18 May, 2008

Sleep, Helen, Sleep

This was the scene 28 years ago today, when Mount St. Helens decided to show Washington State just who's boss.

My initial reaction upon hearing the news that a volcano had exploded within the continental United States was, "No, way!" I was five. For some reason, my five year old brain thought volcanoes happened to other countries.

My second reaction was to draw St. Helens a get well card. Just look at her. Tell me she doesn't look like that hurt like hell.

I've been fascinated by her ever since. I read books, articles, survivors' stories. I discovered that a pyroclastic flow is no picnic. I learned about lateral blasts, which led to a bad moment once at the San Francisco Peaks.

See that big gouge? Yup. The Peaks used to be a peak. Lateral blast, baby, yeah! At one point, Flagstaff, Arizona looked a damned lot like southwestern Washington State circa May 18th, 1980. This could explain why I had a bit of a heart attack when hiking on the Peaks once, and our guide announced "We're standing in the center of a caldera" whilst I was admiring the pretty bowl-shaped valley we'd wandered into.

You never want to hear a guide say "We're standing in the center of a caldera" when you have a volcano phobia.

St. Helens and I got to see each other for the first time last year. If you look closely, you can see she's putting on a tiny little show of steam and ash. Nothing major, just showing off a tad.

It seems she's gone back to sleep, for now. I'm glad she decided to wait until this phobe got to stare into her abyss and overcome fear with fascination.

Happy eruption anniversary, my dear. Sleep tight.

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