Saturday, December 23, 2006

Land Of Milk, Honey, And Rattling Windowpanes

"Now I don't like the sound of the ground movin' round
Or winds spinnin' out of control
California earthquakes only seem make me shake, rattle and roll"
Jimmy Buffett - "Treat Her Like A Lady"
I spend a good portion of my life here in California in deep denial. Every piece of science and prediction tells me that the house I am sitting in will be rubble at the worst possible moment, and yet here I sit. Waiting.
As my family and friends dig themselves out of the Blizzard of '06 out in Colorado, I look out my window at the green lawn and scattered leaves and wonder why we can't forecast tremors, tumblers, and aftershocks. My mother was clever enough to trust the local weatherman and she went out to get enough soup and crackers to get her through before the snow fell. Out here, we talk a lot about being prepared for "The Big One," but most of us have little or no idea about what or when that might be.
We have had three earthquakes in the past four days. They weren't furniture-tipping, appliance-rocking, or glassware-breaking. They felt more like some big -very big - guy taking a run at the side of the house and hitting it full force. They were big bumps, and they got our collective pulses going. They did not send us screaming out into the street. Their magnitudes, in order, were 3.7, 3.7, and 3.5. Probably the most troubling part isn't the size, but the frequency. There was a full day between the first two, and then only twelve before the third. At this rate, we should be having quakes on the half-hour soon.
We've got supplies in the basement. We have bottled water. We have a tent to pitch in the back yard if the house comes down in a heap. But would I really stick around? All those people who head back to the Gulf Coast to rebuild, or buy yet another trailer in Twister Alley - is there honor in confronting nature? If discretion is the better part of valor, why aren't there more people packing up their belongings and fleeing this nexus of fault lines?
This is our home. It doesn't have two feet of snow on it. Natural and cultural resources abound, and plenty of parking - if you know where to look. It takes away some of the stress associated with waiting for The Big One.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason people aren't fleeing ahead of the earthquakes is that it's kind of hard to pull up stakes when you're into your house for $1 million, option-ARM, no equity, property values falling, no buyers. I guess if you've gotten yourself into that situation, you're saying--for all, uh, intensive purposes--that you'd rather ride out the Big One than do just about anything else with your life.