The second earthquake I felt was the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. I was at a friend's house and we were talking in her living room. All of the sudden the wrought iron steps to the upstairs apartments began to shake and rattle. I stood in the center of the room slack-jawed as my brain tried to figure out what was happening. My friend was much quicker than me and had led me by my shirtsleeve towards a door frame before I realized: earthquake.
Those were the days. That was when earthquakes were a fun little physical experience like a brush with vertigo on an airplane or amusement park ride. Then I experienced my first one where I actually lived near the epicenter. It was in 2000, in Napa, and on Labor Day weekend. Not so very far from where we are right now. It was 1:16am not 3:20am, but it still woke us up in our beds. At that time, I still lived with my ex-husband. We hadn't even said the "d" word yet, I don't think. Although it wasn't very far in our futures. The quake was 5.2 in magnitude and lasted 18 seconds. I approached it with efficiency and matter of factness. I kept myself busy checking on others, cleaning and helping. I didn't examine my feelings about it.
Earthquakes stories are like drunk stories. We all have some. Mine from the earthquake of 2000 was what happened in my kitchen. Every cabinet, including the refrigerator, had its doors flung open, the majority of the contents belched out, and doors flung shut again. The result was one entire trash can (the size you'd leave at the curb for the garbage company to pick up) of broken glass stuck to the floor with spilt soft drinks. In my head, it was like a twisted Disney cartoon, that detail where the doors shut again. It anthropomorphized the earthquake for me in a cute sort of way. I don't remember if the quake scared me. I didn't have to think about that much either because I focused instead on my husband. It was the first earthquake he had ever felt, at least that's how I remember it, and his reaction triggered mine. It made me become "The Strong One."
I lived in the same house, sans ex husband, for the South Napa Earthquake of 2014. The only facts I could find about duration were vague, saying 10 to 20 seconds. The magnitude was 6.0. There was a lot less glass broken this time, but you wouldn't be wrong if you guessed that was because I owned less. Cabinets and bookshelves were tossed and dumped over in every room of the house. Even the medicine cabinet spit vitamins and Tylenol bottles onto the floor. The same thing happened where I work. I feel like I will be cleaning for at least the rest of 2014. But I don't care. In a weird sort of way, I've come to feel that earthquakes simply direct your attention to all the things you should have gotten rid of anyway. As long as I lived, my pets lived and my friends lived; I really could give a toss what was broken.
Still that earthquake has me stuck. It caught my attention in a way that slowed time and made me realize there was something here I could learn from if I simply paid attention. First, it seemed to me it was something about the sensation. Believe me when I say, the difference between a 5.2 magnitude earthquake and a 6.0 is much greater than you think. At least in terms of what it feels like. For one thing, the 2000 earthquake was 18 seconds, which is almost 20. This recent earthquake was somewhere between 10 to 20 seconds, yet felt like it lasted 5 times longer than 2000's. An impossibility. So perhaps the sensation is really just much stronger which leaves the lasting impression of having continued too long.
Dissect it and, if you weren't worried for your safety and that of your loved ones, it should be a rather fun sensation. We pay good money to create roller coasters and other rides to deliver similar sensations. In fact, I realized that earthquake was very similar to the Walt Disney ride "Tower of Terror" for me. You see, I love rides with a good drop. I am terrified by them and dread them at the same time. So I rode ToT with a great deal of excitement and expectation. If you aren't familiar with ToT, it is like many other "Drop Zone" rides except with a Disney story to go along with it and the element of randomness. You don't actually drop, you are pulled faster than gravity would drop you. The ride's computer delivers a different ride every time. Sometimes you go up at first and then drop. Sometimes you drop first and then go up higher only to drop again. Some drops are long. Some drops are short. Sometimes you are dropped as many as five or six times.
I finally had "that" ride on "Tower of Terror." The one that left a lasting impression of having continued too long. It made me analyze why I felt that way. First, I decided that the drop configuration I enjoy is the sensation of dropping on a slope, like on Splash Mountain or an old school wooden roller coaster. Secondly, and more importantly, I realized I hated not knowing how many times we would drop. It bothers me to admit. That isn't a sensation issue. That is a control issue.
That's how I felt during the 2014 earthquake. A loud noise woke me. My cat, Peabody, ran across my chest, leaving nail punctures which he is far too gentle a cat to "normally" do. I sat up, worried if he had gotten to someplace safe and experienced a rough rocking that felt like some sort of ancient creature was rising up out of the earth right underneath my house. I didn't know it at the time, but my bed moved five or six inches. What I did know, is the sensation lasted long enough for me to wish it was over.
That wasn't a sensation issue. It is a control issue.
Earthquakes are not-so-subtle reminders of just about how little control we actually have. When you consider how many people lost items which had been bolted or secured for earthquakes or how many had retrofitted their house to be earthquake safe, yet lost exactly what they aimed to protect. You can't even plan to diminish your losses with any certainty.
The South Napa Earthquake stared me in the face and reminded me I have no control over anything and I didn't like it. Further, I knew that already and I STILL didn't like it. If we have a 7.0 in another 14 years, I hope have further released my desire to control and ride it like a surfer, hands waving "Hang Loose Hawaii."
The one thing you always do have, is control over your own behavior. In the wake of The South Napa Earthquake, Napans (or "Napkins" as I've heard some refer to themselves as) have proven to be absolute gems. I have witnessed kindness and good humor that makes me wish I could give the entire town a big hug. Napa, you're a class act with a big heart and I love you.
(But stop it with the one way/two way "Presto-Change-o's" with the streets. You're killin' me. JK xoxo)