This mountain is going to kill me.
A picture of serene majesty and covered in snow all year long, Mount Baker is the cream-colored peak cresting above the foothills of the Cascade range that rise up just a few miles east of Bellingham. On a clear day the mountain can make for hazardous driving, at least for flatlanders like myself, who find themselves riveted by the sight of Mount Baker to the point of drifting off the highway. But this mountain is more than just the Northwest’s second highest peak (Seattle’s gargantuan Mount Rainier is tops) it is also a volcano. An active volcano.
Oh sure, I know that active volcanos aren’t really active volcanos (until they are) but when you’re a Back Easter used to volcanos being something other people worry about, you find yourself thinking occasionally just how much being near an active volcano might factor into things like real estate values, or one’s own mortality. Seriously, it could go off at anytime! OK, no. That’s exaggerating. (Is it? What about those poor bastards who lived near Mount Vesuvius? They had no idea they were about to become the world’s most famous corpses.)
Yes, Vesuvius was 1931 years ago and these days our trusty captains of science monitor these things all the time. Sensors and all types modern machines can feel miles away when something is brewing miles beneath the earth. Folks say Mount Baker is safe and isn’t likely to erupt, unlike sister Cascades volcano Mount St. Helens, which experts suspected of being likely to go off for decades before she blew in 1980. Still, to me, if there was no chance of my local volcano erupting than why can’t we just call it a passive volcano? Or a “domesticated” volcano? Something that might prevent you telling little white lies to your eight year-old who asks you, “well if the volcano isn’t going to blow up than why is it called an active volcano?”
Fear of an imminent, violent demise was certainly not the reason we left NYC. But family members who have told us they worry less about our safety that we live outside of the “terrorist bullseye”— well, you should all be advised that we are now living somewhere more dangerous. Living in New York, where people are always getting themselves murdered and robbed and bombs almost go off a few times a year, you ignore the horrific possibilities and come up with absurd rationalizations in your own mind to make yourself feel safer: what are the odds the bomb will go off on my rush hour F train?
And even if it does, well, if I am riding in the rear of the train, wouldn’t that increase the possibility that I will be able to escape the wreckage? Surely any well-organized suicide bomber (and fundamentalist jihadists are nothing if not well organized) would be blowing themselves up in the front car of a subway train to inflict maximum damage. I ride in the tail car, I’m golden.
Just ‘cuz we moved from the big city fraught with man made peril does not mean we have necesarily re-located somewhere safer. In Brooklyn, we assumed the various vigilant agencies were out there keeping the bombs from getting on trains, are there similar dedicated people out there making sure they know when the next mega-volcanic eruption might take place?
One day I would like to get up into them big Cascade hills and climb a mountain or two, but I am not about to go off and enter some crazy orienteering contest. We still have boxes to unpack, friends to find, work to figure out, shelves to build, kids to play with, trees to gape at, food to grill, all of which are excuses that keep me from climbing the mountain (or joining a gym for that matter.) So when I say this mountain is going to kill me for now I mean when I am driving the car or riding my bike and see the snow covered top peeking out over the city and I can’t stop looking at it cuz it is right there and it is a goddamn giant ass mountain with a couple of other craggy peaks nearby and I mean, really now, how can you not look at it. And when you’re up early and the sun is coloring the peak pink and orange and the air feels clean and good— WHOA!! You are in that roadside ditch. SKREETCH! You just barely stopped at that red light! I am telling you, this place is way more dangerous than riding the subway and riddled with reasons for sleepless nights: volcanic ash, 600º heat blasts, rivers of lava— all the trimmings of the apocalypse.
And don’t get me started on the rising oceans…