I Was in the Napa Valley Earthquake
I had a profound experience Sunday. My husband and I, and much of my family, were in Napa Valley for my cousin's wedding. At 3:20 a.m., I was lying in bed awake, because the time change meant that my body considered it past my usual wake-up time of 6:00.
As I was lying there, I felt the earthquake hit. My husband woke up right away, and we lay there clutching each other. Neither one of us said a word.
By chance, I'd just had a conversation with my sister and brother-in-law about earthquakes - they live in Los Angeles so have experienced them before. My sister had told me that bed was a fairly safe place to be, and my brother-in-law had commented that the modern codes had done a lot to help buildings withstand earthquakes, and that information was reassuringly in the back of my mind as this was happening.I could hear things falling over, glass breaking, furniture shaking, the bed moving. I sensed the moment when the power went off. (Later, when I asked my husband later how long he thought it had lasted, he said, "About two minutes"; in fact, it had lasted twenty seconds.)
The experience was so overwhelming and unfamiliar that I couldn't think about anything except what was happening right in that room. I wasn't even scared.
Later, when I was trying to put my finger on how I was feeling at that moment, I thought of a passage that has long haunted me, from Thomas Pynchon's mysterious novel, Gravity's Rainbow.
This quotation captures what I felt...it was so real, the direct experience of the tremendous powers of the earth. It was breathtaking. It was intensely real.
When something real is about to happen to you, you go toward it with a transparent surface parallel to your own front that hums and bisects both your ears, making eyes very alert. The light bends toward chalky blue. Your skin aches. At last: something real.
A few moments after the quaking stopped, I started to worry about my family (they're all fine) and about the damage to the region, of course, but while it was happening - all I can say is that it felt so real.