I am under the weather, besieged with a sinus and ear infection. For this reason, I tuck into bed at 8 PM and open up my Isabel Allende historical novel, Portrait in Sepia. I am re-reading last night’s descriptive passage because her lyrical prose achieves poetic status. It resonates and moves me. I comprehend the art and work in it.
“I was intoxicated by the scent of the damp forest, that sensual aroma of red earth, sap, and roots, the peace of the dense growth guarded by those silent green giants, the mysterious murmur of growing things, the song of unseen waters, the dance of the air through the branches, the whispering of roots and insects, the cooing of gentle ring doves and raucous cries of the chimangos.” She writes, enchanting the reader with the mystique of the Chilean woodlands.
Cindi is under the covers in her crate by my bed, noisily settling in with her nightly grooming. My husband is slumbering next to me, his breath easy and even. My freshman, home for spring break is at her boyfriend’s family house.
The house begins to sway, moving side to side like an overloaded washer. Within a millisecond, I recognize and acknowledge to myself we are in for a ride. I never know how long or strong the earthquake will be but I know to stay still and wait. It never ceases to amaze me how unawares and startled yet calm I seem to react when it happens. I hold my breath during, alert and listening like I am being ambushed. Then, when it subsides, I hyper-ventilate, I shake and fret. I know to go with the flow and be watchful till the ground shaking settles before I make a forward moving decision. It is easy to do for someone who freezes with the first sign of panic. The unforeseen shift in surroundings paralyzes me like when I don’t know what to say to an unwelcomed, unprovoked or unexpected verbal attack. I let it pass. I will think of a ton of stuff I could have said, in the shower.
I look at my alarm clock and the red LED lights announce 8:03. I used to write down every shake, rattle and roll I felt when I first relocated from the East Coast. After all, that is why I was always afraid to come. I saw Earthquake with Charlton Heston, where the streets of LA literally opened up and swallowed screaming, frightened people into the core of the earth’s lava and decided right there and then at the movie theatre I would never step foot in California just like I was never going back into the ocean after watching Jaws.
I inscribed onto a paper plate (the only writing material I had three days after I broke camp in Orange) my first quake back in July of 1986. I thereafter kept it as my official earthquake document. I recorded the magnitude, the time of day, the epicenter and the date. I think I believed I could somehow, as an amateur, predict a pattern or control it in some way. Taking down the data and keeping track on my quake paper plate diary evaporated somewhere between shuffling kids to schools and their graduations. But, maybe, I should start up again, beginning today.
At 9:08 pm, the bed and the house yielding to a side-to-side motion awakened me. Sometimes it is a jolt with waves sometimes it is a roll. This felt like a swinging, like dangling helplessly in King Kong’s grip.
I wake up my husband with a whiny plea. “Go back to sleep,” he encourages.
“What?” I demand. I think to myself, really? I am supposed to doze off after that? But I am tired and sick and I do just that. I would check on the one child home but she is out. And, how many times have I woken them up by entering their rooms and having slept through it they annoyingly proclaim I just intruded and disturbed their sleep with my queries?
Later, I find a text from E asking if WE are ok and letting me know they are. I also find out in the morning it was a moderate 5.1 quake, centered in La Habra coupled by a 3.6 in Brea, two minutes apart. I rationalize I must have been woken up by the first one and rode out the second one in its entirety.
A half an hour later, a 3.6 hits Brea, I whimper a yelping breath and roll over, like a dog.
It’s been a crazy shaky night.
I hear from J. Her family in Brea and whereabouts suffered a fallen ceiling fan and lots of broken glass.
We never know how the day is going to go no matter how well we have it planned. We never know if our plane will be lost, our mountain will slide or our house will jiggle. Unsettling information to digest recently. It all re-affirms the axiom that the only thing we can be sure of is change and death. A dark road to consider but it can also serve as a catalyst and a reminder to be grateful for the present moment. It has been an exploratory adventure to write this post. A few minutes ago, we had a slight trembling occur while I was typing. Everything around me can inspire me… if I just let my writing express my inner, self-centered fears as well as my progress.
I feel better already.