Friday, April 18, 2008
An Exercise Belt From The Gods
So this will only be the most tiresomely over-blogged-about topic in history.
But I've never been in an earthquake before.
Having lived my whole life in the Midwest, these are just not features of my environment. People in mountainous country or who live along a fault line (e.g. Californians) may accept this as a fact of life, but not someone from Wisconsin.
So it was kind of a profound experience to get jostled out of my half sleep in Louisville at 5:37 this morning. Right away, as I felt the house move and noticed myself clearly moving about on my mattress (nothing makes you feel fat like the earth itself jiggling you around), I thought--and immediately dismissed--earthquake. We don't HAVE earthquakes here, I reasoned. Then I thought it must be a huge piece of road construction equipment moving down the alley behind the apartment--except there was no noise. Maybe there had been a plane crash? But the airport is seven miles away (we do occasionally hear the roar of military airplanes taking off), and even if we felt it here it wouldn't make the ground itself shake continuously for 10 seconds. After a quick reality check to be sure I hadn't dreamed it up, I decided it HAD to be an earthquake.
In the end (after idle thoughts about how quickly I could get out of the 150-year-old brick building and what the likelihood of aftershocks was) I rolled over and slept for another hour before checking the internet for news. And there it was.
As I drove over to the airport it struck me: imagine the energy involved to move all that mass. My drive from apartment to airport covers--just along my driving route--maybe a billion aircraft carriers' mass of earth's crust (just a wild-ass guess; how could one figure?) just along that infinitesimal swath of territory. Just think of the numbers of buildings and cars and barns and houses and freeways--all the stuff on top of the crust over thousands of square miles being made to move about noticeably, and then think of the impossibly greater mass of the crust of the earth itself.
Like thinking about what is beyond the border of a finite universe, this is just something above our pay grade; it's of a scope that our senses are simply not equipped to process. But imagine that, at that instant, my wife and I are registering the same movement from 501 miles apart, like a cosmic message.
Maybe it's Ghod's message for the Poop who's touring our lands! "This is what you get for setting up housekeeping on a rock plate floating on magma!"