What was your highlight of the week Matt? Jenny asks as we sail eastward home across a blustering Puget Sound under the ever darkening skies of a spring storm. We play the "Highlight" game often and it is usually easy for me to pick out best part of any given day.
I sit back and grin with content as I rewind the events of my spring break through my weary head. You know you have it good when it's hard to pick the best among the many great things that happened over last seven days.
I am almost three years old standing near the couch and staring out through the glass of my living room window.
When the hell is my Dad coming home?, the resounding thought in my juvenile brain.
Mom tells me something about a mountain that blew up and Dad having to go clean-up the mess. Still I stand, staring and waiting, not really understanding what a mountain is why one would blow-up in the first place.
When the hell is Dad coming home?
On May 18th, 1980 Mount Saint Helens, the nearly perfectly symmetrical "Fugiama" of North America awoke from a brief geologic slumber and blew its top spewing over a 540 million tons of debris sixteen miles into the atmosphere of a clear spring day. The blast created from the lateral uncorking of the mountain and subsequent release of pressurized gasses could be heard as far away as Idaho and Northern California. The collapse of the entire north flank of the mountain caused the largest landslide debris avalanche in recorded history of man and sent a wall of molten rock, ice and water downhill at over 150 miles per hour with enough force to climb 1500 foot ridges over four miles away. Prevailing winds carried a dark cloud of dust eastward over the crest of the Cascade Mountains blanketing Eastern Washington towns with up to 2 inches of fine volcanic ash.
Washington went into a state of emergency and municipalities from around the region sent personnel, equipment and services to the most heavily impacted areas of the state. My Dad was working as a heavy diesel mechanic for Snohomish County in the early 1980s and the fleet was sent over the mountains to help clean-up the mess. As the vehicles went, so went my Father.
In all likelihood Dad was only gone from home a week, but that is a hell of a long time when you are only two-years old. The experience was profound enough to etch a memory in my brain that I can recall like it was yesterday 33 years later as I pedal my sorry ass and a pair of skis up the last steep miles of Forest Service Road 83 towards Saint Helens in the waning evening light.
I am anything but a good skier, but I think I might be starting to wrap my head around why folks prefer to hike a hill over taking a lift to the top.
The ethos seems similar to one I was raised with; work before play. Like life, grinding your way slowly uphill is not always the most enjoyable part of a journey. But in the struggle and pain of the ascent often lie the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. The steeper and longer the climb, the sweeter and more joyful the coast.
Jen and I have been climbing hard for quite a while and are getting ready for the downhill ride of our young lives. Over the last nine years we have built careers, a home, and set roots in a community of people that have become family to us.
On July 1st, 2013, with a deep sense of joy, a true sadness and overwhelming excitement Jen and I will depart the Front Door for one year to do a little exploring around this great planet of ours. The plan is rough, but the commitment is strong and no matter what happens, we ride from here.
The large roadside sign reads:
What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the world and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36
Historically and culturally I am a Christian. My Dad taught me how to play Bingo during his rotation for Sunday School, my vacation Bible camps were taught by a First Nations Chief in a Tepee, I have been baptized and Jesus is Just Alright with Me. I figure I've got my bases covered, but have always had really hard time putting my name on any brand of mass conformity. People in power have a unique way of fucking up and twisting anything truly sacred in this world, and faith is a private matter anyhow. This is likely all you will ever hear me say about the issue.
Country roads can be a lonely place and the sign got me thinking about things a little though. Mark the Apostle seems like a decent enough fella, although rumor has it that he turned tail when shit hit the fan on his first world tour for Jesus. I can't decide if he was really smart or just lacked conviction.