Home is in that orange-shaded portion of California.

Days before the terrible earthquake in Japan, I’d had a conversation with a friend about the massive subduction quake that we are overdue for here in our part of the world. He’d taken a class from a famous geologist who specializes in earthquakes. He talked about how it will be around 9 on the Richter and how the shaking will go on for minutes, not seconds as in most earthquakes. The tsunami it will unleash will wipe out some of the lower-lying towns almost instantaneously. We will be cut off from the outside world for weeks afterward due to damaged highways and bridges, likely with no power and maybe no water. I expressed my desire to be long gone when this event occurs. The thought is too horrific to contemplate, even as we live every day with the knowledge that it could very well happen here at any time in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. And then…

When I moved to Humboldt County in the late 80s, I became friends with a woman who had two girls, the younger being 2 at the time. We were in the same anthropology class that required spending a chunk of the semester at the zoo watching the primates for a term project. I remember us meeting there. My friend spread out a blanket and we worked while the “baby” napped, then we took her around the zoo to look at the animals when we were done. While still a student I wound up living just behind them. We became good friends and kept in touch over the years. The toddler at the zoo is now a married university graduate. She’s incredibly smart, creative and quirky in all the best ways. And bilingual too.


She is currently living with her husband in northern Japan, working with a cultural exchange program. After the earthquake, there were a couple of tense days here in California as we waited for news. Even her friends in Japan started posting notes on Facebook, wondering if she was ok. She doesn’t live right on the coast, but isn’t that far from the epicenter. She’d mentioned visiting Sendai before. It was, to put it mildly, an unnerving experience.

At last, she was able to get a line out–she and her husband were ok!

I’ve been to Japan once, many years ago to Kyoto. I arrived not sure what I’d think of the place, and left enthralled. Thinking about what’s happening in that country now is painful.

Before the quake, I’d planned to briefly mention Japan in my next post. I have a link to something there that relates to a current project. Next time…


We had a 6.5 magnitude earthquake yesterday, centered to the south of us here in Humboldt County. Fortunately for us, we shook a lot and lost our electric for several hours, but there was no damage and nothing fell off the shelves here at home. People we know who are not that far to the south didn’t get off quite so lucky.

The photo above was taken at the seaside in the town I live near, Trinidad, about a week ago. This general area is scenic, but seismically scary. A few major tectonic plates converge here. Eighteen years ago we had a series of three major earthquakes over two days. It was the only time I’ve ever seen an entire house (the one I was living in) wag vigorously back and forth. I wound up with a deep appreciation for the flexible wooden buildings we have here in California (nothing, miraculously, broke in spite of that motion).

Our most recent event made the national news. This coverage [update: since removed] from the San Jose paper includes a couple of YouTube videos. One of these is like a Humboldt County joke–it shows a bunch of people standing around in the woods like stunned deer, wondering if a redwood will fall on them. Sigh.