On the Ridge

Robin Kimmerer


So with eyes accustomed to soft green hills, I was unprepared for the close - up experience of Mount St. Helens, let alone camping on her flanks. I wasn’t always that way. I’d come here before, just the year after the 1980 eruption, and viewed the new geography with a detachment of a scientist form the same distance of the Visitors Center across the valley. This time was different. I brought something with me that I hadn’t known back then. I came to witness this landscape a quarter century after the eruption only to find that I could barely look at it. Too terrible to look at, too beautiful to look away. The size and power of the blasted land rolled over me like the shockwave that had vaporized the land. I found that looking directly at the steaming mountain made me weak with a visceral desire to run fast and run far. I swallowed hard and could bear only a sideways glance at her looming presence, the crater like an all - seeing eye. I felt like a kid with my hands over my eyes, trying to preserve the illusion that if you couldn’t see the destroyer, the it couldn’t see me.

From In the Blast Zone, page 41. (OSU Press, 2008)

Full Publication from Oregon State University Press