Where Were You When Mt. St. Helens Erupted? I Covered My Ash…

In 1980, my sister Constance and I took a birdwatching class. At least I tried watching them.  Before I could focus my binoculars, the birds were usually natural history.  Our last trip, to Eastern Washington, was to depart on Friday, May 16th.

“Let’s skip it,” said Con. “Stay home and I’ll buy you dinner.”

I watched our classmates loading gear into four cars, and felt suddenly shy.  But surely I could survive a quiet weekend of birdwatching with a pleasant group of strangers, even if my sister wasn’t there to hold my hand.  I jumped into the first car with room, and waved to Con as we drove off.  I was riding with Bob.  His other passenger, Betsy, was quick to smile and kept up a lively conversation.

But I missed Con that night, and lay awake in my sleeping bag listening to a lone coyote howling in the distance.  The next day I stayed only slightly more focused than my binoculars…until we found a Forest Service birdhouse, and peeked inside at a nest of cheeping baby birds.  Featherless birds aren’t easy to identify, but Peter said they were bluebirds, and I believed him.  Some people think they know everything; Peter really did.  But you’d never know it unless you had observed him carefully, as I had.

Saturday afternoon we hiked into a canyon and made camp.  After the others retired, Betsy and I sat by the fire singing and talking.  We rolled out our bags on the same patch of ground.  As I drifted off, I thought, “Good.  I made a friend.  I learned my lesson.  Now…I want to go home.”

When I awoke, the sun was shining, the bees were humming, and the birds–I know not which–were singing.  It was eight-ish, and camp was deserted.  “They left at six-thirty,” said Betsy, yawning. “I couldn’t make myself get up.”

It could’ve been a sense of foreboding that made us yearn for home, but I suspect it was caffeine withdrawal.  “Pray for rain,” I suggested.

As if on cue, we heard the loud crack of distant thunder.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  More likely a sonic boom, we thought.  We went on to weigh the virtues of cinnamon rolls at the Phinney Ridge Cafe against all-you-can-eat hash browns at Beth’s Greasy Spoon.  But the sky was darkening.  The hum of insects and the twittering of birds had trailed off, and the woods were eerily silent.

“You know, I think it really is going to rain,” I said.

The others, having reached the same conclusion, bustled back into camp.  Within ten minutes we had packed up, donned rain gear, and were following Peter single file out of the canyon. The sky to the west had turned an ominous yellow-green, reminiscent of tornado weather back home.  But this storm wasn’t following the rules.  I could hear rain falling on my poncho, yet I wasn’t getting wet.  The sky rapidly changed to an ugly green-gray.  My eyes were stinging.  I looked more closely at the surface of my poncho.

“It’s dirt!  Peter, there’s dirt falling from the sky!   Oh, my God!  They’ve bombed Seattle!”

Peter whirled about and gripped my shoulders. “No!” he cried. “She did it!  She blew!  Mt. St. Helens blew!”

Nothing could have been further from my mind than volcanic eruptions.  We joked about our class going out with a bang, while Peter studied his map and estimated we were between fifty-five and sixty-five miles from Mt. St. Helens, as the crow flies. The acrid darkness thickened.  We were no longer amused.  Ash was in our eyes and hair, and it was difficult not to breathe it into our lungs.  In Seattle, we’d chuckled at the “In Case of Volcanic Eruption” brochures; now we desperately tried to recall their advice.  This was my first volcano; I wanted to live to tell the tale.

“Use your canteen water to soak your bandanas, and cover your faces to filter the ash,” said Peter.  “Less than a mile to go, but we’ve got to keep moving.  Hold hands or hang onto a belt.  We don’t want to lose anyone.”

I gave Betsy my brimmed hat, because her eyes burned, with gritty ash particles grating between her eyeballs and her contacts.  We stumbled after Peter, unable to see our hands before our faces, but somehow he got us over the last barbed-wire fence to the trailhead.  There we encountered Bob’s personal tragedy–six inches of ash piled on the cars, including his brand-new Toyota.  He was frantic about what the ash would do to his engine and the paint job.  Peter reminded him that our first concern was to get out alive.

We followed Peter’s Volvo into Yakima, although we couldn’t see past the hood, even with headlights on.  Peter’s taillights were barely visible at a standstill; when we started moving, ash flew like talcum powder and the windshield wipers just stirred up the mess.  The interior of Bob’s car was soon covered with a fine layer of pungent ash that over-powered the smell of new car, and defied closed windows, doors, and air vents.  There were close brushes with the ditch at the side of the road, and once with Peter’s bumper.  At last we came to the outskirts of Yakima.

