On August 24th at 3:20am, an earthquake struck Napa, California. Cabinet doors flew open. Bottles and glasses tumbled onto tile floors. Containers of leftovers jumped from refrigerator shelves onto floors. Outdoor sculptures walked. Bricks fell from a chimney injuring a sleeping boy.
The currency of injury in a disaster is commonly calculated in dollars, that is, millions of dollars. The soft calculation of human vulnerability eludes quantification.
I’m currently in Napa, fourteen days post-earthquake, in my friends’ great room. Their broken glass and sticky food mess is now a tale for dinner conversations. The gas fireplace in the corner, although twenty inches from its proper perch, looks solid, the only evidence of its displacement a gouged hickory floor. Fruit trees, vineyards, and soft hills stretch northward and disappear.
We feel safe, on solid ground. We hike. Our conversations weave through travel tales, recipes, grandchildren antics. Yet, the effects of the earthquake show in the Napa Register feature articles, the portable water tank in the driveway, and a repairman’s arrival — like flies at the table.
I hate to say it, or even think it, but an earthquake event does reveal how annoying are flies at a picnic table, how frustrating are cancelled flights, and how worrisome are droughts, not to mention the awful results of betrayals and vitriolic outbursts out of the mouths of people with whom we share space — on airplanes, in grocery lines, at family tables.
“I just can’t go there,” says a favorite friend. Exactly. Why walk through a chasm when you can walk along a clear path? “What’s done is done,” says my brother. “I stick to now.”
Forward, my friends. Let’s go forward, I say.
“If you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” — Victor Kiam.