Suzanne can magically identify the magnitude of an earthquake as it’s happening. Yesterday we were sitting at her table playing a board game when an aftershock hit and after the first moment of doubt — was it going to be bad? — she shook her head and said, “Aftershock. Around a 4.” We went back to playing our game.
Much, much earlier in the day, she’d come outside to say, “You okay?”
I was standing in the doorway of the tiny house, in my pajamas, in the freezing cold, and responded, “Oh, yeah, fine. You?”
She was also fine and told me then that the earthquake that had just hit was around a 6. (Later she let me know that doorways are no longer the prescribed safe spot for earthquakes, and my best bet was probably just to stay in bed, which will be good news for future reference, and which I share with you just in case you need to know that, too.)
Before all that, however, I had the somewhat surreal experience of waking up to the earthquake, which — to be honest — was really kind of cool. Obviously not for the people who were injured or the ones with major property damage, so my sympathies to them, but my experience was not tragic or even particularly disturbing.
So! This is what happened: I was sleeping and as I came up out of sleep, my first reaction was that somehow I’d been in a car accident? And the police were already on the scene? So maybe I was hurt? Or maybe the accident was still happening? But why would the emergency vehicles be there already?
The lights were blinking in the tiny house. I have strip lighting with colors around my window and I never usually use the color, but whatever was happening with the power was causing the lights to flash on and off. Meanwhile the appliance lights were also going on and off so there was a red light blinking from my induction cooktop and a blue-ish white light appearing from my air fryer convection oven.
Things were moving, too. The induction cooktop is on a stand with wheels, and I’m fairly sure it was sliding forward, but the bed was very definitely shifting and shaking. It was noisy, but I couldn’t really tell you what the noise was — part of it was definitely appliances turning on and off, beeping from the cooktop, the fan starting and stopping on the air fryer and some of it was things falling over — but it also felt like a big outside noise, like I was enclosed inside a rumble.
It took me a few seconds to get my sleeping brain to “oh, earthquake,” with a quick pause first on, “How could I be in a traffic accident, I’m in bed and I’m not hurt?” and then another few seconds to think, “Hmm, I should probably be doing whatever one is supposed to do in an earthquake,” and another few seconds to think, “I suppose it’s fortunate that I own so little, there’s nothing really to fall on me or even break, I don’t need shoes or to check for broken glass,” before I got out of bed and went to the doorway. By that time there was maybe a second or two of earthquake left, but mostly it was over.
And still! And dark! I stood in the doorway of the tiny house and it was so cold and clear and pretty, stars in the night sky, my breath fogging on the air. I know we had no power and that it was not quite 3AM, but it felt like there was plenty of light by which to see. (In fact, although I didn’t think about this at the time, I think it’s because Suzanne’s outside lights are solar-powered, so they were still on even though we’d lost power.)
Sophie was completely blasé about the whole thing. She was a little surprised that I was going outside, but followed me cheerfully enough. After Suzanne and I chatted, including me remembering that I hadn’t put my garbage out for collection and doing so, and touching base with the next door neighbors, Sophie was happy to follow me back to bed, too. Apparently there were aftershocks during the remainder of the night, but I slept through them. (Such cozy and relaxing sleep, in fact, that I’m going to start turning the power off to all my appliances before I go to bed, so that my room isn’t filled with little glowing nights all night long.)
Before I went to sleep, I did a quick calculation of east coast time, decided that I probably wouldn’t wake my dad, and sent him a text, just in case it was an earthquake big enough for people in other places to hear about. By the time I woke up, it was clear that it was. The text messages from friends and family checking in were loving, in the truest sense of making me feel loved.
I made my usual morning vegetable hash on the grill, while Suzanne made us instant coffee with her camping stove. She also pulled out her earthquake supplies from the shed, just in case we had an extended power loss. And then I had a fun day of texting with lots of people, hanging out with dogs and Suzanne, and playing board games. Also people-watching: the bagel store down the street was open, presumably on generator power and with hot coffee for sale, and the line was well past the door. Warm beverages, that’s what one wants during a minor natural disaster.
Our power came back on in the evening, when I was already snuggled deep into my covers (because it was really, really cold in the tiny house), so our earthquake experience is, I believe, basically over. I’ll have some cleaning to do today, because with no hot water, I didn’t wash dishes yesterday, but that should take me about twenty minutes max.
And then back to real life, which will include walking Sophie, eating healthy foods, and maybe, maybe writing about gratitude. But definitely celebrating the solstice, because today is the day that the light returns and that thought brings me joy.