On a recent morning when returning home, I stopped to take a picture of Mt. Rainier. It sits there reminding all human guests on earth — and that’s what we are, because it was here 500,000 years ago, and we about 200,000 — that everything else going on in the world doesn’t really matter. COVID-19, money, work, movies, whatever. The mountain just does its thing and looks majestic in the process.
And perilous too, as it’s considered one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world. Yes, everything you see in the picture above will be destroyed when Mount Rainier blows. Within an hour or so (I’m told about 45 minutes, actually). nobody reading this would want to be standing where I was when taking this picture. Our house located not too far away will be gone.
Why live here? Because it’s a great place to live, the mountain’s imminent danger aside.
Where we live when a house comes up for sale it sells faster than any other place in the county. It’s not that the homes are extravagant or in gated communities or even new (most are quite old), it’s something else. I’d say neighborhood, but that sounds snobbish somehow.
I lived in Vancouver, Washington when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. I’ve lived through and seen what volcanic ash looks, smells and feels like. It’s silky to the touch but incredibly dense. It rained like snow, but it wreaked havoc on vehicles. When it landed it hardened and become like concrete. Harder than concrete. People were selling it in jars many states away, but we had so much of the stuff in our yard that we jumped it with our bikes. It was like some sort of grayish snow. An almost alien substance that upon touch is never forgotten.
We have lived near Mount Rainier for the better part of 30 years now. We go about our business, while it goes about it, but there is always a reminder that at any moment it could wake up and remind us how insignificant we are. How everything we think matters in a brief few moments will turn into survival. Get to higher ground, get out of the way of the wall of ash, trees and devastation that this beautiful mountain can unleash.
The trees will grow back, the lakes and animals will return. It’s happened at Mount St. Helens. People will rebuild near the mountain again.
The mountain helps to keep us grounded, to remind us that no matter what is happening in the world — bad, good, otherwise — life goes on.