Monday, September 06, 2004


We were sitting at the table after dinner last night, chatting about I forget what, I think Echo was putting something in the fridge, when suddenly through my feet and ears I could tell without thinking about it that the house was having a seizure; the light over the table began to sway, I looked up and the ceiling fan was swinging in widening arcs, glass in the doors and windows was chattering, the joists and logs and cantilevers were creaking as the house shook; it does a very odd thing to your mind when your house goes into convulsions-- when your very shelter, your safe haven, begins to show its frailty, when the very roof over your head becomes a thing of danger-- it's a big deal to distrust the ground you walk on.

You're on tenterhooks the while, waiting for the completely irrational shimmy to intensify to THE BIG ONE, as with irrhythmic feints it threatens to do; but this one went away at last, after a minute or so, then later that night as we were falling asleep it came back stronger, or so it seems with tremors in the dark; I ran out of the bedroom and looked out the high living room window: all the lights were going on across the Lake because (you realize, standing there nightbound) not only is the house shaking, not only is the entire mountain and its forest shaking, the whole prefecture is shaking, like a rattle in a baby's hand.

I've experienced a number of earthquakes in Japan since my first one in Tokyo in 1972 or 3; I felt the sharp rush of the 1995 Kobe quake thrust through my house in Kyoto that January morning like a giant invisible knife. The one last night was pretty mild, and mountains pulsate less than alluvial land (which is relatively gelatin to a tremor of the earth), but no matter how many times you're shaken, you never get used to quakes.


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