The ash-laden streets were deserted, but The Buckboard Tavern had opened its doors to stranded motorists. Refugees gathered under a television mounted over the pool table.  Mt. St. Helens rated minute-by-minute coverage on the ever-rising statistics, flood damage, missing campers and scientists.  Stuck in our own little ash cloud, we hadn’t realized how lucky we were.  News flash!  All roads in and out of Yakima were closed.

Glumly we stared out the windows.  It was nearly noon, but by the light of the streetlamps, it could almost have been a midnight snow scene. Another wave hit, and the air grew thicker.  Instead of coffee, they started serving beer.  Now and then the swinging doors would bang; all eyes would turn to the newcomer.  Once a cowboy entered, brushing the ash off his coat and stomping it off his boots. “I got a hundred head of cattle out there,” he told anyone who would listen, “and half a dozen newborn calves…”

I thought of the baby bluebirds.  Had they smothered in ash or survived the blast only to die of starvation?   What would they eat?  Who would feed them?

All the laws of nature, as we understood them, were suspended.  But the Real World intruded into our Twilight Zone.  Steve had to give a talk at the U, Russ had a job interview, Betsy said she’d used up all her volcano leave.  And, of course, we had to get Bob’s car to a doctor.  Bob threatened to make a dash for it, and the other drivers were inclined to join him.  Peter advised against it, but agreed to lead the way, if they promised to let him choose the moment.  It was several more hours before the ashfall let up a bit.  We ran for the cars to go home to whatever reality awaited us in Seattle on Monday morning.  As our caravan traveled west, the sky gradually changed from pitch black to gray to an unnatural white.  It was a weird moonscape, devoid of life and color.  When we got to the roadblock, the police waved us on through.  Having gotten through the worst of it, we stopped at Snoqualmie Pass to pose for a photo with buckets and bags of ash collected from pockets, pants cuffs, and car hoods.

It was the weekend of the University Street Fair.  On the way home, we thought of the fortune to be made, if we could bottle and sell the ash we’d brought home, fresh out of the oven.  I even designed a tee shirt for a rather small target audience–birdwatchers caught in the ashfall.


Those  entrepreneurial thoughts were forgotten when we topped the pass and saw the first rays of sunlight filtering through ash-dark clouds.  It was nearing sunset, but to me it was the second sunrise on a long and very strange day, such a beautiful sight, I wanted to cry.

Bob dropped me at Con’s, amidst heavy foot and car traffic in the U District. The smell of food and the sound of music filled the air.  Fairgoers in sundresses, cheeks burnt rosy by the sun, still meandered from booth to booth.  “Go home!” I wanted to shout.  “Go turn on your radio. The real world is black and acrid and people are huddled in the dark and dying on the mountainside.”

My sister hadn’t heard the news, but there was still a hot shower, a borrowed bathrobe, and a candlelight dinner for two waiting for me.

I’m so glad I didn’t let insecurity prevent me from having this life-changing experience.  The fortunes made on T-shirts and bumpers stickers were made by others. If you could take everything I learned about birds and put it into the brain of a blue jay, it would have flown backwards. Regrets?  Only one.  Bob broke my heart when he refused to pull over, so I could take our picture next to the “Use Your Ash Tray” road sign.

But here is what I carried away from it.  A tiny bottle of ash collected from my pants cuffs, that I still hang on my Christmas tree each year.

The realization that Mother Nature doesn’t always play by the rules, at least not our rules.  An appreciation fine leadership–thank you, Peter, wherever you are.   Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the sun for rising and the birds for singing.  I am grateful for the good fortune that kept me from becoming a statistic that day.  But I’m still haunted by that nest of baby bluebirds, more non-statistics, and it makes me wonder about the countless stories in this world that will never be told.

All words copyright Naomi Baltuck



  1. Rick says:

    Great story! Nothing like a natural disaster to force you to step out of the ordinary and to put some life in your step!

    1. Thanks, Rick. It definitely put some hustle into our step. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. TheOthers1 says:

    Oh. Wow! That’s crazy. I was kinda scared reading. You are an excellent storyteller. I’d love to use this story for my storyteller series I’m doing. Would that be okay?

    1. Thank you so much! You would be most welcome to use it as a part of your series. I usually try to keep posts shorter than this, but I am glad my readers don’t seem to mind too much.

