I’ll tell you first that I’m grateful that I didn’t die or even get injured in the earthquake I was in. I wasn’t near the epicenter. I didn’t lose anyone I love, or my home or even a house I had grown to love because I walked by it every day. Hell I only lost power for part of a day. There are a million (2 million they’re saying right now) people who had their lives changed in terrible ways when this quake struck. I wasn’t one of them. My story is a small one, but it seemed important at the time, and the only head I’m really inside is my own. Forgive my self-absorbtion in advance. I’m a tiny stick-figure of a person.
A tiny stick figure under a house of cards on a wobbly table. It always surprises me- and it shouldn’t- how fragile our little shells are. How much they are not geography, even if our minds come to lean on them as if they were. My house is no less real to me as I come down the back stairs than if I were on a mountain path and my house were the mountain. It seems inviolable and permanent. I try to imagine some times where the ‘home’ that’s filed in my head as a real and permanent thing would go if my address burned to the ground. Kind of like wondering where the soul of someone you knew very well went when their body died.
But even the mountain path and the mountain are less permanent than our minds can easily accept. I say this not to be poetic or dramatic, but because it’s part of what made my little experience in the Chile earthquake so very hard. It isn’t that I was killed, or saw someone killed. It’s that I was reminded how tenuous our grasp is on everything. I didn’t die, but when I was standing in a too narrow street under sparking electrical lines I realized I am going to die. Even if it’s not now, I will die. I can die. A mountain can move, the earth can shrug off entire tracts of land. That can and does, and will happen. It opens up a box of complicated ideas and thoughts that I find make it hard to function in the world I share with people. It doesn’t get opened up often without trauma, and I’d rather it didn’t get opened up at all.