer pops of green where soil will eventually form in the crevices, aided by a little cinder, mulch, and the roots of the flourishing plants.
Nearby on the property sit two more structures: one, a modest kitchen; the other, a tiny room with one majestic purpose: to house Long’s hundreds of crystals. The smaller among the cache are displayed in wooden cases with individual cubbies, while the larger hunks rest on tables and the floor. Long has been collecting crystals for three years, but it was nearly seven years ago when he says he first felt a calling to become more spiritually aware.
Long had been financially successful as a property manager in California, and later in Hawaiʻi, and was happy living what he called a “material life.” But he felt there might be something more substantial to pursue. While in Hawai‘i, Long sought advice from those around him, like his acupuncturist. But it was Long’s tattoo artist, who added a manta ray image (in reverence to Long’s passion for canoe paddling) to the blanket of tattoos covering his back, who sent Long down the path to spiritual awakening. Three days after getting inked, Long was paddling in Hilo Bay when a large manta ray leaped from the water in front of his canoe.
The encounter left him feeling that there was rhyme and reason to everything happening in his life.
Around that same time, Long says, his life began to change. Colors flashed behind his closed eyelids, and the sound of Tibetan singing bowls would ring in his ears, despite his being nowhere near them. He began to experience through feeling rather than knowing, and the feeling he found when he discovered his first crystal, he recalls, was magical and indescribable.
Long has never studied geology, or contemplated the metaphysical properties of crystals. “I just look at it and feel, and people tell me what they supposedly mean,” he says of his crystal selection process. The pieces he brings into his home are always on display and sometimes held or worn around his neck on special occasions.
While Long has spent most of his life in and around the water, at his tiny, crystal-filled home amid miles and miles of barren lava fields, he seeks to harness a new element: fire. Long feels he was called to live in this particular home, just miles from the active lava flow, despite being afforded no insurance, should Pele change her course. Still, he says it’s worth it to live in an area of such active creation.
In Long’s crystal room, a seashell curtain clinks softly as wind blows through the open window. Occasionally, beams of light catch one of the crystals, sending rainbows dancing throughout the room. One of his favorites among the gems is quartz, which he has in many shapes and sizes. One day, Long hopes to offer massage therapy in this room, where he feels the energy of the minerals will positively affect recipients.
Since purchasing the house and property, Long has come up with various improvements and projects, like the mural of Pele he commissioned to be enjoyed by those hiking to the lava. Long gets comments about it from tourists and residents alike, some of whom have watched his property evolve over visits to the active lava flow. “I get so many compliments from people saying they feel the energy coming out of this place more than before,” he says.
Down the slope of Maunakea, tucked just above Hilo town in the Kaumana area, are two individuals who also love crystals as much as Kerry Long: Cora Andrews and Kristof Baugher. Andrews is airy, mysterious, and sweet, while Baugher is patient, contemplative, and comparatively outgoing. Both are wildly passionate about mineral crystals. The couple run a booth at the Downtown Hilo’s Farmers Market, which is where they met years ago.
Originally, the duo set up shop to sell their jewelry made with mgambo seeds, which look like delicate velvet-coated beads. But now, at this booth and in their everyday lives, Baugher and Andrews are on a “crystal journey” that began by chance and has now evolved into their current business, Shine Crystals.
The couple began incorporating crystals into their creations when a friend, who happened to be a crystal dealer, gave Baugher a piece of North Carolina azeztulite that made Baugher feel a physical shift within his body. This acquaintance told Baugher that the azeztulite had been telling him it needed to come to Baugher, so he passed it along as a gift.
Once Baugher held the rock, he says, “It was just an immediate, overwhelming experience for my whole body. When that crystal got into my hand, it shot energy up into my left arm and then into my entire body.”
It took Baugher, who was originally fascinated by the mineral components of crystals from a scientific perspective, a while to wrap his head around the experience. “There’s a density in the human mind that refuses to believe that’s real,” he says. “That’s a really big leap of faith for people, to say that they felt it. You’ve now put yourself in a camp, pitted against the non-believers.”
But after this experience, Baugher says he began to physically feel the effects of other crystals when he was around them, manifested in things like better sleep quality or more vivid dreams. Similar shifts in awareness have been documented dozens of times by those involved with crystals, particularly by Robert Simmons, a pioneer in the metaphysical, human-facing properties of mineral crystals.
Convinced about these effects, Baugher and Andrews began collecting crystals as a hobby. Soon, the couple began incorporating them into the jewelry they created. Today, they deal in both handcrafted jewelry and rare mineral crystals from around the world, and collate their extensive personal crystal collection. They have also created proprietary groups of crystals based on how the stones interact, which they sell as packages. These organized groupings of crystals, according to Baugher, assist in attaining physical and mental wellbeing. They can also be laid out to create crystal grids—geometric patterns of crystals that help the user to focus his or her intentions and manifest quicker results.
Through their work, Baugher and Andrews interact with massage therapists, reiki healers, and tarot card readers. Distributing crystals is delicate work, since the end users can be quite sensitive. The couple says that they have become attuned to the effects of various crystals, and find themselves halfway between the “science camp” and the “metaphysical camp.”
According to Baugher, the scientific properties of the minerals that make up crystals—often light-alkalizing metals, like beryllium, strontium, or rubidium—interact with the human body’s chemical composition and account for the feeling of energy. Healers who use crystals choose those that they believe aid them or their clients in physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, with effects ranging from lowered stress to increased ease in the breaking of bad habits.
“I’m into the really powerful crystals, the metaphysical rock stars that have very rare chemical compounds,” says Baugher, who favors phenacite, moldavite, and rhodizite. According to him, these crystals can make a person feel more aware, alert, and alive.
He adds, “Cora is into the ones that are very calming and meditative and either contain lithium or have soothing qualities … which nurture the soul.” These include kunzite, auralite 23, and quartz.
The pair likes to sit and relax with their crystals nearby. Sometimes they hold them, meditate while holding them, or even sleep with them.
On the other hand, the business side of Shine Crystals requires not spending too much leisure time with the minerals they plan to sell. Instead, Baugher and Andrews match clients with the right crystals for each person’s unique and individual needs, listing the look, feel, and beneficial qualities of each crystal carefully on their website for the public to see. According to the couple, many of the crystals they sell are rare, all of which were specially sought out for clarity, origin of location, and chemical composition.
“[Our clients] are super excited to feel the energy of something they haven’t experienced yet,” Baugher says. “We were in the exact same position, [saying], ʻOkay now I gotta try this one!’ You’re waiting for the mail to come so you can feel the energy of this crystal and see where that takes you in life. It’s this beautiful unfolding.”