When the summit of Mount St. Helens fell away in the 1980 eruption, the landscape began telling a new round of stories-ecological stories, moral stories, poetic stories unfolding in a multitude of ways and begetting a host of new questions. What are the differences between wild disasters and human-caused disasters? What is destruction, and what is healing, and how are they related? What are the ecological analogues of hope and grief? How does a cataclysm create the conditions for its own recovery? How might we do the same?
In the summer of 2005, 20 creative writers, scientists, philosophers and others gathered together on Mount St. Helens for four days of camping, hiking, learning, and sharing insights about the meaning of cataclysms and the sources of renewal. Cataclysms and Renewal: The Mount St. Helens Foray harnessed the power of this compelling place to explore ideas of destruction and rebirth in geological, ecological, and human terms. The Foray asked the question: What can this radically altered landscape tell us about how to understand nature and how to live our lives?