Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mag 64 -- Falling for the mountain

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.



Helen said...

You described this experience in chilling detail. The last paragraph about death and willingly giving oneself to something greater is particularly riviting.

ds said...

Wow. You describe the indescribable brilliantly. A nightmare save for the quick abilities of that pilot. He's a hero. You and your mom were meant to survive>

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Gaaaaah! its at times like this i wish blogs had a "like" button - so i could "like" this post

I already do, of course - a brilliant piece of descriptive journalistic writing, reminiscent in some ways of Hemmingway - only interesting :)

And then at the end to realise it was a true story


Lydia said...

Helen~ You are so kind to say that. :)

ds~ Reading your reaction makes me realize all the more what an event it was in our lives. The pilot's name was Pat Kelly, a hero for sure!

Pixies~ Lookie what your comment generated....I actually found out how to add a like button and installed it in your honor. Now get thee one on your blog too!
Yes, wow...that day in my life that still stuns me when I think of it.

Rob-bear said...

Awesome, and very frightening.

Kathe W. said...

holy smoke! what a ride. Great post!

bfk said...

What an engrossing vignette, Lydia. And so perfect for Mother's Day. Now go clean up your room.

Tumblewords: said...

Heart reaching story! Being within major ash fallout from the blow-up, I could only imagine what it must feel like to examine the Mountain - until now. Excellent.

Owen said...

Left me breathless...

YogaforCynics said...

Wow...was gonna tell ya my own Mt. St. Helens story (wandering around there years after the eruption) but it seems far too lame after all that. Amazing story!

Lydia said...

Rob-bear~ Some would say your comments describe a Bear!

Kathe~ What a ride, indeed! It still is a thrilling mountain to me. Isn't it a treat when the clouds clear and Mount St. Helens comes into view?

bfk~ Thank you on both counts.
My room is clean. It is the organization of all the loose pictures contained in two trunks and untold cardboard boxes (most of the boxes are in the storage unit) that I have to first wrap my mind around and then dig into...I would hire someone to do it for me but it just isn't that kind of project. Ugh.

Tumblewords~ The ash fallout gave everyone a good idea of the post-blast appearance of the mountain itself, on a less dense and less intense scale that is. :)

Owen~ Me too!

YogaforCynics~ How many years afterwards did you roam around the mountain? My husband and I climbed it with our hiking group from work in 1994. We ate our lunches sitting on the rim looking down at the dome, which was much more developed 14 years after I first saw it from inside the plane. I will post some photos from that marvelous hike someday...



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