Thursday, June 28, 2018

Harry's Wild Wisdom

Mt. St Helens' historic eruption took place in 1980, seven years before I entered this crazy world. I grew up hearing anecdotal stories about the insane event, but it took me three decades to get my butt to Helens for a proper visit. Rainier really steals the show around here, and since it's visible from the city I grew up with an idea of it as the quintessential Washington peak. Only in the past few years of hiking regularly have I come to know and appreciate the lofty competition: the North Cascades and Liberty Bell, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, Olympics, let alone The Enchantments...

It was undeniably fulfilling to finally witness the absolute abundance and magic of Mt. St Helens this past weekend. Claire, Julia, and I made our way to the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center at the end of Highway 504 on Sunday morning. We were somewhat prepared for a hike to Harry's Ridge, another one of those archetypal trails I've admired trip reports of for years. I had avoided it due to the drive time from Seattle, but it's an easy 2 hours from Olympia. New territory is the absolute best.

You don't need to put in any work to get a Facebook ready photo of this place. From the moment you park, views of Mt. St Helens are arresting. We had come in expectation of glorious wildflowers and the mountain delivered spectacularly. We took the Boundary Trail just under 2 miles in before hopping on the Harry's Ridge trail, named after Mt. St. Helens icon Harry Truman (no U.S. government affiliation).

Harry is what indie movie dreams are made of. He became a local legend at the end of his life. Sassy and senile and dead-set (literally) in his conviction to remain Innkeeper of the Mt. St. Helens lodge despite two months of erruption warnings and calls for evacuation. At 83, he was buried in the eruption and the largest resulting landslide in history.

He was interviewed extensively by morbidly obsessed news people in the days leading up the catastrophic eruption. I love this quote I found from the time: Speaking in the third person, he said "You couldn't pull me out with a mule team. That mountain's part of Truman and Truman's part of that mountain."

His conviction equally disturbed and impressed everyone watching in wait.

Sometimes I ponder the Doomsday possibility of an earthquake so massive multiple Cascade Stratovolcanoes are set off simultaneously; tidal waves dominating and disappearing downtown Seattle sky scrapers. These are momentary, fleeting visuals that accompany my quiet, internal acknowledgement of the unknown that abounds in Nature.

"I had the realization that I and my entire generation, My whole civilization in fact, are going to be one thin layer of sediment in the side of a cliff someday......I'm going to die and be a million years dead, and anyone who might possibly judge me for my pursuits and mistakes will be a fossil right next to mine in that cliffside." -Gregg Levoy

Views of Mt. Adams across Spirit Lake

Despite the danger that lurks around every bend of life and everything worth doing, I've come to a really important conclusion lately.

I am going to be okay no matter what.

When I think this thought and turn it around, try it on in my mind, I'm not met with any of the hesitation or doubt that I used to feel. Instead it's more like fact, indisputable, cut and dry reality.

I've pulled myself up and out of despair more than once. I feel more self assured today than I ever have. I truly don't feel like I need anything or anyone. I still want plenty, but need doesn't proceed or determine the want. What comes my way, let alone actually stays, is a blessing. A story for later. Perhaps a lesson as well. I don't chase ghosts or demons anymore, nor people. I'm not in the business of convincing anyone to value me or understand me as I continually change.

It makes a difference. Respecting yourself, looking within for validation, changes the energy of your force field, which is constantly bumping up against and sometimes merging with others.  Self-esteem is good for the goose and good for the gander.

Try it on for size. Tell yourself: I am going to be okay no matter what. I ebb and flow. I survive.

"The fear of being unloved is at the root of every tyrant's desire to oppress others in order to feel worth. Self Love is not only a radical act, its collective awakening will transform and heal our world." -Bunny Michael

Finally at the tip top

Heading back down the line

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Throw It All Away

I have a disorder, and it's the dire opposite of hoarding.


I'm not ruthless about much, but I'm bat shit crazy about De-cluttering. Sorting. Donating. Recycling. Downsizing. Streamlining.

The cleanliness of my room as a kid used to freak visitors out; adult and children alike. Everything had its place, I didn't hold onto anything, clothes neverrr piled on the floor, and despite being an emotional kid I wasn't at all nostalgic about things or knick-nacks.

These days, I don't even allow texts or emails to pile in my phone. When a conversation is done, I delete messages. I clear my email trash. I've had countless friends tease me about this, especially on those occasions when my obsessive deleting requires me to re-ask the same shit twice.

My mom was not strict about cleaning or getting rid of stuff. No one ever asked me to do any of these oddball organizational things, they're simply in my nature. The truth is that abandoning the weight of unnecessary and unwanted things gives me a feeling of total serenity. Sorting and rearranging, discarding and deleting, it all (albeit temporarily) alleviates the looming feeling of suffocation.

When my freedom is in question or my mind is running circles around a vexing problem, there's nothing that helps more than cleaning up and clearing out. It's a great way to pretend you have control over your surroundings. Ridding myself of the unnecessary makes me feel autonomous and somehow more alive.

Rampart Ridge at Rainier last week

 I read and watch things voraciously; Information is the only thing I hoard. Still, I don't like to BUY these things. Ownership of them doesn't bring me any joy or satisfaction the way it seems to with other people. I use the library constantly, and when I buy the rare book, I pass it on as soon as I'm done. I never had a movie collection growing up and today own only two movies (both kung-fu flicks that were gifted). The only thing I have ever collected is records, and recently I've come to realize that it was always more about the hunt/chase for special albums than it was about actually owning and playing records. I've been in Olympia since February and still haven't set my record player back up. So as you can see, even my "most prized possession" is on the potential chopping block.

Perhaps you can relate, even if you're not quite as high on the OCD spectrum. Don't you ever just want to clear your life? Hit backspace, or better yet delete all. Give away everything. Remove your online presence. Wipe every physical and metaphorical slate clean. Quit your job. Leave in the night with a note left behind; Simply run away..

These kind of feelings rule my internal dialogue. I rarely act on them in a grand sense, but small things like rearranging, throwing out, stripping down, and living minimally grant peace and allow me to indulge in the fantasy of being able to disappear in the night without a trace, should my heart call and courage allow.

"...A passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are." -Rebecca Solnit

Staircase, Olympic National Park. Few weeks ago.