If the House is Rocking… You Must Be on Big Island | Judy K. Walker

If the House is Rocking… You Must Be on Big Island

This morning, I was awakened by loud, endless dog licking.

But after that, I was nudged (you’re still awake, right? because the dog’s still licking) at around 6:20 a.m. by a military-sounding helicopter. (A pair flew so low earlier this week, I could feel it in the floor and had flashbacks to Airwolf. Ahh, Stringfellow Hawke…)

A few minutes later, someone in our neighborhood starting mowing with one of those monster machines big enough to mount a gun turret. Who mows before 6:30 a.m.?? My mower husband’s answer: someone who wants to get it done before work.

But back to the helicopter.

We’re still hanging on in jostling, lava-burbling Lower Puna. But still crazy times, too. I wrote last week’s post before Friday’s Richter 6.9 earthquake. Yeah, exciting stuff. Paul was home between meetings, making lunch, and had the foresight to turn off the stove on our dog-herding way out the door. Have I mentioned before, I’m glad to have him on my post-zombie (or lava) apocalypse team?

Screenshot of USGS earthquake listings in Hawaii on May 5, 2018Saturday morning I woke to find we’d had over 500 earthquakes in the past 24 hours. Granted, most of those were small, but at some point you start feeling like you’re on a boat. Not the good kind of boat, where your body acclimates to the regular, rolling rhythm of the waves and you feel like you’re part of the ocean. More like a boat on a choppy sea, where you think you’ve got the hang of it until some random intersection of waves throws you sideways into a bulkhead. Then you stumble on deck and a wave breaks over the side, drenching you. So you feel like you’re part of the ocean.

It quieted down over the weekend and early this week, which seems like a good thing, except for all of the ominous speculation that maybe it’s a bad thing. (An explosive eruption at Kilauea’s main crater seems likely.)

Some residents have been able to retrieve important items they left behind in their flight, but the 2,000 or so people in the directly affected area remain evacuated. At last count, there are fifteen fissures, not currently erupting lava but spewing gases. The vog has been heavy, with occasional whiffs of sulfur and other funk, now punctuated with a hint of burning.

Kilauea eastern rift eruption on May 5, 2018, by United States Geological Survey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leilani Estates on May 5, 2018, by USGS, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, this is a fluid, ever-changing situation, and it’s easy for your mind to either spin out, or get fixated on something trivial. I thought I’d share a few of the things that can run through your mind in these unstable times.

  • Was that an earthquake? Is this the opening salvo for a bigger earthquake? How big was that one? And why isn’t the site that shows recent earthquakes loading? (Because 40,000 other Puna residents are accessing it at the same time.)
  • What happens if I’m doing this (x) when a big earthquake hits? What actions do I need to take to prevent a worst-case scenario? Showering? Keep your robe at hand to avoid not just public nudity, but active public nudity (fleeing, kneeling, etc.). No one wants to see that. Laundry? Shut off machines to avoid water or gas leaks. Sleeping? Roll onto the floor and tuck, hoping the dog funk doesn’t kill you, versus negotiating past furniture—especially bookshelves—in the dark. (You always swore Ulysses would kill you…)
  • Do I have toilet paper? That needs no elaboration. But there is the related…
  • Do I have to pee? In the immediate aftermath of a big quake, do you really want to be perched over the toilet when an aftershock comes? On the other hand, do you really want to have a full bladder when an aftershock comes?
  • Is this what I want to be wearing if I have to evacuate? Not the usual concern of does this look okay or are my boobs hanging out, the question is the practicality of your attire. Can you scramble around, manhandle beasts and burdens, without snagging on seat belts? How will it hold up on an emergency second day of wear? Will it be stinky and wrinkly, or just a little tired? (Which one you’ll be is a whole other question.)
  • Do I have coffee? The day after the big earthquake, I ringed my draining cold drip coffee (the big plastic stacked containers of grinds and liquid atop a glass carafe) with every support I could find to stabilize the set-up and avoid the mess and tragedy of cold drip coffee lost during an earthquake. I was successful, but later that same day, I discovered the apocalypse was truly upon us when—for the first time ever—I got an email from Amazon saying my regular coffee order couldn’t be fulfilled. 😱
  • How far can desperation bend the known rules of our universe? We have three dogs (all big), two humans, one cat, and thankfully two (small) cars. If we have to evacuate, that means two animals and one human (Fred is a lousy driver) in each car, plus whatever else we need. Paper-rock-scissors on which poor soul gets the cat. But if catastrophe hits while I’m home alone during the day, how do I fit four animals, pet food, and two laptops (priorities, people) in the tiny hybrid? And without bloodshed? I’d need a little lead time for Fred’s bottle of valium to kick in (dosing the animals, not me), and a strong back.
  • What’s that awful smell? Lava smoke? A numknuck burning trash? Sulfur? And is it volcanic- or septic-related? Then there’s the standby source, stressed dog farts. I know this is TMI, but I swear the dogs fart more on bad vog days.Dogs Fred, Fritz, and Travis in the kitchen
  • Does my dog know something that I don’t? Fred spent much of the afternoon after the Big One lying outside, in a spot he hasn’t gone near for months. Now every time he goes out there, I wonder… He’s also our anchor when it comes to dog feeding, sitting in his spot next to the wall while the other two mill around him. But now he won’t sit in that spot—the one he’s sat in for three years. It makes me doggie-psychoanalyze: was he sitting there when the big one hit? I got so paranoid, I even went outside and checked the house. For the record, no, the support post has not broken in half, nor have the propane tanks fallen, been punctured, or are ready to explode.
  • Then there is the corollary, why is my dog so dumb? During the Big One, we kneeled in the middle on the yard with two dogs while Fritz refused to get out from under the house’s roof overhang. Maybe falling dangers don’t compute for canines. Afterwards, when Fred wasn’t outside, he was lying on the lanai directly in front of our stacking washer and dryer.

Lest you forget about Dingbat, I must admit Travis is the most calm dog for the big stuff, but he is perpetually challenged by the day-to-day. Like recognizing when it’s time to go out. Just yesterday, I interrupted the morning feeding to chase him outside yelling like a drill sergeant, Go, Go, Go! He barely made it out the door, pooping on the door mat.

As Paul pointed out, barely is better than almost.

That’s a life lesson, there, folks.



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