Rain And Earthquakes

It rained today…California has been suffering through a 2 year drought, so I should have been happy, but I was not…In fact, the rain lashing against my windows and the gray skies outside and the colder weather from the storm all combined to make me feel frightened, confused and isolated…I know intellectually that we need the rain, but emotionally it was like a visceral shock to my system….Besides, because of the drought, and many subsequent forest fires that burned up thousands of acres of vegetation, we are in for many mudslides this year….

I guess it was like the change in the weather that affected me so profoundly, like that timeless classic song by Natalie Merchant with 10,000 Maniacs, “About the Weather”…I think that there is something inherently embedded deep in the human consciousness that always wants to resist change, even if the change is for the better…You can KNOW this intellectually, like I realize that California needs the rain, but there is a still a small part of me resisting the change on the gut level….


rain12carsplashrain3 flashfloods

Dark clouds move over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The National Weather Service says that by late morning Thursday 1 inch of rain had fallen in several hours across the western side of the county. Much of Northern California is under a variety of warnings and advisories for rain, snow and high winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Things are different today, and I don’t like it! I guess like most people I will just have to soldier on and deal with the weather, and since I grew up in Chicago I certainly know that a little or even a LOT of rain, is nothing compared to the weather they get back there all winter long…I clearly remember mountainous snowdrifts, icy roads that had to be snowplowed and then salted by special trucks to make the streets passable, and I most certainly remember having to shovel snow every day of the winter….

It is the law back there that every homeowner, store owner, or apartment manager is responsible for shoveling the snow off the sidewalks when it snows back there….Of course, if you have a house, you have to shovel the driveway to be be able to get your car out of the garage as well, and if you just concluded a backbreaking hour or so shoveling all this snow, don’t be surprised if this is just the exact instant that the snow plow will go by your house and dump a new load of snow at your driveway entrance!



People work to shovel snow-covered cars out in Boston's Charlestown section, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, one day after a blizzard dumped about two feet of snow in the city. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


So once again you have to grab your shovel and go and shovel this new mound of excess snow away to get your car out of the driveway before you hit the icy streets, that have hopefully been snowplowed and salted to melt the ice enough to enable you to make your morning commute to work or to school, or just to do necessary shopping….Quite a wake up call!

I remember as kids whenever there was a large snowstorm overnight we would gather around the radio with bated breath hoping to hear that our particular school was closed for the day due to the extremely inclement weather…This happened infrequently, but there were always a few days every winter where the snow, cold and ice were so great certain school districts would be forced to close because the storm was so severe the roads were impassable for the school buses and the teachers to physically get to the school….

Of course, as kids faced with this most severe snow storm, ice and cold, our immediate reaction was Oh Yeah! We were so giddy and happy and joyous at not having to go to school we immediately bundled up and raced outside to play in the snow all day! Living in San Francisco, which is a very temperate area, we never get snow, and as an adult I don’t miss it, but in a way I feel sorry for the kids never getting to have the fun of building snow forts, having snowball fights, and sledding and ice skating…

rain25kidssnowmanChildren playing in the snow on a winter day

Large group of children are lying on top of each other on the snow. [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786738][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/group.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786682][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/children5.jpg[/img][/url]



We do have ice skating rinks here in San Francisco, but they are few and far between and almost all indoor rinks, like at shopping malls…The city fathers DO provide an outdoor skating rink downtown outside the Embarcadero Buildings around winter time, but they are only there for a few weeks….At least the kids, if their parents take them, can get the experience of skating outdoors though, and without the bitter biting cold of the Midwest and most of the rest of the country….

I realize now how much the weather influences the daily activities, thought processes and mind set of the majority of the country to a much greater extent than I ever did as a kid…As a kid, you just grow up with that kind of weather and are totally able to adapt to it, you think nothing of it, it is just the way it is….As an adult, I realize there are choices to be made about the weather, and that you can move to places like California or Florida to avoid the snow year round; when I was a kid I did not ever even realize there was an option…

Most of my family, including my mother, sister and her family still live in the Midwest and put up with all this snow every winter….When I press them about why, they always say they enjoy the variety of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter, and that the winter cold makes them appreciate the warmer weather the rest of the year….They also think I am crazy for living in earthquake country, and fear that all of California will one day be hit by a massive killer quake and fall off into the ocean, like Atlantis! We are actually in more danger of mudslides, especially in Southern California…




AZUSA, CA - MARCH 1: Ed Heinlein walks in front of his house that is threatened with a possible major landslide from the burned hillsides above as a storm brings rain in the midst of record drought on March 1, 2014 near Azusa, California. The rain offers some relief to the dry conditions but is not expected to be enough to break the historic drought. A drought-related unseasonal wildfire, the Colby Fire, was accidentally ignited in the dry chaparral vegetation in January, destroying homes and sending thousands fleeing. The charred and denuded hillsides are threatening the homes of about a thousand evacuated residents with rain-loosened mud-ash debris flows. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Since I have lived in San Francisco for the last 48 years I can say that has not happened yet and that we Californians consider it a highly unlikely prospect…Oh sure, we have had a few large earthquakes here, but the thing about earthquakes is they are quick, fast and in a hurry…In other words, by the time you realize you are having one, it is already almost over, because most jolts don’t last for more than a few seconds….An earthquake lasting a full minute would be very scary, and I went through one of those once…. It was sort of a rolling, sickening feeling and more like a succession of quakes one after the other, like the quake we had in 1989

So I will take my risks with the earthquakes, and I still feel threatened and even intimidated by driving around in the rain, but a small part of me will always remember and be grateful for the huge difference our moderate weather means to us on a daily basis and how it is is reflected in our mind sets and world view…Especially as compared to my relatives and the great majority of the country who are buried under Arctic blasts of snow and ice every winter season, and take it all in stride….




So it’s like just pick your poison, rain and mudslides and flooding and the occasional earthquake or snow and ice and freezing cold weather every single winter, nobody is totally immune from the weather, and it molds and shapes our daily lives in every way.….It’s all just part of Nature’s plan, the grand scheme of things, and we as humans just have to learn to adapt….

I guess that old saying is really true, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence…”

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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