Tuesday, June 05, 2007


DEEP MOVES


I was standing at the kitchen sink at 6:20 this morning doing the usual - having my tea, looking out the big window into the garden, letting the veil of sleep fade and slowly recovering in greater detail who I was – when I heard a way deep and growing sound , seemed to be coming from the north, then it felt increasingly like I was standing on some kind of foot vibrator as the rumble and vibe intensity increased at high frequency-- then it peaked and faded, the upper timbers of the house gave one big 'crack' as though the house had just uncricked its neck, and all was dawn silent once more.

It had been an earthquake. The force - in a mass, not as distinct waves – passed through the house in less than ten seconds, as a strong vibration deep in the earth; there was none of the usual vibration associated with earthquakes, like when I experienced my first quake not long after arriving in Tokyo back in the early seventies, ran out of the swaying, rattling house and heard the earth grinding like huge cobblestones, saw trees swaying strongly in no wind.

The soil beneath Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya - and most major cities of the world - being alluvial, is in fact just a stage above liquefaction, like a vast tract of pudding. The temblor forces travel through it in large waves: first one side of a building is upward, then the other side, the building on alternating sides of the wave thus flipping back and forth until the oscillation wanes. But mountains, being fairly solid rock, don't transmit the force in waves; instead, it seems to pass through deep down, in a 'solid' mass like a shock wave, that can generate avalanches and landslides.

This had been smaller than the boom of force that had passed instantly though our solid concrete house in Kyoto, early on that morning in 1995, after having devastated Kobe. As I'd done back then, I turned on the tv immediately (as one always does here after earthquakes) to see where the epicenter had been: Otsu, so close, right at the southern end of the lake, the tremor ranking only 1 on the scale. At that point Echo got up, said she hadn't heard or felt a thing.

Sometimes deep in the silence of the night I hear the rumbling way down in the earth as our planet makes its deep moves, yet without a tremor up here at the surface; it sounds like giant subway trains traveling across the landscape far below daily life. At such times, lying there in the calm darkness atop what is in fact a mass of seething volcanic tectonic turbulence, I can sense how small and fragile we are in the face of all that lies beneath us, feel a touch of reality that makes our waking moments all the more precious, our struggles for power and hegemony like friction among microbes…

4 comments:

joared said...

Oh, I have some sense of what you're saying about the feelings, thoughts, associated with earthquakes here in So. Cal. Have felt the rolling ones associated with liquefaction, also the sharp ones when the tectonic plates slip. All I can say, is protect your head, grab a pillow, if objects start flying.

Annette said...

To hear the earth breathing deeply can be quite pleasant, but the sneezing is a different story...

Joy Des Jardins said...

It sounds like you didn't even miss a sip of your tea Bob....

I guess when you've been through a few and know that they may happen, you're kind of mentally prepared. I'd like to think I would respond in the same way...but, I doubt it.

In the big picture...Mother Nature always lets us know who's the boss.

Chancy said...

Bob,
You need to get rid of the
WATER BED.