by Maria Theresa Maggi on January 29, 2018

Fault Geology pastel sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Fault Geology” pastel sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

Several days ago, I wrote this to myself, thinking I might put it on facebook, but I never did:

“Oh. KAY. So. . . .it seems that last night I felt, in just a shudder or two, reverberations of the earthquake off Kodiac Island. I was drifting off to sleep again after using the bathroom when I felt the bed move. The bed moves when the dogs jump up on it, or Romeo head rubs it before jumping up, but both dogs were sleeping next to me on the bed already. Hmmm, I thought, what was that. It was ever so slight, yet nothing seemed to have prompted it. Perhaps I had missed a shift of Cotton’s who was closest to the edge. But he was silent. Previous to this, Romeo had lifted his head up at some invisible stimulus. Then again, another slight move of the bed, as if it jumped just a teeny tiny bit. And I thought, having been in earthquakes, earthquake? But the dogs were not active, they slept on. I put my hand on Romeo’s torso, and started to drift back off. Then, ever so ever so gently, there was a movement through him, that didn’t seem to be the rise and fall of his chest, which I could also feel. Was he having some kind of seizure? Was something else causing it? Ever so subtle that I questioned whether I had felt it. Still, again, I sat up and kept my hand on him, paying attention. It was now gone. And did not come back. so if it had been an earthquake, it was an extremely tiny one. I drifted off to sleep again.

In the morning after I turned on the computer and facebook was on the screen the second post in my feed was from a dear friend who lives in Sitka now, saying they were safe, their house was up high, and they had not had to evacuate. evacuate. Earthquake. Then below that was another post from a former neighbor in Moscow with a new baby who works for Alaska Public Radio. They were okay. Bags packed. Listening to the radio. So I immediately googled “earthquake Alaska” and found the story of the earthquake and tsunami warning off Kodiac Island. Apparently there had been a warning up and down the coast I had either slept through or not known about. Except that I had.”

Not long after I had read the earthquake news and realized there was, for a very short time, a warning up and down the west coast last night, my phone rang. It was my sister. “Good Morning, “ I answered. “Is this my ‘did you hear about the earthquake’ call?’ I teased her. “Yes, “ she said, giggling a little.

“You know what?” I told her. “I think I felt it.”


Suddenly, intuitively, certain dominoes fell into place. The previous week we had very VERY high surf, for no apparent reason, since it happened prior to storms hitting us. The thought was these were being caused by storms way out in the ocean making their way to us. Indeed. But what if, too, the earth itself, under the ocean, was getting ready to let slip? Even thousands of miles away that could churn up the water. It’s all a matter of scale.

A  wave over 30 feet had crashed over the bluff where our beach access and cabana is. Here’s what I wrote about that:

“From a big storm way out at sea came waves all the way up the stairs and onto the grass at our beach access, pulling siding off the cabana, tossing a log onto the grass, washing stair railings away an hour or so even before high tide. Ocean took back all the sand on the beach and exposed bedrock below the access too. I discovered these after effects later on in the afternoon. At first I thought the curvy line of vegetation across the grass had been made by a child building a road. Then I saw a log between it and the picnic table. Gravel strewn across the pavement. Another log jammed against the concrete stairs. Tarps over the front of the cabana where siding had been ripped off. Neighbors who were down there when it came so high had to hold on to picnic tables, a telephone poll. Everyone’s okay. Here’s what I saw when a small piece of the sunset peeked through over the roiling surf, high even an hour before low tide.”

"Bedrock with Storm Surge and Sunset," pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Bedrock with Storm Surge and Sunset,” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

Later on in the middle of the morning after the Kodiak Earthquake, a nice neighbor gave me a ride up to the post office so I could mail this painting to someone who, I am happy to say, purchased it. As we were chatting on our way back, for some reason (perhaps because I was still trying to process it) I decided to mention that I thought I had felt the earthquake up in Alaska during the night, or some reverberation of it, and then had gotten up to find out what had happened. This very nice neighbor looked at me dead pan like I was missing a bolt.

