6:15 am on a random Wednesday morning. Still no light outside. I am hurrying around the kitchen to blend some fruit before shooting out to work. I hear a low rumble and, in the space of a micro-second I realize exactly what is about to happen and I shout an expletive. The house jumps up, seemingly unmoored, and then settles itself back down, while Portia cowers at my feet, terrified, and Ottie, instinctively, tries to run out. In the space of those few seconds, thoughts come to mind as to what I have to do in case of an earthquake but, despite the strong temblor and swinging chandeliers, my walk-around finds no damage. My trusted app from Earthquake Track (that any sane Californian has downloaded) informs immediately that it was a 4.7 and it was close. I down my smoothie and go to work.
10:00 am on a random Monday morning. My shift at the bakery where I work is over and, like many hundreds of times before, I ease Jemima out of the parking space, looking both in the mirrors and over my shoulder. No one is coming as far as the eye can see on the long ribbon of road behind me. No one but a van who, at lightning speed, decides to make a lane change as I am pulling out. He side-swipes me, without even realizing what is happening. Next to no damage to him while my Jem looks like she was in a dog fight. And lost. A nano second before and he would have gotten my side door and, probably, me. Remarkably, I utter no expletives at the young and scared driver.
Noon on a random Thursday morning. I am home, looking forward to a walk with the dogs when my cell rings. It’s a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while – she wants me to know her health has taken a turn for the worse and is not quite sure how long she has. “You should know, in case something happens to me”. My mind’s eye notices I am sitting on the couch, Portia is trying to climb up – Lorena, the lovely housekeeper who comes once a week to help me, is vacuuming in the background, the noise droning on as I process the news and look for words. There are none.
In case I needed reminding, in the space of a week I come in close contact, not so much with impermanence, of which I am acutely aware, but of the randomness and inconsequentiality of life, how little it matters to anyone or anything other than us and our close circle.
A turn left rather than right; a relationship discarded rather than kept; a move across the world instead of staying close to one’s roots – we con ourselves into thinking our decisions matter, but they don’t. It’s random, not divine. We search for meanings where there are none.
Looking back won’t teach us anything. Retracing the steps of what brought us where we are is an exercise in futility. Until it isn’t because giving meaning to everything we do is what we feed on as humans. Call it faith or synchronicity or self-importance.
So I use the pre-dawn quake to check that the water and food supplies I keep for emergencies are up to snuff. I thank my lucky star that the damage to my car is only cosmetic and I walked away unscathed. I tell my friend her way of dealing with her circumstances is inspiring and maybe there is hope yet, where she sees none.
Life as a series of small miracles or incomprehensible disasters – they both happen when we are not looking. Mother nature might not care but it seems perfect – and improbable – we created a world where we do.
Images courtesy of Giovanni Arcovito