Do these pictures look like the same mountain to you?

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I visited Mount St. Helens. It’s an active volcano and the last eruption was in May of 1980.  I was a child when it happened and can remember the images on TV of the smoke and ash filling the air.  I lived in Minnesota at the time and can also remember the eventual haze in the air as the ash made its way to the east.

We entered from the south side of the park and the first picture is what we saw from that view.  Big tall treesGreen meadows.  Snow covering the top of the mountain.  We spent the morning hiking and exploring the caves created by the lava flows.

Then we traveled around the base to the north side where the eruption occurred.

The picture above is what we saw.   It was like we entered a completely different world.  The initial force of the eruption created 500 mph winds that blew down all the trees.  Ash covered everything else.  It felt like a desert compared to the other side of the mountain.

Two faces of the same mountain yet they were vastly different worlds.  It was a fascinating place.

For some reason, the word “vulnerability” pops into my head when I look at these pictures.  How quickly things can change and how long it can take to recover after a change has happened.

Change can leave us feeling raw and exposed.  And it’s not a place we like to find ourselves in.  Yet it’s essential for growth.

Even though the ash-covered, north side of the mountain wasn’t overflowing with vegetation and lush plant life, it was remarkable in its own way.  Life continued to grow despite the damage and, in some cases, because of it.

There were no tall pine trees like there were on the south side.  But there were new trees that grew well in this new climate that were over 20 feet tall in the valley.

Wildflowers were dotting the top of the ridges where the massive pine trees used to dwell.  All sorts of animals had taken up residence in these areas ranging from small furry chipmunks to herds of elk.  And new lakes had formed from the dams created by the eruption.

It was a reminder that change is a natural part of life.  And even though it can sometimes make us feel uncertain or like everything has been wiped out, given time and a willingness to be present to what is, new opportunities do appear.

What new opportunities have emerged from unexpected changes in your life?  In what ways were you forced to grow?

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