My morning commute sucks for a lot of reasons, chief of which is that it happens at 5:15am. Unfortunately, that time isn’t going to change in the near future, so I can either wake up feeling like shit and hating every aspect of my life, or I can wake up feeling like shit and looking forward to maybe one or two things in the whole entire world. That’s not an oversimplification, either; coming up with one or two things in the whole entire world at 5:15am is a lot harder than you’d think.
One of the things that I look forward to is the relatively light traffic. Now, traffic is never light here, but compared to what’s on the road at 7:30am, I’m not doing too badly. The other thing I look forward to is the view I have during certain parts of my commute. You see, I go south to work, and when Capitol and Beacon Hills aren’t in the way, I can see Mount Rainier.
First of all, how did I ever live in a place without mountains? For years I was a contented flatlander, perfectly satisfied with river bluffs and rolling hills. When I lived in Southern California, the mountains were just the barrier between where I lived on the ocean and a vast desert, so no thank you, I’ll stay near the beach. I’ve driven through the Smokies and they’re gorgeous (if full of inbred moonshiners), and once I stood over the Continental Divide wearing some really unfortunate-looking platform sneakers (in my defense, it was the Spice Girl era). But now that I live nestled between two mountain ranges, I’ve become so fond of them that they were the main things I missed when we went to St. Louis for a few days. Not seeing them in the distance made the distance feel incomplete.
Second, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. It’s about two hours south of Seattle but it looms so large that it sometimes feels like you could throw a rock and hit it. Those dark things at its base? Those are regular mountains, and Rainier rises above them like a Colossus. It’s impressive enough during the daytime, but during sunrise, the snow on Rainier glows pink and violet and gold.
Third, and I didn’t know this until after I moved here and it changed everything, but Mount Rainier is an active volcano. So is Mount Baker, which is roughly the same distance to the north. So I’m sitting between two active volcanos, the most recently eruptive of which blew in the 1850s (that was Rainier, and the Wikipedia page is suitably terrifying).
Considering how huge, beautiful and dangerous Mount Rainier is, I kiiiiiiiind of understand how ancient people believed them to be gods, or at least places where the gods lived. I mean, I’m not about to sacrifice a goat to the mountain or pray to anyone about it, but I do feel that its stature deserves some respect, and I have been known to nod at it when I see it in the distance. Nothing weird, just a small “I see you, thanks for not exploding” gesture. It’s not something I ever want to take for granted, not its regular presence (which, if I haven’t communicated this enough, is awesome in the truest sense of the word) or its killing power (again, awesome, just not as fun to think about).