At the same time Mount St. Helens was beginning rumblings to blow her top off, I was having pangs of my own with a baby working his way into the world. Thus, my son and Mount St. Helens have been inextricably connected since May 1980. Every anniversary of the eruption of the volcano is met with his birthday on the day after. This year, both events were at their 40-year milestone.
My 40-year-old received a cache of Mount St. Helen memorabilia as a birthday gift from his brother to honor the anniversary. Included were the June 2 issues of Time and Newsweek entitled, respectively, “The Big Blowup” and “The Big Bang.” The secondary stories in both magazines were “Fury in Miami: Behind the Riots” and “The Mood of Ghetto America.”
Here we are 40 years later donning masks to prevent inhaling or exhaling an unseen virus rather than to prevent sucking in ash particulates, while at the same time shaking our heads with disbelief that some humans cannot seem to treat each other with dignity and respect no matter the color, race or creed — a sad commentary, indeed.
Throughout history and before she lost her head, Mount St. Helens was a prominent but little known peak overshadowed by the neighboring larger peaks of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood. The area around St. Helens was a melting pot of indigenous peoples including the Chinooks, the Cowlitz and the Klickitats.
She was not called St. Helens by these first residents, but rather had various names — since most of these peoples were at the very least bilingual and some trilingual — Loo-wit the most common. These Native Americans avoided Spirit Lake and the volcano above timberline, respecting the mountain as “One From Whom Smoke Comes.” It was British explorer George Vancouver who gave the peak its present name in 1792 to honor the Baron of St. Helens, a city across the pond. In a perfect world, it would be nice to honor the original and more meaningful name.
Back to the 1980 Time and Newsweek. In the heyday of cigarette promotion, the magazines contained 11 full-page ads for cigarettes proclaiming “unique pleasures of smoking,” “astonishing taste,” “great taste,” “smooth taste” and a two-page ad promising “when your taste grows up, Winston out tastes them all” depicting a rugged lumberjack puffing away. At least we aren’t bombarded by Big Tobacco any longer!
The Chairman of the Board and CEO of SmithKline Corp. (Big Pharma) wrote, in part, “At the moment America has many problems … (and) many highly intelligent people who believe they have reasonable solutions for some of these problems. … At SmithKline, we are convinced that the time for all of us to act is now.” Hmmmm.
Monsanto’s ad speaks for itself: “So you see, there really isn’t much difference between foods made by Mother Nature and those made by man. What’s artificial is the line drawn between them. Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.” Quick check of Monsanto’s Big Chemical history: Agent Orange, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), alachlor, glyphosate (RoundUp), Penncap-M, dicamba to name a few of the list of chemicals that have a deadly record.
Advertisements for pens and typewriters caught my attention as products we never see promoted these days. I do love my pen of choice, the Uniball Signo, but have no desire to see an IBM Selectric Typewriter return into vogue!
My conclusion is that in 40 years, some things have changed for the better, some have remained exactly the same, and some have gotten worse.
To end on a brighter note, on a recent horseback ride through Big Valley, the sights, sounds and smells were a reassurance that we in this valley are privileged beyond measure to be able to get out and immerse ourselves in such a spectacular environment.
Along the trail, we met a Mazaman who added to the silver lining’s playbook from last week. She said that this was senior year for her two children — son from high school and daughter from college — and having their lives upended has been very difficult. She expressed, “The silver lining is that they have had invaluable time together that would never have happened but for the quarantine.”