“We used to live in Alaska,” she said. “Kodiak is thousands of miles away. You couldn’t have felt it. That’s not possible.”

We were now in my driveway, so I thanked her and got out. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps.

The island of Kodiak is thousands of miles away from the central Oregon coast. Perhaps what I could have felt was a minor sympathetic tremor here in the area. I tried to convince myself my neighbor was probably right. But I just couldn’t. Wherever that couple of shudders and “is this an earthquake” sense came from, it certainly isn’t every day I wake up and think I might be feeling an earthquake, and then get up in the morning and find out there was one in the middle of that same night in my part of the world. I’ve been in a few earthquakes, and I’ve never imagined one when there wasn’t one. Innately I trusted there was a connection.

I went back to a news article published in the Anchorage newspaper I had not had a chance to finish. I was struck by how the emergency monitoring equipment had a freak freeze due to ice dropping right in the wrong place at the wrong time and the uncertainty that caused, delaying accurate data. Yet people went with what they had, and by feel, and common sense, and fortunately, no one was hurt. The tsunami never happened, because of the kind of quake it was. And then I saw this: the quake itself was felt far down the coast, as far as Washington state, this article reported. That made it clear to me that I certainly might have felt a sympathetic or reverberating rumble just a few hundred miles or so more south. That’s an inch or two (or even less) in plate tectonic scale.


Once a week I ride down the coast to Newport with friends to do my weekly grocery shopping. Always, as I unload my cart of groceries (lots of veggies) onto the conveyor for checkout, whoever is behind me watches Cotton appreciatively as he patiently waits, sometimes sitting back on his hind legs, front legs outstretched, like a sphinx. Last week a large young (to me) man in glasses and crew cut made the kind of friendly conversation most interested people do, complimenting me on how pretty and well-behaved Cotton is and then asking what breed. Over the last year I’ve gotten better at unloading my groceries and fielding questions at the same time. I don’t break out in a cold sweat anymore, worried I won’t be done “fast enough.” It’s become almost routine. This man was very polite, very pleasant, and so was the young checker, who said to me she was a kind of “glass half full” person. I was feeling pretty comfortable being flanked by both of them, and not too worried I might take too long sliding my card through and writing down the total in my check book (which is the old-fashioned way I record activity on my debit card). I had found a large mailing envelope to put the packed up painting in and had managed not to get it wet from frozen blueberries or bunches of kale. I knew exactly where I was going to put it in the cart for the trip out to the parking lot. I was definitely getting this grocery shopping once a week thing down.

It takes me a while to finish up (that’s one of the reasons I adore having my service dog with me. Romeo or Cotton never get impatient with me as I do my best to get the groceries onto the conveyor, find my cards, give the cashier my bags, etc, That isn’t always true of people waiting in line.). As I was gathering myself to leave, checking to make sure I hadn’t left any cards or pens, I happened to see what the young man had put on the conveyor belt to buy. The first–and maybe only–purchase he seemed to be making was a magazine titled “Modern Firearms.” Its cover sported a photo of some kind of huge automatic weapon. The checker said to him, as easily as she had told me she was a “glass half full” kind of person, “I have a friend who got the kit to make that,” as if she looked at such things every day as a matter of course. “I have the pistol,” he said, “but I don’t have the gun.”

They had moved on from my presence between them before I had actually physically moved away. It was either as if I weren’t there, or as if it didn’t matter that I was; their conversation went around and through me, as if I were a post holding up the ceiling, or the air between the debit card machine and the cash register. The two of them conversed about this so casually, they could have been talking about antiques or sports teams. I was completely rattled. I wanted to get out of there before I actually said something like, “Collect something ELSE!! How about seashells? Or stamps?” I hurried myself away as fast as one can go with a full cart of groceries, a purse and a service dog. One of the friends I came with was waiting for me by the door as she always does. Outside it was dark and drizzling a little. I told her what had happened at the check out as we walked to the car where her husband was waiting to help load up my groceries into the trunk with theirs. Just as I was about to get into the car, the young man who had been behind me in line came up. He was parked right next to us.

