Mike Beck
Oso, Wa
2022

Story Info

Story & Experience

I came again this year for the Global Earth Exchange to the community of Oso, Washington.

 

My first visit was 2014 while I was at my daughter’s in the Pacific Northwest shortly after Spring rains and over-timbering caused a smallish mountain north of the Stillaquamish River in the Cascade mountains, to calve 19 million tons of sand and till. The resulting mudslide flooded the narrow valley to the east roaring down it at 40 mph until sloshing to a stop on top of Highway 530, cutting off the community from all sources of immediate rescue or help. Two of the 43 people that died in the mudslide that late March morning were still unaccounted for when I went there that year.

 

I quite remember topping the last hill on temporary Hwy 530 before the catastrophe area that first time. I felt out of place, disconnected.  It was like I was spectating. I didn’t stay long only enough time to plant something from a pot with single red flower growing on it in the bleak muddy plain.

 

Returning to Oso several times in the last 8 years and at other places and other ceremonies in the natural world I’ve learned much about being present and curious, even awed.  My feelings don’t guide my actions as much these days.  Consequently,  I’ve never done an Earth Exchange the same way twice.

 

At this  year’s visit  I met and mostly talked with Ron Thompson. We talked as we walked among the cedars the community planted as yearlings in a memorial garden beside Highway 530.   Ron drives the short distance from his new home behind the fire station nearby almost every weekend to hang around, pick up litter but mostly talk with visitors. Among the many things he taught me,  it could have been much worse. Twenty or so church youth were supposed to have spent the night  before everything in the valley changed forever in a “Spring-flinging” type event at his house near the Stillaquamish River. He didn’t remember why but it was canceled at the last minute. That house, the “old home”, he pointed out is now buried  under 50 feet of ancient glacial moraine. He and his wife weren’t there that morning. They left to go shopping 10 minutes before the face of the mountain slid loose.

 

I’m grateful for Ron. He shared some things I didn’t know but mostly allowed me to slow down, to savor the place.  I don’t think I needed his permission but I asked anyway and  then went quietly and planted a yellow flowering shrub amongst the cedars.

 

 

Why this Place?

Oso, Wa

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A little yellow flowered shrub at edge of a catastrophic mudslide that wiped out a small Washington state timbering community 

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