      1. TheOthers1 says:

        Can I send a few questions for you to answer?

  3. Oh, you bring back memories. I had a sister in law in Spokane who lived for 2 or 3 days in a face mask. I was driving from Oakland, CA home to Corvallis, OR, and heard on the radio that Mt St Helens “blew.” All they really said was, “I-5 is closed.” Where? North or south of Corvallis? It was a while before more info came in and I knew we’d get home fine, but I was young and not even sure where exactly Mt St Helens was, other than somewhere near the Oregon/Washington border. I found out later that my old roommate’s mother’s house, although far downstream on the Toutle River, still got wiped out by the mudflow.

    Thanks goodness for your excursion leader’s cool head, and yes, you’re a great storyteller!

    1. Wow! That is a very personal connection to the mountain. I hope that no one in your roommate’s house was hurt. A few days after the eruption, my mother in Detroit said the cloud had reached Michigan, and there was a film of ash on all the cars parked in the street.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments–I’m so glad you stopped by.

  4. Oh, sweetie. I’m so glad you had a sensible leader to get you through the trial safely. I saw Mt. St. Helens a couple of years after, with fireweed beginning the repair of the area . . . nature is so tricky . . .

    1. Until I actually drove my mom through the surrounding area the following year, I had no idea of the scope of destruction. We were 55 or 60 miles away, and because we had a good leader, we were mostly just scared and inconvenienced. If I recall correctly, Betsy did have to cut her hair because she washed it before brushing out all the ash, and it reacted badly to the water. But it did change the way I look at things. I really thought hard about all the voiceless creatures– and people–in natural and man-made disasters who have no one to speak for them, and whose fate no one would ever know about, and in too many cases, no one seems to care.

      It is also an inspiring testament to the tenaciousness of life, and a wondrous thing to see the flora and fauna reassert itself little by little.

      As a storyteller you would appreciate this–I had a group of third graders in Ape Cave, which was inhabited when Mt. St. Helens erupted hundreds of years ago. We all put our flashlights in the little stone fire circle, I covered them with my red bandana, and told them stories around that little improvised campfire. Kind of cool, and a little shivery.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Mary. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

      1. I just found this section for reading follow-ups — so it’s like a long conversation with you — rather a nice holiday spree. Biologists were carefully studying the regrowth when we were at St. Helen’s, a rare opportunity for them.

      2. Whenever I drive down to Portland, I see a gigantic hill covered with grass–it looks like a long fuzzy caterpillar. It is actually tons and tons of volcanic ash that was cleared from the road or dredged from the river, overgrown with vegetation. We have stopped at the visitors’ center off I-5 and gone through the exhibit on the aftermath of the disaster, and once again I was impressed with the tenaciousness of life!
        Nice to hear from you, Mary!

  5. Phyllis says:

    Wow, Naomi! This is so vivid and haunting. It is hard to think of the little birdies and what became of them. Minutiae in the scheme of things, but illustrates the scope of the loss. I agree that you are a fabulous storyteller. Thank you so much. Keep bringing ’em!

    Though I was in Colorado at the time — Ft, Collins. I remember the thick layer of ash on our cars from the blow. Though it was hundreds of miles away, it was unsettling. The Smithsonian had an article about the destruction of Pompeii in AD 79 1900 years earlier which fascinated me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as we wiped the thick dust off our cars.

    1. Hi Phyllis, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is amazing to think of the walloping force that could send ash hurtling through the air east to Detroit and south to Colorado.

      I was in second grade when I read a story based on the petrified remains of a dog found with a petrified loaf of raisin bread in its mouth. The story was all speculation, about a little blind boy whose faithful dog stole bread from the baker in the streets of Pompeii to feed the boy. On the day of the eruption, in this story, the dog herded the boy down to the few boats that were able to rescue a few of the people, and the boy survived, but the dog did not. I never forgot it, and it put a face on the event for me, which is the amazing superpower of storytelling.

      The kids and I were in Pompeii a few years ago, and it was a fascinating, chilling experience. It’s not as if the people were almost real to us. They WERE real.

    1. Hi Tess, wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and wouldn’t want to do it again. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. kathy Klein says:

    Wow, what a powerful story. I’m so glad you & everyone in your group made it out ok. And I, too, wonder about those baby birds.
    I was one of those people at the streetfair in Seattle, and it was a beautiful sunny day here…the only pocket of clear sky in all of the northwest. Seeing the pictures on tv, it just didnt’ look real. It looked like a transmission from the moon, or from some science fiction story. Even now, it’s still hard to believe.
    But you’ve brought a great story back over the mountains with you, and a timely reminder to enjoy each day.

