Standing on Crater Lake's rim, I gazed around the scene and played imagine.
Imagine this land without people and our roads and conveniences. Strip away the wires and cast the world back to when humans were just another species foraging for food.
It's a favorite game, one I often play, even when walking around Ashland. I have issues with some people but not all of us nor even our blighted sense of entitlement and civilization. I like to look and try to see the world as the first humans saw it.
Crater Lake is an easy venue for the game. Up there on the rim where the roads are behind you and the lake's access is limited and protected, it's easy to look around and think, I am the first person seeing this world.
I love imagining being the first to see a new piece of world, the first to let their eyes rake across the land and sky's wonders and think, Wow, what have I discovered? Volcanic places like Crater Lake are even more fun with the game.
The Klamath Native Americans had stories about Crater Lake. To them it was a mountain home to the underworld God, Llao. Llao and Skell, a rival God, fought a great battle. The battle's fury destroyed the world. Crater Lake's highest point is Hillman's Peak. Radiocarbon dating places it about 70,000 years old. Half of it was blow away, reducing its height by a mile.
Think about a mile of mountain being blown away.
No wonder the Klamath thought Gods battled.
I play imagine everywhere and all the time. Specific moments of the game hang in my tattered memories.
I lived in Half Moon Bay, California. One year I hiked to the top of a ridge and peered through the trees. Hundreds of feet below me was Half Moon Bay, its half moon shape clearly revealed. Imagine being the first person to see this, I thought as the wind raked my face and pine trees waved their branches.
Imagine being the first human to see the Columbia River matching wills with the Pacific Ocean. Or gaze across the broad Mississippi River. Imagine being the first person searching for a way to cross it.
I've driven through Donner Pass, stopping to remember the Donner Party, but even then thinking, what of the first people through here thousands of years before?
Standing on the shores of the immense Pacific and Atlanta Oceans, I think of the cycles of life and time in their waters, and the breezes that sweep off them and again, try to think of myself as the first person seeing them, the first person smelling the air and hearing the clashing waves issuing their roaring hiss.
Being on Midway Island was another of those magical moments.
My wife and I were traveling on a USAF C141.
We'd left Hawaii and were trying to return to Okinawa, Japan, by way of Clark Air Base on Luzon, part of the Philippine Islands. She loved that trip. There was just a handful of passengers. The C141 has few windows in it. Most of our time was spent in darkness lit by naked overhead bulbs. We sat facing pallets of cargo, eating from box lunches. My wife called it 'sky camping'.
Midway is a hard edged word, associated with the World War II naval battle which had Midway Island as its focus or the movie made for the battle. Midway (1976) had a huge cast - Cliff Robertson, Hal Holbrook, Charleton Heston, Eddie Albert, Glenn Ford, Tom Selleck, Dabney Coleman, (football player) Larry Csonka, Toshiro Mifune, Jame Coburn, Henry Fonda, Pat Morita, Christopher George, Robert Wagner, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ito, and Monte Markham, calling out just a few of the cast.
My Mom loved the movie. Besides having so many of the male movie stars she'd grown up watching at the movies, she remembered hearing about the battle on the radio, reading about it in newspapers and later hearing about it from sailors who claimed to be part of the battle.
Beyond its history, Midway was another mind opening moment for me. Part of a small chain of atolls and volcanic islands, Midway isn't very large. It's not very high, either, with an elevation of about 13 feet at its highest. The small military detachment was terrifically excited to see us. We toured the island, noting where the high tide covered most of the runways and taxi ways. Standing there, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, I thought, Can you imagine being the first person to find this little island?
Midway's human population is currently zero.
Walking through Ashland and the valley where I live, I can see the valley's other side, where human impact is still limited. The roads are few, the houses are fewer. I can easly see Mount Grizzly and the lessor mountains around us.
It's easy to picture the valley without humans, we're so sparse here. Then I lift my eyes and gaze toward the sky, night or day, and think of all the stars and worlds beyond our vision.
Looking up there at the needlepoints of delicate lights made small by distance, I like to imagine what's out there and what it would be like to be the first person visiting one of the small rocks circling those stars so far, far away.
It's easy to imagine. Just open your eyes.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com