Jean Croker Petke

I’ve been to the mountain . . .

I’ve been to the mountain . . .

Recently I ran across a Zen saying —

Let everything be your teacher

That’s sort of how I live. I notice things. I hear things. I experience things. And these things set me to pondering and questioning. . .

Why do I still remember that moment from decades ago?

Why did I feel that way then?

That aroma — why does it elicit that memory?

What makes that particular friendship endure, and others not so much?

You get the idea. Perhaps you have similar times of pondering and questioning and wondering.

A few weeks ago I went to the mountains. Not particularly to see the mountains but they exist where my relatives live. The Cascades have spectacular snow-capped peaks, rising above the ordinary-size mountains. I saw Mount Hood every day, I saw Mount Adams and a couple of others I can’t identify by name. I saw them while we were driving around Portland and I saw them from the plane. And on the way home, I experienced the mountains near Albuquerque. I never cease to be amazed and surprised by such sites.


While I was in the mountainous west, we spent a day at Mount Saint Helens. What a weird, wonderful, haunting time we had. Films and exhibits in the first visitors’ center explain how it happened and show the mountain as it blows its insides out, obliterating forests and anything in its path. Then we drove fifty miles to the second visitors’ center — the one closest to the volcano itself. I first thought there was no snow on the mountain, then I heard that ash continues to spew from the depths, covering the snow with its greyness. Dead trees still litter the ground, looking like ocean driftwood deposited on a shore.

The mountainside bulged for days before the blast. There was no lava boiling out the top and pouring down the sides. Finally, a sideways blast of steam and rock and pressure broke trees like matchsticks in seconds, changing the mountain and surrounding area forever.

That night I woke with this phrase roaming around in my head:

I have been to the mountain —

the mountain that blew itself up

So I’ve been thinking . . .

What happens when our interior pressure, from family, work, or events, builds to the point where we can no longer contain it?

What happens when we can’t let off steam a bit at a time, to release the pressure, instead of having a volcanic explosion?

What about a toddler or a teen, with few ways to cope with building frustration or anger, who erupts like a volcano into a temper tantrum or rage-filled outburst?

I’m not into methods of self-destruction, whether it’s a mountain or myself or my toddler grandchild or the teen next door. My goal is to improve the situation, to grow the relationship, and to learn more effective ways of coping. Often the only thing we can control in any situation is our own behavior and attitude. So it’s critical that we find ways to let off steam, a bit at a time, to prevent the pressure from continuing to build, to the point of explosion.

Explosions are destructive. Pressure release is preventive action.

The world needs fewer human volcanoes.

Until next Tuesday . . .




2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Karen -

    Sometimes when the “pressure” of life is just too much the only relief valve lonely people find is to stop all the pressure for good.

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