August 24, 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Yesterday, the East Coast was shaken and stirred by a significant earthquake, the largest since ... well, who knows for sure, but it was big and it felt big. I was standing in my office talking with co-workers when we all felt something happening. My brain needed a few seconds to process and catch up with my feet, and by then the rolling sensation was peaking—like those jiggly lines you see on a needle graph—and then it subsided. It was over just about the time the first wave of panic was rising in my throat.

Like any good netizen, I immediately texted the wife and kids that we had just had an earthquake. This was hardly breaking news to them. They were on higher floors in their respective buildings and had felt the effects of the earthquake much more than I did in my semi-basement office. We went outside to wait for aftershocks, and by the time I was on the sidewalk I had a text from my sister in New England asking me if I had felt an earthquake. And so it went for the next couple of hours: anxious texts back and forth while the aftershocks to our psyches settled down.

I don't have any big morals or lessons to draw from this. Okay, maybe one. I remember years ago experiencing a total eclipse of the sun and feeling the immediate drop in air temperature when the shadow of earth winked out the sun, and I wondered for a split second what would happen if somehow we got stuck in this position? How long before earth would be a frozen block of ice?

This whole thing we call our lives is fragile beyond our imagining. A shrug of earth's shoulders can take it all away. And you know what? People matter, but so does our stuff ... our pathetic little collections of tchotchkes we accumulate as we go through life ... all of it matters, and all of it can be gone in a second. But what I thought of the most were the things undone. The stories unfinished, the vacations not taken, the lost time of life.

Be nice to think I will do something about it, but that probably won't happen. Chaos theory tells us we seek equilibrium in the midst of change. This is called an attractor. Right now, a little peace and quiet from Mother Earth seems pretty damned attractive. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and batten down the hatches for Hurricane Irene.

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