    1. What a coincidence, Kathy. I might even have seen you and not known that thirty years later we would be friends and colleagues. You are such a fine writer–what a interesting perspective you add to this story. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. Mt. St. Helens erupted on my Birthday, so we share an anniversary of sorts. It’s complicated. We lived though the adventures of lifetimes in the spring of 1980: the full solar eclipse, February 16; the eruption of Mt. St. Helens May 18th; a lone cougar in Discovery Park. There’s long story involved for each one. I loved your photos. In ash covered memories, in honor of the beautiful mountain, and in celebration of May 18th, 1980, blessings. Thanks for your stories

  8. Hi Rebecca, Happy Birthday! That was a time! I was relatively new to Seattle, and my eyes and ears were open to it. I remember driving east over the Cascades with my sister to see a solar eclipse around that time. I don’t remember the date. I remember following the story of the cougar, too.

    The photos of the mountain and the blue birds are not mine. When I went through my old slides for this story, all my very best pictures were gone–the midnight snow scene, the inside of The Buckboard, Peter studying his map, all of us filing out of the canyon in our rain gear, and the strange color of the sky as it went from yellow to green to black. I can’t remember if I took them out to show someone and never put them back, or if I gave them to someone in the class to make copies of, but they are gone, and these are what I still have. I must trust the words to make the pictures in your head.

    Thanks so much for your sharing your thoughts–you always surprise me, and help me look at things differently.

  9. tita buds says:

    You lived! 🙂 And what a way to tell the tale. I agree, this is powerful writing, Naomi, and the pictures are priceless. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Tita! The photos are not all mine; I didn’t take the pictures of the mountain, the bluebirds, or the streets of Yakima.

  10. Missus Tribble says:

    What an incredible story! Living in England I find it hard to imagine what it must be like when a volcano erupts, and you’ve made it seem very real.

    I’m so glad you lived to tell the tale 🙂

    1. Thank you! When I go to England, I can hardly believe the history I see everywhere, and it comes alive for me.

  11. I felt like I was there myself. The thrill, the fear mixed with excitement. Just an amazing experience. I’m just glad you all are safe. I was in high school when Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted. A lot of people were not that lucky . Villages were buried. People lost their homes and got displaced. It was chaos. Events like these reminds us how powerful mother nature is. It can be our friend or enemy. Impressive writing coupled with amazing images.

    1. So sad about Mt. Pinatubo. I grew up in Michigan, where I had nightmares about tornadoes. They don’t really have tornadoes in Western Washington, so I felt relieved. But almost as soon as I got here, the volcano erupted. We also have earthquakes, which wasn’t a concern in Michigan. But Mother Nature is everywhere, and she will assert herself one way or another. Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments—the images are not all mine–I only saw the volcano after the eruption–we didn’t even know what was happening, but I wanted to give people a visual context for the story.

  12. Carol says:

    I lived in Southern California at that time, and Mt St Helens was a headline in the newspaper, so distant from us I gave it little thought. A year or so later when I drove to Spokane with my mother, the ash lay along the side of the road, but still there was no real sense of the horror. Your story brought that sense, and made me consider things I had not before – the animals, the birds, the living things that were buried in the ash, never to see another sunrise. So so sad.

    1. There were mountains of ash at the side of the roads for years–you can only use so much of it for glassblowing projects. It is probably the same for us, when we read about the wildfires in residential California–it is so far away and difficult to comprehend. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Carol.

  13. Lynne Ayers says:

    Wow! Such a tale! We were living in Thunder Bay in NW Ontario in the middle of Canada and we had ash clouding our skies for days. What an experience, Naomi, and well told.

  14. J. G. Burdette says:

    The damage it did is amazing. Those tremendous eruptions look otherworldly and are so fascinating. So sad people died because of it. Great post!

    1. Thanks, J.G.–I appreciate your visit, and taking the time to comment.

  15. Thank you, Lynne. One per lifetime is enough for me. The scope and reach of this geological event is so surprising, that you should have your skies clouded in Ontario. It makes me wonder about the magnitude of the volcanic events that caused The Year Without Summer in 1816. The ash clouds traveled the globe and were so thick that temperatures were affected worldwide. Snow fell in Albany in June, there was ice on the rivers of Pennsylvania in August, and crops were ruined by frost, causing poverty and starvation worldwide. Thank you for visiting, and sharing your experience–it is amazing how many people were touched by it.