“You forgot your mailing envelope,” he said, smiling. “I was hoping I would see you. The checker saved it for you. Lucky I was parked right next to you guys.”

Further flustered and relieved, I thanked him and hurried into the store to get the envelope while my friends finished packing up the car.

This young man was nothing but a perfect gentleman to me. I am grateful he saw me and thought to tell me I had forgotten my mailing envelope. And yet his casual need to collect and “build” automatic weapons terrifies me more even than the fact that I felt the whisper of a major earthquake, or that I live in a place where I need to be “ready” for one, if such a thing is truly possible (despite supplies, go-packs, neighborhood supply bunkers, meeting places, or contingency plans). This love affair with automatic weapons so many people in our country have now shakes me to the core in a different but no less life threatening way than a major earthquake would.  It’s true I know nothing of the first hand terror felt in Sandyhook, Las Vegas, Kentucky, Orlando, Roseburg or any other site of senseless gun violence. I’ve never had to scramble to hide or get away or wait to find out if my child or loved one made it out. I haven’t needed to be covered by a law enforcement officer shielding my body like the very law makers in Congress who won’t pass effective gun safety laws had at their disposal last year.

But still, this terrifies me.

And even though I knew I got the intuitive nudge I was going to move from Asbury Street long before I knew where or how or why, and though I wish it weren’t so, I am reminded part of the reason that emerged was an instinct to to get as far away from a university campus I had once taught at that decided to allow students to carry concealed weapons. I couldn’t see how, in my neighborhood, just a block away from campus, where I regularly negotiated with drunken students over the years at many times of day and night, that their being able to conceal and carry could possibly come to anything good. I then moved away from my small town where gun ownership had wrought tragedy and bloodshed upon cherished community members on too regular a basis for me ,and then away from a neighborhood where gun violence still sometimes erupted amidst harsh and unrelenting inequities, a reality I experienced my first week there. Now I’ve arrived at the edge of the continent, which itself is not that stable in the geological sense, and where, yet again, young people who should be helping to make the world a better place seem to believe (tragically, in my view) they are doing just that by acquiring such terrible weapons. There’s nowhere to run anymore.

Maybe I should have said something. Maybe I should have used my teacher card when that young man approached me in the parking lot to alert me to the fact I had left my mailing envelope behind. Maybe I should have said, “thank you!” like I did, but added “But don’t collect automatic weapons! Nothing good will come of it. You’re better than that!” But in that moment, I was too rattled to get to such a statement. That didn’t come until now. Instead I was silent.

I wish I could be like the friend of a friend who has taken the time to stand outside gun shops and engage customers in civil dialogue about why they feel they need these weapons and why he believes they are dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed. But I don’t think fast enough on my feet anymore. And perhaps I never have.

Instead I wrote a draft of this and was disgusted with it, and my own ability to speak up on the spot, my own reliance on good thoughts and prayers when I am at a loss. I thought I would fail at finishing the past so I went to bed and “slept on it.”

In the morning, however late to the game, I started to realize that not finishing the post is truly a way of silencing myself. Now, at least here, I can say this. And so I have.


This week there was no one behind me at the check out counter. But there was a man in front of me, maybe 10 years younger than me, whose groceries were spread out in front of mine. Both sets of groceries looked very similar: cans of Simple Truth BPA free organic beans, and lots of fruits and vegetables.

I rarely see groceries like this in line. Usually it’s the cheese, the frozen pizza, the bacon and gallons of milk. I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “your groceries look like mine! So many vegetables! I hardly ever see that!”

