Friday, March 11, 2011


Terra Firma
Latin for "Solid Ground"

There are things we count on no matter what. The sun will rise in the morning. Tides will come and go. Seasons will change.

Unfortunately, we err when we rely on the stability of the earth beneath our feet. We simply expect it to stay put. We assume it will provide a solid place to build our buildings and carry out our lives. Sometimes, however, the earth shirks its responsibility to stay put, with horrifying consequences.

This week Japan was violently reminded that the ground we live on is nothing more than a series of eggshells floating around the surface of our planet.

For me, earthquakes have always been just a part of life. One of my very earliest memories is jiggling in a high chair during an earthquake. My mom reaching out to hold on to its tray with a smile.

Numerous times during my childhood she would whisper in my ear "its OK, its just a little earthquake".

After high school I started moving around the country a lot. And until my final move here to Phoenix, I have always lived in earthquake country.

The house my dad built was just a few feet from the Hayward fault.

When I lived in Anchorage we had earthquakes all the time. Two of them were actually pretty good jolts (7.0 and 7.1 respectively.) The difference was that Alaska, after the huge Good Friday quake, rebuilt itself to modern structural and geotechnical standards. Those quakes would have caused total mayhem in less prepared parts of the world. But in Anchorage we shrugged, checked to make sure the power was not flickering, then headed home like any other day.

In 1987, while living in the picturesque Town of Los Gatos, the Loma Prieta quake struck. While it was not California's dreaded "Big One", it was certainly a "Pretty Big One". It rolled out of the Santa Cruz mountains collapsing freeways, a section of the Bay Bridge, and jolting the World Series to a halt.

I guess we are just cockeyed optimists. Every few years without fail some Southern California mansions along the PCH will be washed away in a big Pacific storm. Similarly, along the Outer Banks every other season homes are destroyed by Atlantic hurricanes. But, as soon as the lots are cleared, a for sale sign goes up, and soon someone else starts drawing up plans for their next disposable bazillion dollar dream home. Even in Anchorage pricey homes pop up every day all over the Turnagain bluffs. This land will simply collapse into a mud pile in the next big Alaskan quake.

The most recent disaster will certainly result in travelers taking Japan off of their bucket list of destinations to visit.

It shouldn't.

Japan, like San Francisco or Istanbul, is simply a place where people live with the inevitability of earthquakes.

In Japan we know the industrious residents will put their shoulders to the yoke and come back better for it. They always do. The fact of the matter is, no place in the world is better prepared to address the consequences of earthquakes than Japan.

As for Roadboy. My family has always loved Japan. Among us, we have made many, many visits to experience its amazing people, sparkling cities, wonderful food and rich culture.

So, for now we pray for the people of Japan.

"At your command all things came to be: the vast universe of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home"

Excerpt of Eucharistic Prayer C
The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

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