Mount Spurr is the closest volcano to Anchorage. It is roughly 11,000 feet tall.
While I was engaged with Phil, fifth graders, and two other missionary friends – Jen (Native American) and Camilla (Chinese) – the earth across from and under Cook Inlet was heating up. Geologists say that the crater lake at the top was swollen one day; the water temperature was 122 fahrenheit, and a few days later the lake was gone. Tremors were happening underground such that the government and airline industry were being advised to be on alert, but we knew nothing of it. This arouses my curiosity about how much the government of Pompeii knew in AD 78, just before Vesuvius blew.
Regardless, I woke up one morning to hear that a volcano erupted nearby and my hosts were asking if I felt the earthquake. “Nope – slept right through it.” It truly is amazing how oblivious we can be to the disasters around us if it doesn’t affect our personal microcosm. Mt. Spurr had produced a volcanic eruption pluming 9 miles high, and depositing ash all over Anchorage and on into Canada and the lower 48. While I slumbered. What else happened while I was caught up in my own little world? What about all the other students in Jr. High, while I was struggling? (caligo) I bet they had there own pains and issues! What about my family and college friends during the war while I was in London? Whatever happened to Tommy and Chris after the Glorieta Incident? (dubium) Perhaps even Phil had hidden issues for which I should grant more compassion? Nah. If I worry too much about others, I’ll just create more problems for me and mine.
Over the next few weeks I worked at a few different churches and for one of those I lived on Elmendorf Army Air Base, where I was awakened each morning at 6:30 a.m. sharp by F-18s coming off the runway that ended at my host home.
My time in Alaska was winding down. Being quite aware of that, and the fact that I might mot make it back to the great white north anytime soon, I contacted Larry, one of the guys from Whittier to take a trip out of Anchorage. We considered Denali, the great pipeline, even Fairbanks, but I did not have enough time for any of that so I simply spent a night with his family in Wasilla. Three notable things came from this experience:
- A lot of people don’t care for lawyers – especially the criminal defense type. This family made that abundantly clear, and even though I wasn’t one yet, they let me know just how despicable I would become upon being licensed.
- This family was building a very complicated and impressive soil-cleaning machine to clean the leftovers of oil spills. I saw the machine in a warehouse and was sworn to secrecy about how it works. Because of that solemn vow of silence, I will not disclose it here, just to prove that lawyers can, in fact, be trustworthy.
- The Alaskan State Flower – the forget me not – is said to be a good predictor of the first snow. According to the Woods, when the last bud blooms, snow is coming soon. Of course, in Alaska, that’s usually a safe bet in the fall.
I went from Wasilla back to Anchorage to meet my last host family, and over the first lunch with them, discovered that they hate lawyers. Especially criminal defense, which of course was my objective. I didn’t know much to say in defense of criminal defense or lawyers in general yet, so I avoided the subject from there, aside from explaining that I wanted to help people accused of things they didn’t do. I was already becoming tired of trying to defend my chosen profession and I hadn’t even started law school yet.
But I had made a decision about where to attend: Mississippi College School of Law, in Jackson. I was now mentally putting Alaska behind me and looking forward to law school, family, and M.
The night before I was to fly south, a fishing guide who had befriended us brought some huge salmon, and explained that if we wrapped it well, and put it in our luggage, it would still be frozen hard when we arrived home, due to the temperature in the cargo hold of the plane. I honestly feared the disaster of finding smelly, ruined fish in my luggage with my clothes upon unpacking in Louisiana, but he was a professional so I trusted him.