Moods of a Mountain

12,000 foot Mt. Mazama, Giiwas in the indigenous Klamath language, erupted about 7,700 years ago. The activity ejected material outward from volcanic vents deep inside the lower portions of the mountain. The resulting void caused the massive peak to collapse in on itself. This created a caldera that was eventually filled with thousands of years worth of melted snowfall and is now called Crater Lake National Park. It remains a power place for indigenous people and those of us who regularly visit the site.

The lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep and absorbs so much of the visible light spectrum that our eyes only see the deepest blue. It really is a striking sight on a calm clear day. But this collapsed mountain has many moods most people do not see, preferring to photograph only the crystal blue version. I suppose the current lingo is, “Instagram worthy.” But on this day, the lake appears slate grey with wind-whipped ripples breaking up the glassy surface. The ripples of water mirror the rippled appearance of clouds overhead. Seasonal pine pollen leaves streaks of yellow, sculpted into swirling patterns by wind and wave.

I have seen many of the mountain’s moods on nearly 70 visits over the last 50 years. Clouds hovering over and within the caldera can paint nature’s emotions in a variety of hues—from soft weeping to the fury of anger. On several occasions I witnessed lightning strike the lake from a roiling summer thunderstorm. She often creates her own weather without a thought for the tourist’s preference. Many visitors simply want to take their Instagram memory and go, without pausing to reflect on whatever the moment presents.

In this moment, I meet a man who thinks this is a meteor crater and he waxes poetic about the energy. He seems disappointed to hear her real history, preferring to harbor new age thoughts of space rocks and energy vortices. I also point out the endemic Crater Lake Currant (Ribes erythrocarpum) blooming at his feet. This beautiful tiny copper/orange blossom is often unseen by visitors. He stares blankly at me as if to say, “whatever.” The human mind is often wasted by humans. 

So, what does this have to say about the Dharma? Think about it.

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