Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Whole Lot of Shaking

Tuesday morning I got a late start and was in the process of getting dressed when the small bathroom I was standing in began to move. I didn’t have to think about it. I knew it was an earthquake right away. Usually the small ones that happen here are over almost before you notice them. It feels like somebody pulled on the back legs of your chair (if you’re sitting) and then ran away.

This was different. It was more like I was in a box being shaken by some giant hand. It shook and then shook some more, but harder. I stepped into the door frame (that’s what you’re supposed to do because the door frame is stronger than other parts of the room) and watched one of my cats run across the living room with her tail poofed out.

And then it finally stopped. Relieved that for once I didn’t get that horrible free falling, scary feeling in the pit of my stomach, I went outside. We all work out of the house, so within moments my son and husband and joined me in the yard and we compared notes. Our other cat slept through the whole thing and Goldy, our terrier mix never stirred from her chair.

We had no damage other than unsettled nerves. And thankfully it wasn’t anything like the Northridge earthquake in 1994. We were practically on top of the epicenter of that one and while we only had an some cracks in our walls and an overturned bookcase, the power was off for days and there was lots of damage near us.

I will never forget driving my son to school and driving past an endless row of fallen block walls. Or the Cal State Northridge parking structure that looked like Godzilla had stepped on it. Or the apartment building that was now sagging at an angle.

This past Tuesday there were aftershocks, but since the epicenter was so far away, we didn’t feel them. Not so with the Northridge quake. The whole week after it seemed like the shaking didn’t stop. We had numerous ones that were over 5 points. And then something happened. I began to feel a surge of gratitude for every moment the house wasn’t shaking.

As the weeks progressed and the shaking grew less and less, my moments of gratitude became more and more until finally, I felt a constant state of gratitude all of the time for everything.

I still feel that way. The Tuesday shaker just reminded me.

Has anything negative had a positive impact on your life?


Sheila Connolly said...

I lived in northern California for a decade and experienced my share of earthquakes. The first year I was there, I was writing a letter to my mother (back in the dark ages, pre-Internet), and I wrote the line, "And then there are the earthquakes..." at which moment we were hit by a 5.8. Luckily we moved back East before the Big One hit.

I have to say losing the last "official" (i.e., paid) job I had was a real jump-start for my writing career. I was dumped unceremoniously by a megalomaniac boss, so of course I turned around and made him the villain in a book (really nasty guy, a serial rapist). The book hasn't sold, but it was strong enough to win one contest, get me a (bad) agent, and attract some attention. Thank you, Ralph!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I was around for the quake last week, too, Betty. I'd also gone through the Northridge quake and this time did what I'd learned then that a person should do during a quake--stood in a doorway. However, now the thing to do is to get under a big piece of furniture like a table or desk. My pups were barking and I had to round them up to stay with me through this long, rolling quake.

Betty Hechtman said...

Sheila: It must have been eerie to write about an earthquake and feel one. Ralph the megalomaniac would probably be flattered to be a character in your book. Nice that you put his jerkiness to good use.

Linda: So, the door frame is out, huh? The only thing to climb under in the bathroom was the sink. Even with all my yoga classes, I don't think I could have folded myself up small enough.