Thursday, May 20

Ode to Mt. St. Helens

The 1980 eruption of Mt. St Helens wasn't my first vocanic eruption. Ten years earlier I had lived in Keflavik, Iceland when Mt. Hekla erupted and sent rivers of lava spiraling down her slopes. Okay, so I was eight and that's how I remember it. And at least I can spell and pronounce Hekla which is more than I can say about the newest Icelandic volcano.

The memories of Mt. St. Helens are a little more vivid and clear. From the months that we raced down our road to watch steam and ash clouds rise into the air like nuclear bomb remnants to the intense media circus that became "volcano watch" to the iconic voice yelling into the radio, "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it! This is the big one!" Anybody who was here during that time still gets goosebumps when they hear those words.

Since 1980, Mt. St. Helens has rumbled and groused a few times but for the most part has settled into dormancy with the grace of a retired opera star. She still commands fans and attention, but seems content to bask in her former glory.

What has this got to do with writing? Mmmm. Probably nothing. But, thirty years ago I wrote about her in my farewell editorial to the class of '80 at Hudson's Bay High. This recent milestone has awakened the nostalgia of who I once was and what I wanted to be.

At eighteen, I wanted three things, to become a writer, a wife, and a mother. Not necessarily in that order. And I've accomplished all three. I've been married for 26 years, most of them good. We have two great daughters.

And lastly, I write therefore I am a writer. I probably should have specified that I wanted to be a published writer. With every book I finish I still believe that it's going to be the "one" but I think every pre-published writer thinks that. If we didn't, we wouldn't be writing it.

So, happy anniversary Mt. St. Helens and long may you blow.


  1. In 1991, we went to visit our only (at that time) grandchild and, incidentally, her parents, in Tacoma, WA. While we were there, we drove down to Oregon, where my sister lived (again, at that time) on the edge of a state or national forest. DeShutes? Anyway, 11 years later, volcanic ash was everywhere. It was amazing to me then and still is.

  2. I remember when that went. Amazing to watch on TV, but I wouldn't have wanted to be closer! I also remember watching tv footage of a volcano when I was a little kid, I'd even guess 8....and the rivers of red that ran down a mountain....and one old guy refused to leave his home, sat in the middle of the road in his lawn chair, and eventually got consumed. That's always stuck in my mind.....

  3. I don't think I would've stayed near a volcano that could erupt again. Heck, I left CA to get away from earthquakes!

  4. Christi,
    I've always figured we have it pretty mild. There are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and snowmageddons in other places. I'll take the occasional volcano eruption any day.

  5. My grandparents went out the Mt.St. Helen's to visit family when I was still in high school...they brought back all these gray rocks and I was like, "How do you know they're *reeeeally* volcanic?"

    I'd love to see a volcano erupt, but not a big eruption - that's a little too scary...maybe just a visit to the on-going Hawaiian eruption. That's a nice, slow flow...and I can run away when I get scared. :)

  6. Margie,
    you're a great writer, and I can't wait to see your name on the cover of a book!
    I'd also love to see Mt. St Helens.
    My daughter and I ride on a big mesa that once a volcano, still has the volcanic rock strewn everywhere.