This Cruel Destructive Power


Atomic Dawn
by Gary Snyder, from Danger on Peaks

The day I first climbed Mt. St. Helens was August 13, 1945.

Spirit Lake was far from the cities of the valley and news came slow.
Though the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6
and the second dropped on Nagasaki August 9, photographs didn't
appear in the Portland Oregonian until August 12. Those papers must
have been driven in to Spirit Lake on the 13th. Early the morning of
the 14th I walked over to the lodge to check the bulletin board. There
were whole pages of the paper pinned up: photos of a blasted city
from the air, the estimate of 150,000 dead in Hiroshima alone, the
American scientist quoted as saying "nothing will grow there again
for seventy years." The morning sun on my shoulders, the fir forest
smell and the big tree shadows; feet in thin moccasins feeling the
ground, and my heart still one with the snowpeak mountain at my
back. Horrified, blaming scientists and politicians and the govern-
ments of the world, I swore a vow to myself, something like, "By
the purity and beauty and permanence of Mt. St. Helens, I will fight
against this cruel destructive power and those who would seek to
use it, for all my life."