I love this really stark photo of pyroclastic flow deposits. If it wasn't for the shovel, it would look like something from a 1950s sci fi set.
This is the bank of the Columbia River right by Vantage, WA. Note the generous dusting of ash from the May 18th eruption. That haze you see over the river is more ash making its way east with the prevailing winds.
The ash is pretty much gone now, washed off the rocks and mixed in with the soil. This eruption was huge for us, but pretty middling as far as the geologic record is concerned. Mount St. Helens has experienced much bigger bangs in the past, leaving extensive ash deposits that dwarf what the cataclysmic May 18th eruption managed. The second photo shows some of those ash layers and a map of their distribution. More information about the volcano's history can be found here.
After the May 18 eruption, pretty much everything around Mount St. Helens looked like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. There was no life. A lot of people thought there never would be, it looked so extreme.
But volcanoes experience continual cycles of creation and destruction. What happened to Mount St. Helens was nothing it hadn't endured before and will survive again. Living things saw a bunch of empty real estate and wasted no time moving in. These avalanche lilies grew up within the devastated area early that June, less than a month after the cataclysm. They settled in the blast deposits just ten miles northwest of the volcano. Annihilation was swiftly followed by renewal. Life on this planet is remarkable for its ability to persevere no matter what conditions it faces.
These delicate flowers growing on a barren blast field tell us that life will always find a way to endure.*
*Well, up until the sun consumes Earth, anyway, but that event billions of years in the future need not disturb us now.
Alas, my time is short, and that's all for now. I'll have more for you soon!