The Shakes

The earthquakes we’ve been having for the last couple of weeks have been big, but not too big. Or they’ve been big, but they’ve been far enough away from Wellington not to seriously damage anything. Or they’ve damaged things, but not permanently. Or they’ve damaged things permanently, but not too badly. We had two not last Sunday but the one before, and then a day or so of aftershocks: a day or so of not knowing if what you were feeling was a real aftershock or just your own body’s inability to stop shaking. Another one this past Friday afternoon, short and sharp. Another one yesterday at one in the morning. Big, but not too big.

Check GeoNet, get on Facebook and Twitter (“Wow I really felt that one!”), update the emergency contacts, go out and get more plastic bags and work gloves and muesli bars, just in case. A wind-up radio this time, fifty percent off. Bottled water, another can opener. Take the wine glasses off the open shelving. Cash in the tightly packed go bag because who knows what you’d need to buy. Who knows if the stores would even be open, if supplies could even get down the one motorway. A pocket knife, fifty percent off.

Meanwhile, I keep looking for work. I keep volunteering, talking to kids about decorator crabs and sea anemones and reef stars once a week or so. I keep living in an area of high geothermic activity, in a city located directly on top of a major faultline, in a flat just barely above the tsunami line. I keep wanting to call my mom and tell her that I’m safe, for now.

“Scary, honey,” I imagine her saying, on Skype, sitting at her white desk. “I mean, with a hurricane, at least you know it’s coming and you can get out.”

“Yeah,” I would reply, “I know. But I’m pretty well prepared—I just got a wind-up radio, did I tell you? Yeah, for half off–and there’s not much else you can do. Besides, everything has something. If it’s not earthquakes it’s hurricanes, or tornados, or whatever. Nowhere is really safe.

“Very true,” she would say. “I guess you just take it as it comes.”

I sit on my couch, looking over the washing lines and the neighbours’ fences at the sky that is too bright and too blue for this time of year. What will come, and how will I take it? Is the earth shaking or is it just me?

1 comment

  1. Earthquake orientation and prep has been a big part of moving to Nepal. I grew up by San Francisco so I remember doing drills when I was little. It is not, therefore, a major source of anxiety. I’ve got the food stores, warden group registration, but have been very lax about finishing up my GoBag (we are provided with a basic kit)… But then the conversation turns to the Nepali population. There is little to no prep being done by average families. Shortcuts are constantly taken in construction. When the big quake happens, how will I respond to my neighbors needs?