Ben Parzybok

humming. Nasally.

Happy 28th, Helens

I’m busy as hell but I can’t help but mention my favorite birthday: May 18th, 1980.

On this date Mt. St. Helens thrust her upper half into the atmosphere, violently, and a crater/exploded volcano was born. It’s arguably one of the most important days of my life. I was 9 and a half years old and, living in Spokane, WA,  we were directly in the ash path. 

My mother was not big on media (I don’t believe we owned a tv at the time) and so we didn’t know about the volcano until a family friend bicycled to our house and pointed up to the edge of the sky where a legion of black pirate ships floated toward us. Awesome. An hour later the sky was raining ash! Holy crap! Completely in denial, I think we went on an errand – for what, gardening supplies or something? Our car shut down with its air filter completely clogged and we were driven home in a police car. 

For several weeks my brother and I were shut in, home from school with intense, brain rattling, parent hashing, floor scraping cabin fever. Ten days in or so (while we were still forbidden to go out) I distinctly remember my mother out mowing the lawn and ready to get on with the summer – a wicked tail of ash pluming up behind the push mower – while everyone else was in hazmat suits, etc. 

Later, it was my first real job as I gathered up ash to sell to the local potters’ community.

May 18th is also my half birthday. Mt. St. Helens seemed to be addressing me, or I thought so, at least in that way that a 9 year old believes that large cosmic events might manifest themselves for the explicit purpose of allowing one to get out of having to complete one’s report on Abraham Lincoln. I still wouldn’t rule it out. 

The mountain continues to fascinate me – Here’s a picture I took a few years back. If you haven’t dived into its crater via Google Earth yet, it’s worth a shot.

Happy Birthday, Mt. St Helens.

Author: Benjamin Parzybok

My name is Ben Parzybok and I'm a novelist and programmer living in Portland, OR. @sparkwatson

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