Thursday, August 25, 2011

Five Point Eight

What rattles Easterners in 22 states would barely toss the salad or stir the tea out here in the wide-open West. A 5.8 wouldn’t interrupt a waiter auditioning the specials but it might get the attention of folks in a crowded elevator.

Now Easterners can imagine how we sleep every night under the dining room table in our wet suits, clutching an earthquake kit, checking our supply of bottle water, and a good waterproofed book. They’ll get the hang of it. The lemurs in the National Zoo knew about it 15 minutes before the Richter scale.

We need our benign quakes every now and then to lift us out of complacency. It may take a cosmic event to wake us from our atomized life. The last big one in Los Angeles introduced us to our new neighbors on the stairwell. The word, cleave works both ways.

Temblors pry open our eyes and reposition our perch, even one or two degrees. I wonder if Eric Cantor has been moved enough to now recognize the role of government since the gods have conspired to target his district as the epicenter. What mischief-makers they can be.

One might argue that we already have too many fissures in our society with fault lines, financially, culturally, politically and generationally. All these are dwarfed by cataclysmic events. The god of carnage is met by the god of grace and survival. Buried deep inside are those better angels we keep hearing about.

Natural disasters are something like wars in exotic places. In recent years I’ve become aware of Mogadishu, Kismayo, Strebrenitsa and now Bengasi. I was similarly amazed to see that Detroit and Cleveland were so close to Virginia; at least proximate enough to know the feeling of a swaying chandelier. Out here in shake & bake country we tend to forget how squashed together those blotches of states are in New England. Thanks for the Geography 101 lesson.

My friend on Long Island thought, so this is how a stroke feels while others reported a transitory attack of vertigo. Next time they will know it’s just a domestic quarrel of the gods throwing tectonic plates.

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