Volcano Day

Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens

Today is the 35th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  I always remember on this day that sometimes not getting what I want is a good thing.

My father had camped near the mountain sometime in the month prior to its eruption.  He came back with some pretty amazing photographs.   I was ten years old and didn’t think about the hazards.  I begged and begged and begged to go camping there so I could see the gentle little puffs of ash for myself.  We set the date but then something came up and we couldn’t go.

I was crushed and spent a good bit of Friday and Saturday sulking.  I remember Sunday I was sitting in the back seat of our asthmatic old station wagon with a little black raincloud over my head on the way to some stupid boring errand.  Because we were driving on the freeway we didn’t hear the noise of the eruption like others in the region did.  One of my parents noticed a smudge on the horizon and turned on the radio.

Some people made it out of the campground we’d planned on – there’s a very famous series of photos from Strawberry Ridge taken by a guy with a motor drive on his camera.  Obviously he made it out.  But some people didn’t make it.  Our station wagon wouldn’t have gotten us out in time.

Am I prepared for not getting what I want?  I want to earn Shodan – and learn and grow even more after that.  I want to teach Karate.  These are big dreams, but let’s face it – any number of things could happen to bring that dream to a screeching halt.  Does that mean I should just give up?  Absolutely not.  Yes, I’ll be crushed if something happens and I can’t continue with Karate.  But I need to believe that I will adapt and even thrive if the worst should happen.


I have a number of things in my life that are worth pursuing.  I still enjoy beach combing, photography, and digital art.  I am a substitute water fitness instructor, so I’ve seen roughly twenty five brave people exercising in spite of a wide variety of medical conditions.   I have my dog and my family.  And who knows, if ever I can’t do Karate, maybe I’ll go back to playing flute!  All this will still be there for me if the worst happens.

I know – I could bounce back.  There are some great stories out there.  I met a man who had a terrible motorcycle accident years ago – he’s still an awesome Karate instructor.  If something happens I will make every effort to bounce back.  But still – there’s always the possibility that I won’t get what I want.  Am I prepared for that?  Yes – because of that lesson I learned on Volcano Day, I am prepared.

Are you prepared?

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

8 thoughts on “Volcano Day”

  1. I have been thinking about the same things a lot lately especially since I saw one of my Sempai at the higher kyu grading the other day. She has officially retired from Karate (but, like me had come to watch and support her Karate family). Her retirement is a great loss for me as she was a huge inspiration, having started with her daughter (when roughly my age) and having at some point in the ensuing 15 or so year achieved not only Shodan but Nidan. She said to me, when I asked her about it that she was an all or nothing person and she didn’t want to do it if she couldn’t do it all. I can relate to that. She had stopped kumite due to injuries last year and when she decided it would not be a good idea to continue that, she stopped altogether.

    I have a full life even without karate and I did before. However if I had to stop not on my own terms I think I would find it hard and there would be a huge hole.

    I sometimes think Shodan is a pipe dream for me being such a late starter and it doesn’t help when one of my Sensei intimates that it will be another 10 years before purple belt (4th kyu of 10 – I am currently 9 in that style). It’s all very well for people who are 15 when they start but when you start at 39 you don’t realistically HAVE all the time in the world. I am training harder and more than the 15 year old’s but that doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

    If it takes that long to get there I will be 70 or more before I get near shodan and I am not sure my body will still let me do it then! I try not to be discouraged or demoralised as there are plenty of other people encouraging me along the path. Perhaps I misunderstood since I know a few people in the network who started with their kids and are now on 1st or 2nd kyu after 5-6 years or less. I guess it doesn’t really matter in the long run though….it’s the journey rather than the endpoint!

    1. Egad! Your Sensei says it will take 10 more years to reach 4th kyu? That either makes you the worst student of all time or you have the worst Sensei of all time. Don’t get me wrong–I respect that each teacher is free to design whatever system they choose, but to place a shodan– a FIRST LEVEL black belt– on such a high pedestal is… unusual.

      Just be sure you enjoy your training and are learning, whether you wear a belt or not. 🙂

      1. Ado Sensei, osu…thanks for your blog too…I enjoy reading. Like I said, perhaps I misunderstood…… I hope so. I am not the quickest learner but I train hard to compensate and catch up. I am enthusiastic and he and the other sensei I train with have all acknowledged that and the highest rank and most experienced Sensei has acknowledged my improvements…… More so than my original one. He isn’t the worst instructor. He is just different. He is supportive of my training at other dojo in addition and is trying to improve his teaching. I am also trying to be an adaptive learner. In soe ways we probably challenge and hep each other in equal measure. Besides sometimes when someone says something like…..you won’t need his or 10 years or stances are always wrong for the first 5years…. to me it is a bit like a red rag to a bull…..I want to prove them wrong so I work extra hard. I want to EARN all my belts by being competent although perhaps I am harder on myself than I ought to be, but..I am not getting younger…I just want to make it that far. I am seriously training in 2 styles now within the network so that may help or not…..so far so good and I just did first grading in second style and skipped a belt so now am 6 in that style and 9 in my first style…..whatever….. I still enjoy it. I am being a blog hog now…..most of this is probably in or soon to be in MY blog…..

      2. Ossu, Sensei Ando! [bow]
        Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I think I’d respectfully ask again how the rank system works if I thought the time seems unusually long. Especially as I’ve heard Shodan is a new beginning 🙂

    2. Hi, Rach! Hey I saw a gentleman who had to be at least 70 testing for his Shodan. Some things didn’t quite look the way they would for an 18 year old, but I have absolutely no doubt this new Sensei could whip my tail nine ways ’til Sunday. I think the whole point was he was making Karate work for him. I know a young girl my rank who can turn me into a pretzel – grappling isn’t emphasized much at our level but she’s developed it as her way of compensating for dwarfism (and check out this guy – https://karatekickindwarf.wordpress.com/ ). So don’t worry about being “old” and testing for Shodan – worry about making Karate work for you wherever you are in life 🙂

  2. Oh, and Rach – don’t worry about being a blog hog. I enjoy the discussion! I’m looking forward to your next blog! I sometimes copy the comments I make on others’ blogs and stick it into a “pre-writing” text file to pull out if I get writers’ block.

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