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I was almost 6, and living near Portland, when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980.
It was the day after my mom’s birthday.
I was so small, and this thing was so huge and powerful and destructive, and right outside of our window. It was frightening.
We took the infamous traditional Sunday drive from our house to a ridge near Portland where we could see the mountain still spewing her anger everywhere. The air was thick and heavy with smoke and ash.
I remember putting scarves over our mouths and noses when we had to go outside, and sweeping up the ash that had coated our driveway.
My dad had a friend with a small private plane, and we flew over it, not too long after it erupted. Honestly, it was one of the most memorable and scariest experiences of my life. My five-year-old mind just knew at any minute the thing was going to erupt again, and that the little plane we were on was going to be sucked right into the lava.
The most striking things from my memory were that the trees were perfectly laid down in rows like matchsticks. Perfectly. Huge trees. And, every single thing was a shade of gray.
I went back to the mountain in 2016. The trees were back, thick, green, and beautiful, although the remnants of some from the past still remain.
The rivers of lava had created these huge underground tunnels that we were able to hike down into. I’ll never forget the experience. Completely dark, the only light came from the flashlights we were carrying. And cold—the temperature dropped dramatically once we were just a little ways from the entrance.
I was about 1/4 mile underground when I heard the most beautiful sound. A whole choir of people had begun singing “Hallelujah,” and the music echoed throughout. They sounded like angels.
Although the mountain had changed shape, it was absolutely breathtaking. Wildflowers of every color littered the ground.
The mountain had begun again and recreated itself over time and was more beautiful than I had ever seen it.
Mother Nature has all of the answers, if we are able to hear. The mountain is us. The smoke, our perceptions. The cold, dark, and gray, the space between. The lava, the love-fire within us. The ash, the remnants of what was. The music, our souls speaking.
Destruction and growth go hand in hand. It is not to be feared or resisted; it creates space. It is a beautiful, vulnerable, powerful, healing, graceful surrender to something new.