I Left My Worries in San Francisco
I was recently lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of San Francisco. My friends and I packed as much as possible into two days: sea lions, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, famous sourdough bread, and plenty additional West Coast cuisine. While exploring, my San Fran tour guides occasionally dropped factoids about an infamous quality of life in the Bay Area: earthquakes.
San Fran experienced a ruinous quake in 1906, and another in 1989. Seismic activity still frequents their tectonic plates, but there hasn’t been a cataclysmic earthquake in years. As my mom commented, “It’s like they’re due for a big one.” That’s a term I heard a lot – “the big one.” But even as I told her that it was pointless to worry, I'd wonder how so many West Coasters justify living on a fault line.
On my last night in the Pacific Time Zone, we drove as far west as we could, scrambled down a small embankment, and took in a devastatingly gorgeous sight. The sky was clear, the wind was blowing, and the tide was rising. I had never heard the ocean make such an enveloping roar. In utter awe, my friend James said, “If you look at the spaces between the stars, you just see more stars.”
Nature is amazing. It is great, and terrible, and unpredictable. The ocean at which I marveled is a creature in its own right; the ships littering its floor prove that it is undeniably more powerful than us. The same is true of the tectonic plates upon which we live and build our homes. They're not ours for the taming, much as we try. On some level we're all aware of this, including everyone who lives along the San Andreas Fault. Humans are at the mercy of nature and fate at all times, from stupidly simple accidents to tropical storms.
Worrying is human nature, and I know nothing I say will keep my mother from fretting over when “the big one” will hit, whatever form it happens to take. But it seems inevitable, either metaphorically or literally, that someday I’ll be obsessing over a volcano eruption, and lightning will strike my house. These events are out of our control. It’s all we can do in the meantime to look at the spaces between the stars.
Originally published in The Chapel Bell: A Positive Press Publication on February 2, 2014.