Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oh Thank Goodness, It's An Earthquake

From "A 6.0 magnitude earthquake occurred in the Gulf of Mexico shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some residents in the Tampa Bay region have reported feeling buildings vibrate as a result."

Along with at least one resident a good 80 miles north of Tampa, who was highly relieved to realize those shudders were not from a giant sinkhole opening up under the house....

I was sitting on the Florida room couch, channel-surfing, when I felt our solid, cinderblock house shake. Our small set of chimes rang against the lamp where they were hanging.

I listened for trucks on the road, heard none. The shaking lasted only a few seconds, then stopped. I settled back. Then, a few seconds later, it happened again.

"The earthquake was centered about 260 miles west-southwest of the Tampa Bay region, directly west of Fort Myers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website," continues The article quotes a USGS official, who said it was "felt widely throughout Florida and in parts of Georgia and Alabama."

I didn't know about the quake until about 8:30 tonight, when I took a break from the studio and shuffled into the Florida room. Mary, who'd slept through the shaking this morning, had the TV tuned to Bay News 9 with the sound off. I turned the sound on and heard the newscaster say the words "Tampa Bay" and "earthquake".

And I immediately felt much better.

This isn't the first time I've been relieved to learn I've been in an earthquake -- and I've experienced them now in four states. The first time I was in San Francisco, feeling a pier rock beneath my feet with greater force than one would normally expect from a pier. Yet that quake, occurring in earthquake-prone California, was for me the mildest of the lot.

On Staten Island, New York, in the early 80s, I experienced a quake powerful enough to knock cassette tapes off a shelf.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the brick house whose top floor I rented shook as a matter of course. Large trucks drove by where I lived, and the house shook during their passage. It also shook whenever giant plows dumped snow in the large industrial parking lot next door.

But this was different. The house shook ... and kept shaking ... and kept shaking. Books fell off shelves. I didn't see or hear any trucks. It was the wrong season for snowplows.

I turned on the radio, which was blaring a Boston Celtics game, and heard the sports announcer say, sounding incredulous, "All the bleachers in the Boston Garden have just -- swayed."

And I said, "Oh, thank goodness! It isn't the boiler about to blow up!"

So now, added to California, New York, and Massachusetts, I've experienced my first Florida earthquake. Cool.

Female mournful sphinx moth.

Mary and I had been taking our evening "post office walk" on Friday when I spotted this one on the strip mall overhang at close to 10 PM. Back in December I'd photographed a male mournful sphinx. This is my first view of a female.

"I know it's a sphinx moth," I told Mary, "but I don't think it's one I've seen before." Well, I'd seen this particular species but not this particular gender.

Male mournful sphinx moth, photographed in December.

According to Bugguide.Net, the Mournful Sphinx ranges from southern North America into the neotropics and its habitat is "presumably" forest edges. It spends its season all year in the tropics, August-November northward. "Larvae feed on grape family plants, Vitus, Ampelopsis, and Cissus species (Moths of North America). Pupation occurs in a shallow burrow in the soil. Adults fly during the day, and apparently at night, because they are attracted to lights. Flies in cold weather (pers. obs. P. Coin). Seems to be found in the coastal plain, and in particular, the outer coastal plain and barrier islands."

I'm in the home stretch of Book #4, with its climactic showdown in my sights, but juggling two main dramatic threads gives me a bit of a challenge with respect to timing. For that reason I'm rethinking the ending of the second thread, whose main function is to be a counterweight to the first. I've got a journal scribbling session ahead of me, where I'll flowchart things out.

It wouldn't be the first time I've made last-minute course corrections. One of the current book's protagonists fought me tooth and nail for his life through the entire last half of Book #3. I'm glad I let him win -- though, man, he's gonna be hurtin' pretty soon, and hurtin' bad.

Now up to 43 consecutive days of writing, during which time I've drafted almost as much as I had over the previous 15 months.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Once for me - I was sitting in my study on the top floor of my old house in Toronto and not the books but little objects in a bookcase started shaking, tinkling. A few seconds. It was so strange I thought I imagined it, or perhaps here was a real poltergeist! Only later did I learn it was a mild earthquake.

It is an odd sensation, and luckily minor - it was good to read your memories of the earthquakes you've been in...

And that book is fairly flying and that's wonderful!

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've had tiny earthquakes here, and once an earthquake-like explosion when a chemical plant blew up. Never anything that big, though. I'm glad to know you can have a blog and a diary at the same time. Yeah, I think I'm going to be so all over the net... Laurie (RiverCity)

9:52 PM  

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