365 Nature – Day 139

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Each day of the year I will post something here about nature. It may be any format, a photo, video, audio, sketch or entry from my nature journal. It could be a written piece. Each day I will connect to nature in some way and share it here by the end of that day. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to the RSS feed or be notified by email. See all the 365 Nature posts.

Thirty six years ago today Mount St. Helens erupted. I’d like to say I remember it, but I was not yet two years old and have no memory of the event. However, as a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was never far from the collective memory of this place – we watched videos at school about the eruption and were well acquainted with the mountain. The day it blew, my family was walking to a park in our neighborhood in Camas, Washington, some fifty odd miles to the south west of the mountain. An abnormal number of cars driving up Prune Hill, one of the highest points in the town, alerted my parents to something happening. When we arrived back home, we could see the giant plume from our driveway.

Ash settled on our roof and my parents collected it in baby food jars, adorned with plastic, blue labels documenting the date and substance in white capital letters. The jars sat on our bookshelves as I grew up, a constant presence of the mountain in our home. When the jars were passed to me I resented the ugly jars and the 80’s style label, wishing instead for something more decorative, more appropriate for such a significant event in our state’s history. But then I realized the baby food jar and the 1980’s label both spoke of a combined history – a relic from my youth which had fed me now contained ash from a mountain.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of a book about urban nature, coming Spring 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, ParentMap, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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