I was wondering if I should write this post. It’s always anti-climactic when you hear about someone’s near death experience when you know that they are alive since they’re telling you the story in the first place. And talking about earthquakes could make any Californian yawn and possibly become catatonic right before your eyes. But I will share a little bit of what it felt like when the big 7.6 hit.
It’s common to have the earth rumble under your feet if you live in the Ring of Fire. A magnitude 4.0? Eating that funny smelling hot dog in the back of the freezer is more dangerous. But a magnitude 7.6?…this was different. I knew it the moment it started. I was absolutely certain the earth was opening up beneath my feet.
It went on for a long time, possibly between 30 and 60 seconds. The house can’t take it, I thought. No structure could. My brain briefly recalled glimpses of Haiti and it all seemed to point in that direction…complete destruction.
When I heard all the crashing around me, and the piercing noise that turned out to be my own screams, I considered that this was the end of my life. I looked toward Rob and I realized I wasn’t afraid to die. But what did stand out in my head was that my parents would end up coming here to dig out my body since there would be no one else to do it. I had a sadness that was so heavy, a burden so crushing, I thought it would stop my heart right then and there. How could I have done this to them? I thought while waiting for what I believed was the inevitable. I don’t ever want to visit that gruesome place again.
And then after realizing we were okay, there was the Tsunami warning that sent people fleeing to higher ground. It’s like getting a bad haircut and finding out your boyfriend cheated on you all in the same day. I really could have done without that added stress.
But if you are reading this now you know I am alive and currently sitting at my dining room table with a cracked chandelier over my head. Well…it is not exactly over my head. Rob moved the table over and secured the light with duct tape until we can figure out what to do. The crashing I heard that sent me into my death spiral was all the clay tiles falling off the roof onto our terrace. I’m sure if Rob could get up there he would duct tape them as well.
While I was sweeping up the tiles after the quake, I noticed an odd thing; the forest went silent. I never knew how loud it was until nothing, not a bird or cricket, made a sound. It took some time but eventually all the little critters came back and the birds began to sing again. Even a Black-headed Trogon landed right in front of me as if to say, “See, I’m pretty. Life is pretty, now go back and be happy.”
If you would have told me Costa Rica could withstand something like this I would have thought you were crazy. They always say their building codes are as strict as those in Japan, but I didn’t count on it. Now I know and I feel incredibly safe to be here. Odds are there won’t be another earthquake like this for a long time.
Today I went out on my terrace, looked out at the trees, and saw a monkey sitting in the rain. His friends were all staying dry under branches but he decided to brave the elements. I watched the raindrops roll off him as if his fur was Scotch Guard protected. He then looked toward the forlorn sky, closed his eyes, and let the warm rain wash over his face.
So this story has a happy ending. One where Rob used duct tape to fix earthquake damage and me getting another opportunity to share my life with all of you. And it also involved a monkey, staring up at heaven, grateful for the rain on his face.
I’m pretty sure I know how he feels.
(Thank you to everyone who Facebooked, Tweeted, emailed, or came here to see if I was okay. It meant more than I could ever express in words.)