is there a safe place to live?

My biggest fear is earthquakes.

I am also afraid of

  • flesh melting off my body in a fire while I remain conscious (I know, disgusting, right? But this is a real fear of mine – Towering Inferno fed my nightmares for years. Years.)
  • general anaesthetic (I have not had the experience of waking up in a hospital to find myself surrounding by folks peering at me with frowning faces, or – possibly worse – alone)
  • wearing a bathing suit that looks a lot worse from behind than I realise (not all my fears are grim and dreary)

But my biggest fear is earthquakes, specifically the very unpredictable nature of earthquakes, which makes it more likely that I will be separated from my family if/when such an event occurs.

I grew up mostly in and around Vancouver, BC without ever feeling a tremor.  My first one was after I moved to Seattle.  I was holding my not-quite-six-month-old daughter in my arms.  It was evening, winter, wind and rain lashing outside – inside, the house was quiet and dark.

Then the ground shook beneath us.  I stood up, not sure what it was, moved toward the hallway, then felt the whole house roll like a ship on a stormy wave.  I kept my feet, but lost my nerve.  I’ve been afraid of the fault lines ever since.

How do I stand to live in the Pacific Northwest then?  I’m not sure.  I try not to think about it. 

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I think about it EVERY time I travel on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, remembering the San Francisco Freeway pancaking down on top of itself.  I don’t avoid the route if it best suits getting me to my destination, and I don’t drive in fear or panic, but it does cross my mind.  Every time. 

Most of the time, I enjoy the beauty of the trees, the parks, Puget Sound, the ferries, the kayaks, Mt. Ranier, the lakes, the bridges, Snoqualmie, and the rest.  These are the pleasures of the Northwest. 

The risk is the earthquake.

It seems there are risks everywhere though.  We have thought about moving, talked about possible locations: California has earthquakes, too; Utah is too dry; the Midwest has tornadoes (and nasty winters); the Northeast also has those nasty winters; and the South has hurricanes.

Hurricanes seem a lesser evil in a way: at least you know they are coming.  You can prepare: shutter or board the windows, pour water into containers, stock up on gas, candles, batteries, and food stuffs.  You can find loved ones, gather together, check in on neighbours.

But an earthquake has the element of total surprise.

The tragedy of human experience in Haiti right now is breaking my heart open, in a way that is shared by people all over the country, all around the world.  We want to help, to fix something, to make it better.  Most of us are ill-equipped to do so.  But there are things we CAN do.

We can send our money.  We can say our own form of prayers.  We can hold the people of Haiti in our hearts.  We can be respectful and kind and generous to those around us.  We can gain some perspective.

We can appreciate the many blessings in our lives.

Here are several stories and posts that have especially moved me:

Deb Lund, an author from Whidbey Island, has three children – two were adopted from Haiti.  She writes from a very personal place about earthquake relief here, including organisations doing work in Haiti.

Megan Jordan, a Hurrican Katrina survivor writing from Gulfport, MS has this to share on her Velveteen Mind microblog: Haiti needs your relief donations more than she needs people showing up to help who don’t really know what they are doing.  Megan knows of what she speaks.

Virginia Montanez blogs from Pittsburgh at That’s Church, and has been the go-to person in the US for the story of the BRESMA orphanageThe Bloggess and others linked to Virginia’s updates on the dire situation of the orphanage children and their American aid workers: the blogosphere and twitterverse got on board, and history is being made.

That’s Church is currently (intentionally) down; my guess is that there has been enormous focus on the story, and there are delicate political and safety elements at work, trying to rescue the children and their caregivers.  The progress of the story is amazing – worth a look when That’s Church is back up, and I am sure she will have information on how to help if you would like to be involved.

In the darkness, destruction, and chaos that follow in the wake of the earthquake, this story is a ray of light.  Please pray (in whatever way is meaningful for you) for a happy ending for these children and the brave young women who have been caring for them.


listening to: Sarah McLachlan, I Will Remember You


  • Gorgeous photo. I also follow Velveteen Mind. Seattle. Vancouver. One of my most favorite parts of the world. NW N. America. More reasons to like you. Love what you write about this tragedy opening your heart. I think that’s what you said. What I took away.

  • Thank you, Leisa. This area is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The damp and cold are hard on my joints though, and at some point we will likely need to move somewhere warmer. Until then, we continue to love it.

    The rose is from a VERY unattended heirloom bush in my yard. We live deep in under the trees, so plants have to be hardy and tolerant of shade for most of the year. I always said I’d never keep roses, as they are too fussy. I’m not even wild about them as a cut flower.

    Except for yellow roses. Their golden colour and sweet fragrance sends me.

    And my dear Nana felt the same way about them. My grandfather gave her yellow roses when he courted her in war-torn London – no idea where he found them, but he was resourceful.

    The yellow rose bush in our yard produces abundantly, no matter the conditions, without any attention from me. I thought it perfectly represented the beauty that must surely rise from so many open hearts giving to help those affected by this disaster.

    Yes, you Get it, too. *hugs*

  • Thanks for saying all that’s been on my mind and heart these days. Even the Alaskan Way Viaduct! We just heard the Total Experience Gospel Choir tonight. Good timing, and our kids looked surprised and grateful when they mentioned Haiti. Thanks for spreading the word…

  • Nice post.
    7.0 on the Richter scale is a big one, about the same as the San Francisco earthquake, but in a developing nation even a little earthquake can have a massive effect. The poverty (with all the social ills, crappy housing and poor infrastructure that entails) that existed in Haiti before the earthquake is still the biggest obstacle to safety there.
    Thanks for highlighting some stories and giving some ideas on how to help.

  • Leisa, whenever I write about my Nana and Pop, it feels golden to me. They were such wonderful people, and it always feels authentic and rich and REAL when I tell those stories.

    Deb, I am honoured that my words felt right to you. Thank you for the visit and comments. I always love the Total Experience Gospel Choir – beautiful voices, beautiful messages.

    Catherine, thank you, as always. I love to know that you visited. And you are absolutely right – many of the agencies involved in relief efforts were able to respond quickly because they were ALREADY THERE because of the profound need. I hope this recent event sheds much-needed light on a situation of deep human tragedy that requires systemic support.

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