If the Tiger hadn’t woken me in the pitch of night (“Mama, I have to peeeeeee!”) I’d have missed it altogether. But since I was only half-zonked, I heard the rattling of the loopy metal drawer pulls on my dresser. Then I felt my bed gently rocking, but instead of the up-and-down wave motion of my partner turning over, it was more of a transverse wave. A back-and-forth. Also, none of the humans in that bed were moving. At all.
This is why it’s probably just as well that I don’t live in Palo Alto anymore. My survival instincts were never the sharpest, and they don’t improve in the pre-dawn hours. Instead of rushing into a doorframe, I realized groggily: “Oh! We’re having an earthquake!” And then I remembered: “Oh! I live in Ohio! So it can’t be an earthquake!” (Clarity of thought is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation points, at least in my little brain.) And then I thought something even less coherent about Memphis and how it will probably be leveled someday due to the rigid fault line that runs nearby, remembered I don’t live in Memphis, and sank back into stupid sleep.
It was a restless sleep, though, punctuated by dreams in which I kept trying to convince some unseen listener that beds don’t naturally move from side to side. Nor do drawers rattle untouched by human hands. There was some static about whether a school bus or garbage truck roaring past my house might have caused the same symptoms. And then, as I gave up on convincing my invisible interlocutor, the whole experience slipped into a dreamworld and I forgot about it altogether …
… until I’d already packed the kids off to school and was listening to NPR, when a report came on about an earthquake that was felt as far east as Cincinnati.
So I wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming. The quake was real. It was centered in Illinois, arrived at 4:37 a.m., and measured 5.2 on the Richter scale, according to the AP.
I’m here to say that contrary to all the news reports, the quake was palpable even in the southeastern corner of Ohio.
Last time I was in a quake, it was 1987, I was working in San Francisco and I hid under my desk, thinking maybe I shouldn’t have eaten up all my Carnation Breakfast Bars that were supposed to be my disaster stash. But the motion of this one, the pronounced lateral waviness, reminded me more of one I’d experienced while in college circa 1985 when I sought shelter in the doorway of the Research Administration office, where I was working part-time. That one, too, swayed us from side to side, though much more dramatically; I remember clutching the doorframe.
Since no one was apparently hurt, I’ll confess that I was pretty thrilled to experience a quake again. And amazed at how – even after all these years, with my brain more slumbering than not – my body knew exactly what I was feeling.
If you felt the quake, too, I’d love to hear how it was where you live.
This tulip lives in front of my house.