Journal Entry: 19 October 1980
We are volleying the flu, and the mountain blew again on the 17th -- giving us our greatest concentration of ash yet in Salem. It's hard on respiratory systems already coping with wheezes and fever. I've not felt well for three weeks, and keep joking with Michael that we should head for Acapulco quickly. It would be so lovely to really do that.
I don't have anger for the mountain, in spite of the inconvenience. After flying over it with Michael and Mama for her 65th birthday on September 27th, I have a deep love for Mount St. Helens. We cleared the red zone with our "press pass" and flew mere hundreds of feet over the mountain. Her strong drafts played with the plane and her smell filled my nose so that, even now with this cold, I can recall the sulfur. It was dizzying fun and I was congratulating myself on providing the best birthday gift ever for Mama, until that moment when the mountain's turbulence sucked the small plane inside her huge crater. We four then had a silent knowing -- a breathless, wordless romp with danger. It was the wildest ride ever, crazier than anything created for any fair or expo. Mama had a stunned look on her face (she later told me her thoughts were: This cannot be. I have lived 65 wonderful years but these three young people are just starting their lives...), the pilot was moving his hands over the controls so swiftly that he looked like he had 30 fingers, and Michael...oh, Michael, was snapping photos faster than seems possible: clickclickclickclick inside the crater as the plane headed for the steaming dome. Looking back now I realize that I was the observer watching the others' reactions while I lost track of time itself. When we suddenly rose up and cleared the slice of the mountain's side all my senses were warped and wrapped together: sightsmellhearingtouch but then out of that mush I began to distinguish the pilot's quipped explanation: he did not know how he had been able to save us, as the plane had dropped about 300 feet per minute. He chose to not join us for brunch after we landed and I probably will never see him again.
Nothing has seemed as significant since. I belong to Mount St. Helens in spirit now. And sharing all that with Mama will remain among my most powerful memories for the rest of my life. I also now have a more peaceful feeling regarding my death. Each of us in the plane -- Mama, Michael, the pilot, and I -- expressed having a sacrificial mood when we were with the mountain that day. Death must come, then, with a willingness to give oneself to something greater.
Visit Magpie Tales for more takes on this week's photo prompt!
Note: I have searched through boxes of loose photos for the one image I have that was taken by my then-boyfriend, Michael, (not to be confused with my now-husband, Michael!) and I cannot find it. Living around this kind of disarray is one reason I started my second blog, Clutterquake, and, after the frustrating experience I've had trying to find one favorite photo, I think I had better renew my efforts to address the damn clutter that paralyzes me. When I find the marvelous shot taken inside the mountain as the plane was literally on its way down I will add it to this post.