Whew! What a morning. I look out at the trees standing perfectly still against powder blue sky. The dog dashes in and tries to pick the Kleenex out of my bathrobe pocket. The only sound I hear is the hum of the computer. Life as usual.
An hour and a half ago, things were different.
I went to bed late, having watched horrifying scenes from Japan until midnight. An 8.9 earthquake there did plenty of damage before the subsequent tsunami sent waves way inland, wiping out everything in their path. Helicopter video showed the ocean chewing up bridges, houses, hotels, cars, and boats as if they were toys. Debris clogged the surf like sawdust. One picture that lingers in the mind showed two women waving white cloths from the second story of a blue-roofed building that was surrounded by water. Rescue appeared unlikely. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people died as we watched the water flow across the land. Fires burned here and there, untended.
A large earthquake in the Orient can trigger tsunamis all over the western world. The Earth becomes one big dish that gets tipped on end, sloshing water over the sides. When I went to bed, warnings had been issued for Hawaii and all of the Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Mexico, Central America and South America. There was a tsunami “watch” for the U.S. west coast, with nothing expected to hit until 1:00 this afternoon. Thirteen hours away. I went to bed.
My phone woke me up a little before 6:30 a.m. My aunt from California, whom I’m supposed to meet in Albany this afternoon, wanted to let me know that my cousin in Hawaii was safe and to tell me that the dog and I could share her hotel room if we want. She didn’t know that I live above the tsunami zone, but that if the tsunami was really bad, the bridges would go down and I couldn’t get in or out of my neighborhood. Anyway, it wasn’t supposed to hit until after lunch. Why did she wake me up?
Out of curiosity, I turned on the radio and found my oldies station in nonstop news mode. The watch was a “warning” now, and the wave was supposed to hit at 7:15 a.m. Schools had been closed and low-lying areas evacuated. If you’re in the tsunami zone, get out now, they said. The roads were crowded with people trying to get to higher ground–or to park where they could watch the waves. They were lined up at the gas stations.
I lay in bed a while, unable to get back to sleep, and decided I should get up before the waves reached South Beach. I thought about my friends who live in the pink house overlooking the ocean at Nye Beach, about the folks closer to me who are in the process of moving from their ocean-front home, about the Bayfront, the Performing Arts Center, the aquarium, and my church. I’m high enough here to be safe, but so much that I love could be turned into kindling and floating bodies in few minutes.
Fox TV broadcast pictures from beaches far north of here. The waves went out, the waves came in. It’s like watching somebody mow the lawn, one commentator said. Around 7:30, the waves pulled back farther than usual and rolled in a little closer but well within the bounds of the beach. Was that it? I turned off the radio and listened to the TV. Apparently it was. For now. When I turned the radio back on, it was playing rock ‘n roll again. The TV station started re-running pictures from Japan. I couldn’t look at them anymore. They were too horrible.
I pray for the people in Japan. I thank God that we are safe. This time.
Here in South Beach, Annie is asleep in her chair by the window, and my trees are still standing, stretching calmly into the sky