He turned to me and smiled. “My wife’s vegan,” he said, “so I’m trying to be vegetarian at least. I feel great.”

“Good for you!” I said and told him I had been vegan for 10 years and that it had changed everything for me. He said he started doing it because they were eating separate meals all the time and he wanted to eat with his wife. I walked out of the store smiling about that. It’s so much easier to be at ease with those I  share an affinity with. But I tend to think it counts the most to find a way to connect when it’s most difficult.

I know it’s become so empty to send “thoughts and prayers” in a situation of gun violence when no social action is taken to make things more safe. I share that frustration with thoughts and prayers. But I also truly believe in their power. It’s another one of those heartbreaking dichotomies here on earth. Each morning on my yoga matt at the end of my practice, I breath in and out to the mantra, “May my heart be open, may I be free from suffering, may I be healed into this moment, may I be at peace. “ I go on to say it with “may our hearts be open” and “may all hearts be open.” Now that I’ve been witness to this gun conversation I can specifically visualize and ask that these two young people open their hearts beyond the gun collecting. I can breathe in the fear I felt that they haven’t yet, and send out the hope on my outgoing breath that loving courage will find them, and others, some day–will find us all.

The evening after I met the aspiring vegan ahead of me at the grocery store, the sky was overcast as the sun set. Crabbing season has opened again. The sky and ocean were  dusky pastels and grays, in contrast to the black bedrock still exposed on most of the beach. But as the darkness came on almost imperceptibly, the lights on the crab boats out at sea came on, too.  Most were very far out, but one was close enough to burn brighter than the others. Some ships seemed to suddenly appear over the lip of the horizon, only visible by the seemingly tiny light.

The darker it got, the brighter they got. Their light was like a vigil on the vast ocean, creating an illusion of familiarity and proximity, making the churning water and foggy conditions seem almost cozy.  It was hard to imagine in that moment a wall of water in the form of a tsunami might come forth from that same horizon some day.  It was hard to imagine that crab fishing is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs there are. The darker the vast expanse of sky and sea got, the more bright the lights on the crab boats beckoned, compelling us to stay,  just a few more minutes, minute by minute.

Maybe bravery is like grace, like these lights: it visits us suddenly, unannounced, and can leave just as suddenly. It’s all wrapped up together in the way things are: the beauty, the risk,  the terror, all intrinsic to one another,  always a package deal. Nothing to do but live it, and, if I’m lucky, love it, too, really love it, along my way.

Crab Boat Lights at Dusk pastel memory sketch by MTM

“Crab Boat Lights at Dusk,” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

Maria (moonwatcher)




Leave a Comment

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Olwyn January 30, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I am with you 100% Maria! Yes to feeling the earth tremors and yes to not collecting guns. Well said! I do not think of the response I need until the middle of the night – so I find myself silent in many situations. Perhaps it is age.
I appreciate this post. I appreciate all your posts. Thank you for putting your thoughts out here.


2 Maria Theresa Maggi January 30, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Thanks so much, Olwyn!! <3


3 Peggy bean January 30, 2018 at 3:10 pm

I think that we would do better to engage those who believe differently from us by asking questions. The world doesn’t need more judgment. I wonder what those two young people would say if you asked them why gun collection was important to them. I think now is the time to engage in conversation with each other- especially those with whom we disagree.


4 Maria Theresa Maggi February 2, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Thanks Peggy–I appreciate what you are saying here. I have to admit that I might not be prepared to field an answer to that question, like the friend of a friend I mentioned in the post who did so outside the gun shop. I have certainly read about “why” before and the reasons are often as scary and mind and heart-boggling to me as the guns themselves. That’s my limitation at the moment. But I think it is a good question. Let me know what you learn if you ever ask it, and I will do the same. xo


5 Lee January 30, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Hi Maria! Such a striking image of you with the dogs feeling the earthquake. As for collecting automatic weapons, well, who knows? I don’t understand it. Your pastels are beautiful; thanks for sharing them!


