I never should have read the New Yorker article about Seattle’s odds of being devastated by the Big One. Disaster images run through my overactive imagination as I walk along the beach at low tide, half expecting a giant surge of the predicted tsunami.
I sit outside a cafe in Edmonds, a beach town north of Seattle, and observe the calm as I eat my carrot ginger soup and caprese sandwich from the pretentious cafe. (The soup has a grassy, vegan flavor, and they’ve put something like grape jelly on the tomato, basil and mozzarella sandwich.) It’s sunny, and 80 degrees, and it seems impossible the earth might suddenly collapse beneath me, obliterating everything in its path.
Californians expect the Big One at any moment. They live with frequent trembling earth and know the risk of living on a fault line. But the earth doesn't shimmy here. The eventual disaster will take us all by surprise.
Earth never promised to be a safe place. It’s been trying to shake us humans off for millions of years via earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, fires, ice storms, blizzards, high winds, pollen, insect invasions, high heat, sub freezing temperatures, volcanoes, floods and droughts. Pick a place on the map and one or more of the above is indigenous to the area. Kansas is urging its citizens to pack a kit for the zombie apocalypse.
This is a good idea anyway. After having lived through numerous storms and power outages in recent years in Ohio, I keep a couple extra gallons of bottled water, bandages, and snack bars handy.
The end of the world has been predicted for centuries, though, by scientists, soothsayers and religious zealots alike. A recent spate of disaster moves, books and TV shows depicting the earth in ruins denotes our fascination with cataclysm. We frequently hear of groups waiting for the mother ship to take its disciples home.
Yet aren’t there enough real disasters to worry about without pondering the potential for calamity? The lesson here is to finish my weird lunch, enjoy an afternoon walk and window shop in this cute little town of Edmonds as if it’s 1999.