I live 60 miles due north of Mt. St. Helens, an active stratovolcano that has erupted several times in my lifetime. As a teenager in the fall of 1970, 10 years before the eruption, my earth-science class visited the lava-tubes that were popular tourist destinations in those days. The volcano was considered to be of no threat to anyone, practically dead, really.
As this photo shows, it had a beautiful shape to it, like Mt. Fuji, and was featured on calendars and postcards for its beauty and majesty. The verdant forests were tall and thick, mostly Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Spirit Lake, at its base, was a playground for summer vacationers. My family spent many summer holidays at the campgrounds and the lodge there.
All that changed overnight on May 18th, 1980, when the mountain erupted. We could see the ash column quite clearly from the lake in the Bald Hills of Thurston County, where we were fishing that morning, and we knew something really bad had happened at the mountain. Entire forests were blown down and buried under volcanic ash. Spirit Lake was both destroyed and reborn in a different form.
The destruction of the ecology is one of the underlying themes of the Tower of Bones series.
But the miraculous way the land around Mt. St. Helens has rebounded in the last 35 years is also working its way into my World of Neveyah–Tauron’s spell is broken, and the land will recover. The devastation of Mal Evol looks permanent, and is terrible to those who know what it once was like, but they have hope that it will recover.
In the World of Neveyah series, I created the Mountains of the Moon, out of which the valley of Mal Evol was torn. I understood how mountains can rise high into the sky, blocking the rising or setting sun. Also, I used the climate of the Scablands here in Washington–the climate is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with excruciatingly hot summers and severely cold winters, and that is how I made Mal Evol. Remember, dealing with weather offers great opportunity for mayhem in the narrative.
I live on the heavily forested western side of the state, 50 miles west of 14,411 ft tall Mount Rainier, beneath the Nisqually Glacier. That sight dominates my front-yard skyline on a clear day. The valley I live in was carved by glaciers and eruptions from this amazing pile of rock, ice, and fire. I took this idea, but I made my mountains taller and badder than the Himalayas on a bad Mt. Everest day.
We here in our bipolar State of Washington are able to see how the landscape can radically change if you just drive east on I-90 for four hours.
Because of my good fortune of living in the shadow of two large volcanoes, and between two high mountain ranges, the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range, I have the opportunity to experience a wide diversity of ecologies in one day, going from saltwater to mountain range, to desert.
You may find your inspiration elsewhere. It could be in anything from architecture to ornamental gardens, to cornfields or sage brush. For me, it is in the amazing state of Washington, a wild, beautful place of many diverse and fragile ecologies.
Things that inspire me was first published in September of 2015 on Life in the Realm of Fantasy, under the title of Creating the Landscape by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2015 All Rights Reserved