Grew, blew, fell and fill

by Heather Vandenengel

EUGENE, OR — This is kind of bad, but I was ignorant of Crater Lake until pretty much this morning. I had heard of it in passing, knew it was supposed to be beautiful, but thought for some reason that it was way up in northern Oregon. And then when I was planning out my route back East I saw that–lo and behold–Crater Lake was only a two-hour drive from Bend. It ended up being a three-hour drive since one of the entrances was closed, but it was snowy and serenely beautiful. My ignorance also extended to its formation–I didn’t realize until I read a sign overlooking the lake that Crater Lake was once a volcano, Mount Mazama, that erupted about 7,700 years ago, collapsed in on itself and formed a caldera that filled with precipitation.

I spent a good part of this weekend and last week driving around and admiring Oregon’s scenic beauty, from the foggy, ominous sea stack at Cape Kiwanda to the damp, lush national forests to the windy High Desert of Central Oregon.

I was also thinking about what makes a place beautiful (“What is beauty, even?”) and wondering why I was driving two hours out of the way to have a look at a big lake. Why not just save the gas and look at a photo?

I think it feels nice to feel small, to know that these trees have been here for decades and centuries and (god willing) will be here long after I am no longer here, that a river has run over these rocks for thousands of years to make this waterfall and that one time, a volcano erupted, caved in on itself, filled with water and snow and created a lake. More than I’ll ever do in my lifetime.

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