6 Maria Theresa Maggi January 30, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Hi Lee, Thank you for kind words about writing and pastels. And I’m with you–I don’t understand it either. xo


7 Gloria January 31, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Very thought provoking today. I think the gun situation in this country is Very scary. I hate the idea of people carrying in schools, the workplace and the stores. It seems people “rage” far to quickly. I probably wouldn’t even notice if someone were buying a gun magazine. I like your description of the lights on the crab boats and your memory picture of it.


8 Maria Theresa Maggi January 31, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Thank you, Gloria, for your kind words and your thoughts on this phenomenon. I’m glad you liked the description of the lights on the boats!


9 Angela February 14, 2018 at 1:50 am

When we came to Australia from England I was horrified when I discovered that my husband had to carry a gun for work – he was working in security and collecting takings from race courses. I was quite niave then; during my growing up years my dad had been a “bobby” and they certainly didn’t carry guns.

I don’t understand the want or need for guns or the urge to go hunting. Guns are made for one thing – to kill or maim – why would anyone ever want to do that? The thought of guns just terrifies me too.

Have you noticed a huge difference in the attitude towards firearms (across the board) in your lifetime Maria (in US)? Too many innocent people murdered by shooting with guns and for what?


10 Maria Theresa Maggi February 14, 2018 at 11:42 am

Dear Angela, Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings about this important topic here, I really appreciate it. Yes, tragically, I have noticed a huge difference towards firearms in the US in my lifetime. It was always there, but the power of the NRA lobby and the fomenting of fear of the “other” has brought out the worst in people. We have a long way to go to heal it.


11 Angela February 14, 2018 at 6:18 pm

And now another school masacre…..


12 Bry March 11, 2018 at 7:11 pm

Hi Maria, I’m new to your blog, (but enjoying it quite a bit so far!). I like how you stuck to your feelings about the earthquake even when it defied the beliefs of others.. I’ve learned the hard way that even when my feelings don’t ‘make sense’, there is always a reason. If I stick with them, I am always glad I did, even if the reason is not revealed until much later, but inevitably it happens.
As for the second part of your story, I am with in that it is truly horrifying. But it’s more than just guns, it is SEVERAL types of violence that are apparently ‘okay,’ many of the participants being mere babes, with the targets being elders, and other people who for various reasons should be respected for who they are and what they do!
I am former childcare worker in what were considered several ‘high-end’, day-cares, and even briefly worked as a private nanny. How scared and outraged I became when I began to witness the negative result on the children of people who are ‘too busy doing other things,’ to actually be the kind of parent their child needs, or many people, who in my opinion, have no business having children at all! It is certainly a predicament as their catastrophe of parenting eventually get’s dumped onto the rest of us.. often with seemingly very little we can do.
I have put off having children in my own life thus far because I knew I wasn’t ready. Because I knew I couldn’t really provide for them the kind of nurturing, the example, or the upbringing they would really need to be savvy, pure-hearted, courageous, and good people in this world. But most people today don’t seem to think anything of it. They don’t seem to understand that they are taking on another life, and that their failure or success in that has SERIOUS consequences!
Well, this is my first comment ever, (and it’s supposed to be a comment, not my own mini-blog! :P) But I will say that despite the chaos, I believe there is hope, but it is certainly going to depend on us ‘sane’ ones sticking together, and being strong… together.

Thanks for sharing! <3


13 Maria Theresa Maggi March 11, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Thank you Bry–I SO appreciate your support for sticking to my own impression about the earthquake, and I thank you for sharing some of your thoughts about the complexity of parenting and the huge problem we have with gun violence and other kinds of violence. You made me laugh about your comment being a “mini-blog”–it’s okay–these are profound issues, and you had a lot to say! Glad to know you are reading and caring about all of this!


14 Maria Theresa Maggi March 20, 2018 at 9:08 am

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