Attractions Around Mount St. Helens

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Joseph McElroy shares field notes and reflections from Mount St. Helens.

Nearly two decades after the great eruption of May, 1980, a slow, remarkable regrowth of flora as well as a massive human involvement feed back to me old questions about the ecological order and our place in it. “A mountain bounces back,” I read; Mt. St. Helens has struggled “to be born again.” That’s not it, I think, but I am moved by the reappearance of plants and trees and animals and fish at Mt. St. Helens - the symbiotic reaching out of fungus filaments to plants roots deep beneath the volcanic ash, the herd of Roosevelt’s elk returning to feed on grass sprouting from the earth of an apparently unwelcoming ashy, silica-infused but now media-hyped “miraculous mudslide.” This blast equal to 2500 Hiroshimas the environment did, not us. But what is the environment? I search the abstracts of some of the more than 500 vineyard-laboring, exact, and specialized field studies that have provided “an excellent baseline for tracking ecosystem reassembly here.” I puzzle the human significance, if any, and will make a few field notes of my own to locate among these phenomenal events the voice and place of my species too. I take for granted here that the human organism finds itself in an ecology humanly social and political with all that that, from Plato to Bateson and Schumacher and the Bureau of Land Management, tries to comprehend; but I wander here in a specifically volcanic wilderness and in the presence of the psyche.

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