  16. Kourtney Heintz says:

    Wow what a riveting story. Glad to hear you all made it back safely. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kourtney!

  17. That was a great post Naomi and a well told story.
    Mother Nature is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

    1. Thank you, Maggie.

  18. Worrywart says:

    This just goes to show how much more powerful and meaningful an “event” is when told from the perspective of personal experience, and more importantly (at least from my perspective)why social media (blogging, etc.) will be/is an instrument for positive change in the world.

    1. I agree–storytelling is a way to make it personal, and to put a face on an issue, an era, or an event. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I am now thinking of blogging differently, thanks to you.

  19. Madhu says:

    Wow! That is some story! I was hanging on to every word! The panic and Peter’s leadership were palpable! And the plight of those poor baby birds. You are one amazing storyteller Naomi!

    1. Thank you, Madhu.

  20. Samir says:

    What a story!

    1. Hi Samir, thanks for stopping by.

  21. This post is fantastic example of why I’ve just nominated you for the Inspiring Blog Award. For more about this, see my post of 4th May 🙂

    1. Whoops, I mean, see my post of 18th May (I was looking at the wrong Friday on my calendar;-) Silly me.

    2. Thank you, Sarah! I am behind on my messages–was proofreading 50,000 words for my son’s senior project. I feel honored by your nomination.

      1. It’s my absolute pleasure. You deserve it 🙂

        I’ve an accumulation of blog posts to read, as my son came home for a few days, following the handing in of his uni dissertation and final assignments. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since Christmas, so wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.

      2. That’s wonderful, Sarah. Eli graduates next week, and will be coming home–can’t wait to him! Congratulations to your son.

  22. rumpydog says:

    How frightening! You are an excellent storyteller; I was on the edge of my seat!

    1. Thank you so much!

  23. ShimonZ says:

    a beautiful tale of experience with nature. What I liked best was your conclusion that mother nature doesn’t play by ‘our rules’.

    1. Hi Shimon, thank you. So good to hear from you–you always have a fresh perspective.

  24. Gneiss says:

    Thanks for the vivid memories, Naomi. As you know, I too have my own Mt. St. Helens tale, but not as scary or eventful as yours. My daughter called to wish me “Happy Mt. St. Helens Day”, and her co-workers thought she was crazy. None of them were even born when the mountain erupted. Yet she felt it important to acknowledge my history. Your stories acknowledge history every day. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Gneiss
      It is so so good to hear from you. What a cute story about Erika! It’s time to hear your Mt. St. Helens tale again–be warned! I’m going to spirit you away for a story and a game of Hand and Foot! xoxox, n

      1. Gneiss says:

        Hooking up again soon would be fabulous. Sadly, we are both extremely busy people. Hand and foot is always in the cards, though!

      2. Hi Gniess. It’s a good thing we are both so busy; I’m sure we wouldn’t have it any other way. But I did enjoy it when our business brought us together more often. As you say, it’s always in the cards! Love, n

  25. i so remember that day. i was living with my mom for the year and we were in oroville, washington, about 386 miles away. we were up at some mountain lake for the day when we heard a big boom – from as far away as that! i don’t remember much ash but i think we did get some. news of the eruption captivated the world.

    1. Wow! That is incredible that you could hear from so far away! I bet you did get some ashfall. I know much depended upon the direction of the wind, but Oroville would probably have had some. My mother in Detroit got some ash, and Lynne said that she had ash in Thunder Bay, Ontario! Thank you so much for sharing your memory of that day, Valerie.

      1. ha! you’re very welcome.

  26. John Todaro says:

    This was an awesome story.
    Thanks for posting.

    1. Hi John, thank you for reading! I also really appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  27. I was living in Europe – watching this via television. What a gripping account!

    1. Hi Cathryn, that’s right! I remember visiting you in the Netherlands, maybe the following year. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. xoxo

    1. Hi CC, it was really generous of you to send your readers my way for this story. I am enjoying your blog so much, and the opportunity to learn more about your writer friends and what they do.

  28. metan says:

    What a great recount. Thank you for sharing it. An amazing experience to be able to say you were a part of. You were lucky to be with a calm group and a safe distance, even if it probably didn’t appear to be at the time!

    I too would have worried about the fate of those baby birds. In Australia we have devastating bushfires and you just know that so many similar fates befall the critters out there.

