Volcanoes and Airplanes

This week we were treated to multiple media presentations about the forty-year anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helen. It’s located in Washington near our southern BC border. As all the announcements about that event were occurring, I was reminded of trip I made so long ago with my husband.

Mount St. Helen Volcano

We were returning home to Nanaimo after a weekend convention, in Seattle, settled in a five-passenger jet with the company pilot in the cockpit. As the plane moved slightly inland Stan’s comment was, “See over there, the mountain is beginning to steam.” We had the good fortune to witness the very first indications of that eruption of Mount St. Helen. Witnessing was the easy part, the cleanup after was something else.

While many people were listening and reading about the eruption, I was remembering the awful volcanic dust that covered absolutely everything for days, weeks, as a result of the eruption. And we lived a long way from that mountain. The stuff settled everywhere, was especially hard on automobile paint, and even after we had forgotten why, we were finding spots of it where we hadn’t yet cleaned.

Fertilizer Dust

In addition to the lives lost that day, a whole mountainside of timber disappeared in the fire. Our business was based on trees and forestry. The good news was not discovered until months and years later. The volcano left every bit of open land, burned or not, covered with a substance that acted like fertilizer. When tree-planters went out two years later and dug seedlings into the ground in the usual way, we were all delighted to discover the trees growing better than any other area that had been planted.


My title included airplanes. I’ve told you of one trip that was important to me. What I am not able to understand is the excitement this week of watching beautifully painted airplanes going through their gymnastic routines as an entertainment. I have never been impacted by war and I avoid war-focused stories and films. These air displays seem to me to be on the edges of war and costly in dollars and lives besides.

I am Becoming my Mother

My growing up years on a floathouse and later in a truck-logging camp were nothing like those my mother experienced. Except for a few short years in Vancouver, she grew up on a farm, first in Alberta, and later on a piece of very wild farmland in remote Jackson Bay. When she married my father that transition from the farm to the floathouse must have been a terrible shock.

Making Soil

Having no soil in which to plant anything, she made adjustments. Dad built her long narrow boxes he set on the float. She filled them with a mixture of needles and bark bits scratched from the roots of the undergrowth along the beach and mixed that with the seaweed that had blown up on the beach after a storm. In it she planted dahlias and gladiolas. No vegetables grown there, she was determined to make her outdoor surroundings as beautiful as possible. When our house was hauled on to the camp land she brought those boxes along too. 

Later in her life when they moved to Campbell River – I was at university then – I witnessed the result of her labours with the land on which our house stood. Her garden was undeniably beautiful and she made no effort to grow vegetables there either. Save-on-Foods was only a few miles away then.

Mom had grown up the youngest of three brothers and their life was outdoors. She learned to shoot along with them, and became a better shot than they were. I was less enthusiastic about being outdoors and at no time was I involved with sports as she and my younger sister were.

I Have Found Similarities

I can now acknowledge that there was at least one way she and I were similar, when I had always noted how dissimilar the two of us were. I love my garden and go to great lengths to create beauty around me.

But back to Mom, whose skin tanned easily, as mine does, who loved the sun too, but with added years I’m discovering those same facial wrinkles she had are appearing almost overnight. Something else I’ve discovered: long hairs on my chin telegraph to the world I am her daughter and that I have reached a certain age. I began by tweezing them, with little success.

When Mom’s chin whiskers – she called them that – appeared, she quietly made an appointment with an esthetician in downtown Nanaimo for electrolysis, and then enjoyed a bonus of visiting with our children on the way out of town before she returned to Campbell River. Over several years of regular appointments most of the offending hairs were no longer evident. Guess what? I am following her lead on this.

Proud to be A Logger’s Daughter

In this large yard there are 3 beautiful sequoia trees. When we moved here nearly 30 years ago the smallest one was just the right size to be adorned with lights during the Christmas season. We used an extension ladder to arrange several strings of bright lights and plugged them into an electrical outlet we had installed during the wiring of the yard. Today the tree is absolutely enormous. It’s impossible for a person to even get near enough to the bottom branches for decoration. With rich soil and plentiful rain, trees grow quickly in the Pacific Northwest.

A second tree is a different variety of s sequoia and in its unobtrusive location grows at will. The third, and largest tree, has spread wide over the lawn and driveway so that from time to time the gardener and other tall workers have complained about the branches hanging low down. As they ride the lawn mower the branches get in the way and also of large delivery trucks. My worker’s answer has been to clip off any errant branch just so it’s out of the way. The tree has grown quickly beyond his cuts and a strangely shaped, misshaped tree had resulted.

Natural Shaped Trees

I like my shrubs and trees to have a natural shape and over time have taken responsibility for trimming everything that needed it, except for the hedges. I bought myself a little work horse, a De Walt XRP with an 18 volt rechargeable battery pack. It was my choice of implement because at 10 pounds I could lift it above my head.

I don’t climb a ladder any more to cut and instead, stand at the bottom directing others. There are lots of uses for my trusty saw working on branches and bushes while still on solid ground, but not on that tree. On this occasion I was simply correcting the shape of the tree by having the errant branches cut closer to the trunk, the way they should have been cut in the first place. But this time I was directing work of my gardener to do what I used to do, in the way I wanted to have it done. When you drive into our yard now you will see the view beneath the lowest branches, which incidentally will not drag after a heavy snowfall, and my family and workers are happy with the result.

After all, I am a logger’s daughter and a granddaughter of a hand logger.