Little Earthquakes

IMG_843918 March 2020

I never thought I’d be naked in an earthquake, but here we are. If you want to know what it was like, think tarantula in your shower and you’d get about the same thrill. In Utah we have a pandemic, and now an earthquake, we only need couple more horsemen and we could have a whole apocalypse.

I was anxious after my least favorite shower of all time, but I figured the first event would be the worst, so I went to work anyway because my children are older and would be okay. People with small children or more quake damage might need to stay home, and the school would need all hands on deck to check out devices so students could do their work online, and bag up breakfasts and lunches for children who might otherwise go without. Still, at 7:30 a.m. I was praying all the way to the car, asking whether I was doing the right thing. Believe me or not, I did receive a specific impression, “Don’t worry, you won’t be there long.” “Long” is a relative term, so I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I felt the peace I needed to start my car and back out of the garage. We did get the meals dispensed, and had begun distributing iPads and laptops, when at 9:30 a.m. the school district closed all facilities and gave us twenty minutes to evacuate the building. I’d kept my purse with me, in case I had to make a fast exit, so all I had to do was walk straight out the door. Between aftershocks I gassed up my car, bought tomatoes, two gallons of milk, and a box of brownie mix, then headed home to my kids. It was true, I hadn’t been gone long, and I’d returned with the possibility of brownies.

“Did you feel the aftershocks?” they asked.

My daughter, Abby, had been intently following the reports, as I knew she would. That girl will never suffer from a dearth of information. The earthquake had been a 5.7, and by 1:00 p.m. we’d had roughly sixty aftershocks, another thirty by 4:30, which taught me that aftershocks can be deceitful. At 7:09 a.m. I knew the first incident was generally the worst, but as the tremors continued, I was ripe to be taken in by rumors that another bigger one was predicted, and called my son, Chase, in Provo to make sure he was protecting himself. Right afterwards, I looked it up and realized I’d let the aftershocks rattle me, which is important for me to own so I can learn something.

We sustained a long crack in our front walk, a few fallen pictures and knickknacks, and a broken terracotta warrior, very lucky. Not everyone got away quite so lightly. I know there were power outages, damaged buildings, and the airport had to close. The Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Latter-Day Saint Temple even dropped his trumpet, but we are extremely grateful there were no deaths or major injuries. If you absolutely must have an earthquake, this is the way to do it.

Knowing it was likely unnecessary, when I arrived home we put water, a little food, and toilet paper in the car, in case of a quick exit, and the car remained outside the garage, to avoid dent by falling camp chair. After that we goofed through a bit of housework, until Porter figured it was high time we had French onion soup, and began setting out pans and chopping onions, singing Nessun Dorma from Turandot, nailing that spinetingling high note from the core of his soul. For him a B4, or B in the fourth octave, is a victory won from enormous effort. He couldn’t stop smiling, until forty-five minutes later when we had an aftershock of 4.6. Porter turned off the gas burner and yelped, “Should we go!?!”

“We’re okay,” I said.

It turns out that naked or clothed, having your house shake around you is rather unsettling because things that should be rock solid prove themselves to be just as fluid as anything else, given the right pressure. The weird thing is that the bathroom where I was showering during the 5.7, and the couch where I was sitting for the 4.6 have taken on a weirdness I didn’t expect. I’ve been avoiding that bathroom all day because a chunk of brain somewhere behind my left eyeball sort of kind of thinks that if I go in there it’ll start shaking again. It’s not rational, but my mind gives it the force of reality, and I need to figure it out before tonight because that bathroom is attached to my bedroom, and I’m not keen to go flagging out to the guest bath in the middle of the night.

The honest truth is actually a little worse. We’re a no shoes house, but it took me some time to take mine off, in case we had to run. Even then I had them right beside the door, requiring a guess at which door or window might be our escape hatch. I took comfort because my slippers have rubber soles, so they might serve in a pinch. Worse still will be the moment when I can no longer put off going to bed, and must face getting undressed for the night, my rational and irrational duking it out in a war for supremacy.

For the kids and I the best way to face down our fears seemed to involve congregating in my bedroom and talking about this and that. It wasn’t planned, I was just in there doing some things, and first Abby came in and plopped down, then Porter headed in, holding a timer to make sure his soup didn’t simmer too long. The conversation twisted and curled around itself, nothing deep or of great import. Eventually, Abby drifted out, and then Porter got up too, but he delayed his exit, fiddling with the chain dangling from the ceiling fan.

“I’m really happy,” he said, smiling without a trace of irony. “My adrenalin is coming down, and I hit that B4. Everything is good . . . I mean, except for the earthquakes and corona.”

I know what is happening outside my door. We can expect many more aftershocks, my job and others’ will likely vanish, and coronavirus is stalking us all with claws both long and short. But today, 18 March 2020, I was naked in an earthquake, Abby is happily watching Hermitcraft videos, and Porter is playing the piano. We have French onion soup, and I’ve been making brownies with walnuts and chocolate chips so our house smells delicious. I guess I can live with half an apocalypse.

4 Comments on “Little Earthquakes

  1. Yes, we discussed horsemen and apocalypses for Sunday School this week. We can’t decide if World War II counts for one.

  2. I wonder if people in the “Ring of Fire” region laugh at 5.7 quakes. I can hear them now: “A 5.7 is just a free massage chair ride”.

  3. What about keeping bike Helmut near beds, flashlight and 72 hour kit backpack with shoes and aocks, coats handy? I can empathize because 1962 I was watching the bricks of my house go in and out while getting ready for seminary when my brother, whose bed was built into the wall was shaking so badly that he woke up, “stop shaking my bed!” Later, in First period Jr high science class, teachers began cracking jokes, during after shock, and we saw a big tall grocery store sign a block away was swaying . God bless and protect all who are not appointed to death.

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