    I love your little christmas decoration, what a fantastic family heirloom.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. You’re right about being with a calm and knowledgeable group. Peter had led other classes to that particular canyon, and knew the terrain very well. We had several barbed wire fences to cross, but they were also good for tracking about where we were on the way back to the trailhead.

      My sister lives in Canberra, and we visited her a few years back. We went to a museum that described the devastating wildfires that you are too often subject to, and I’m sure many creatures fall victim to them.

      Thank you for your comment about the bottle of ash on the tree. I didn’t think to mention that if you look at the photo, to the lower left side of the bottle, there is also a large round iridescent blue ornament hanging on the tree. It was blown of glass made from the volcanic ash of Mt. St. Helens. I bought it for my mother the following Christmas and she hung it on her tree in Detroit. When she passed away, I started hanging it on our tree; now I think of her, as well as Mt. St. Helens when I decorate the tree each year.

  29. Meg Philp says:

    Hi Naomi
    Always a delight to browse your blog.
    I heard you tell this story years ago. The photos rocked me this time. It’s a great read now. Reminds me how fortunate we are in this life … I was in Alexandria, Egypt at the time.

    1. Hi Meg, I’m glad you got to hear it “from my mouth,” as the kids used to say. I didn’t know you had been to Alexandria. That’s a story I want to hear. Thanks for checking in. I am sorting through old photos, and found pictures of you telling stories at Brighton, and another one of you at the storytelling festival in Wales, with one of my kids’ little hands in each of yours. I think of you often, and we are all sending love your way!

  30. Amazing story. I would have panicked for sure!

    1. At first we didn’t think of it as anything more than a curiosity–but when the ash really caught up with us, there was nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness Peter knew what he was doing. Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, and share your thoughts.

  31. I’ve been thinking about where I was in May 1980. Nowhere as exciting and adventurous as you. I was living in Brighton (UK) in a bedsit on a diet of baked beans and tinned macaroni cheese, working for Manpower as a temp during the week, spending Saturdays in the library, and going out all day Sunday with the rambling society, which included a pub lunch and a cream tea.

    That same year, I moved towns to start my first nurse’s training. I sometimes wrote angry and depressing poetry, as well as sketching portraits and doing flower paintings. I was dating a freelance science editor with different coloured eyes – one blue and one brown. I had acne, but he didn’t care.

    1. Hi Sarah, I’ve been to Brighton, and can picture it in my mind. I love your description of your life back then. I would be able to tell, even if I didn’t already know it, that you are a fine poet. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  32. Wow, Naomi! To think your volcano story is the first post of yours that I read! In 1980, I was a senior in high school, living in North Dakota. We got the ashfall, and I thought it was pretty cool, not really thinking about the human toll. Little did I know that 11 years later I would be up close and personal with Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. I so identified with your story and shed a tear for the bluebirds. It’s nice to meet a fellow volcano survivor! 🙂

    1. Whoa! Howdy! Were you living in the Philippines or traveling there? Where were you when it erupted? I’m so glad you lived to tell the tale! The last thing I ever expected was to have a brush with a volcano, and it is a rare thing to meet another person who has. I’d love to hear your story.

  33. Touch2Touch says:

    The kind of story that when I read it, I usually think of it somehow as fictional, I know never people to whom that kind of thing happens. And now I do. It changes things somehow.
    Wonderfully told. As so many people have said, you are a true storyteller.

  34. Thank you for your generous words! That was my one big run-in with Ma Nature. Since I moved to Seattle thirty plus years ago, we’ve had a few earthquakes that have splashed the water out of the fish tank or knocked a few cans off the shelves in the pantry, but that was enough of that sort of adventure for me.

  35. Very good written article. It will be beneficial to anybody who usess it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I look forward to learning more about what you do.

  36. What an experience, Naomi! I love that you kept the ash from your trouser cuff, as a reminder. So happy you were all safe. Your mention of the “Use your ashtray” sign, really made me smile. 🙂

  37. pattisj says:

    That was the experience of a lifetime, and to think, not so far away, no one even knew. That missed photo would have been perfect for your post!

  38. raptekar says:

    You will never forget that time. Monumental account.

  39. Beverly Allen says:

    And I thought I was in an exciting position flying in a plane over the top of the eruption! What a story! Thanks so much for posting it Naomi. I am very happy you made it out alive.

  40. Mary says:

    Blessings upon you, Naomi. Thank you for your words. I too am grateful you hear the birds every morning.

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