May 4, 2019

The Columbia River Gorge

Dateline: Seattle, Washington

Today was the last day of the conference. I dutifully got up, had breakfast, checked out of the Porter Hotel of downtown Portland and headed back to the convention center for the last gasp. Meetings were over with by lunch and not overly memorable other than the literature review where the faculty had incorporated a sing-a-long by the audience. I suppose that’s one way to get people to remember your information. I haven’t tried that yet but I have some ideas for the next time I do Geropharmacy for a large group somewhere.

Selfie Time

As I didn’t need to be back in Seattle until dinner time, I had a free hour or so so I drove east of Portland to the start of the Columbia River Gorge where I had not been for some years. I took a walk through the type of forests I grew up with, delighted that I could still recognize Devil’s Club, huckleberry bushes, camas lilies and other assorted Pacific Northwest flora. Not a lot of fauna around other than a very fat and sassy ground squirrel who came up and danced at my feet in the parking lot when he saw that I was eating a cookie. I also made the obligatory stop at Multnomah Falls for the view and a selfie. I can guarantee you’ve seen the Falls before. They appear in almost every movie ever filmed in the greater Portland area.

The drive back to Seattle was uneventful, other than a major traffic slow down between Olympia and Tacoma where they were repairing a bridge across the Nisqually River. It put me in mind of another day in May, nearly forty years ago. It was the Sunday after Mother’s Day and the week after my 18th birthday. We were due to go visit my grandmother (my father’s mother) who lived in a large senior community called Panorama City outside of Olympia. The family got up, packed ourselves into the 1972 Ford Van that was the family transport at the time, and headed south on I-5. The news started to come in over the radio. Mount Saint Helens had erupted (and we were heading directly toward it). More reports of ash clouds, sudden river flooding, flattened forests. What were we getting into? Fortunately, St. Helens was a good 75 miles south of our destination so we arrived for lunch with my grandmother without incident. We then all hurried home to watch the news. Phone calls to friends (from the land line at home – no mobiles yet) revealed that those on the water had heard the explosion that morning as the sound waves echoed off of those flat surfaces but those further inland were oblivious until the news started to pour in. We looked for visual signs on the horizon but there wasn’t much to see. A couple of steam and ash eruptions later that summer were very visible from the city and I remember watching them. For one of them, I was on a boat on Lake Washington and that one was truly spectacular. I had no call to go towards St. Helens that year, but the next year, on a trip up down I-5, I stopped somewhere and gathered up some ash from the side of the road into a jar which I still have somewhere. I’m not likely to be close to many other volcanic explosions in my life.

Dinner tonight with my father, and then to bed with some bad TV. I am working on a couple of writing pieces. A new MNM column for this next week and an essay on the Baby Boom and aging which I will post for comment and may become a chapter in the book I’m contemplating.

More tomorrow – as long as it doesn’t interfere with Game of Thrones…

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