"Today" by Langston Hughes
This is earthquake
Honor and Hunger
Walk lean together.
That poem, "Today", and those brief, terse words, kept running through my head last night as the jolting started. I knew that this was earthquake weather even before the earthquake hit. The birds had stopped singing -- a smothering hush like someone placing a lid on a pressure cooker. A vacuum in which no sound could exist. Even I was holding my breath for fear of creating the tipping point. But the rumbling jolt happened anyway. Living along a fault line for as long as I have, I have gotten to the point where I can almost pinpoint the magnitude and direction of the earthquake--I am beginning to be able to narrow down the fault line, too. I have lived in earthquake country almost my whole life. I had tickets to the 1989 World Series between my San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's the night of the Loma Prieta earthquake but I was late getting off work and didn't get to go. Not that I didn't feel the shaking and swaying. I was used to a few seconds of the dizzy, roller-coaster like motion, but that earthquake did not stop. I was not used to that.
Last night's quake had a similar emotional feeling, but the wave pattern was different. This quake announced itself with a loud train like rumble ahead of time, which is not unusual for the San Jacinto fault line, what was unusual is that the rumble lasted so long before actually feeling the jolt. It was like seeing lightning and counting the seconds until you heard the thunder. I heard the rumble, and I was steeling myself for the inevitable jolt. The wait was interminable--I knew at that point that time had slowed down, my senses were heightened and I was in fight or flight mode. At last the jolt came. The San Jacinto fault usually delivers its tremors in a concussive fashion, like an elevator not quite making it to the floor you want to get out on, in that jerking, heart-dropping, Tower of Terror manner. No gentle continuous rolling like ripples on a lake that the Imperial fault line seems to favor. Last night's quake was a heart stopper. It wasn't that big as far as magnitudes go, but that loudness and the aftershocks that followed actually knocked the blaise-ness out of me. I had gotten comfortable living in earthquake country. I had gotten used to the, if not daily, then at least weekly, reminders that forces with greater power than I will ever have, have the ability to reduce me to an infinitesimal speck on this planet, with cares that truly are only important to one person, me-- and maybe to my dog, Marlowe. The fish care too, but they are more silent about showing their true feelings. They wag their tails when I feed them, honest, but that's for a different story.
As I was walking Marlowe this morning, with Langston Hughes' poem running around in my brain, I was thinking I, too, am having my own Earthquake Weather. And I know my house was showing it, too. It was time to do that Spring Cleaning I kept putting off. I didn't have any damage from the earthquake apart from some china figurines "walking" across their shelvings (and how do I know this? They left their footprints in the dust.) I am sure if I had any company come over they would swear that not only did I have earthquake damage, but flood, tornado, volcanic eruptions, that whirlpool thingy from Pirates of the Caribbean... I had been skating by with the bare minimum. Dishes washed, clothes washed, fish tank cleaned, what I needed to do to get through the day or the next. It was hard to look too far into the future. But now, I could.
First step, vacuuming. Marlowe eyed the vacuum with intense suspicion. Oh, he'd seen it before. Seriously, he had. He was afraid that I would vacuum up his toys that were strewn throughout the house. Note to self: teach Marlowe to put his toys back into the basket after he is done playing with them. I know, I am the one to talk. Before I vacuumed I had to clean out from underneath my bed. Here's a list of what I found: not one but two boxes of Kleenex (obviously I lost one and had to replace it), my Christmas slippers, two newspapers (I won't tell you the date), too many hair bands to count, three books (with their bookmarks still in place), three pairs of shoes and one mismatched shoe, a ton of dust (I had to empty the canister twice)-- oh, and Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis Presley! What a mess! And what a relief to finally get to it.
In the Feng Shui tradition, items under the bed are considered obstacles and as such are seen to block areas of growth and change in one's life. Clearing the dust and throwing away the trash from under the bed felt more than just Spring Cleaning; it felt like the first step on the road to regaining what I want to claim as my life and how I want to move through the world. I want to be conscious of my space, I want to get rid of the clutter and those things that do not serve a purpose in my newly forming life. I want to be able to let go of objects, the memories still remain, the objects can go. I need to make room for the new. I am overflowing with the old.
I want to lean down my life and my living. I want Honor and Hunger to walk lean together.