Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Earthquake Weather

Well. In the last few weeks I've dashed through four countries, seven states, and three cities, and even managed to attend one wedding (and thankfully no funerals). Little aside from my job and the Central Park running trails have received my attention during that time, although I did read some great novels during all the requisite hours spent on planes and trains. I have a bit of a breather before my next westward trip on October 2nd, so I'm enjoying one of my favorite modes of existence: routine. Yes, I actually derive pleasure from routine, which, I'd like to point out, differs from monotony. Routine, to me, resembles the seasons--the framework remains the same, and provides a firm foundation for a year or a life, but varieties within that framework make both of these timescapes limitlessly interesting. For example, Fall reassuringly occupies the calendar from September to December; it is a constant on which we can depend, and it cannot be prevented from occurring. And yet, no two Falls are ever the same, and each one elicits comparison to the ones that came before--this Fall is so much warmer than last Fall; the leaves in the Fall of 2006 were so much more colourful than those of the last few Falls; remember the Fall when it snowed in October?

Likewise, I find my day-to-day life in New York to seem, on the surface, as placid as the seasons' passing: I wake up early, run/bike/or swim, work, buy groceries, see friends, cook, write, read, and sleep. As elusive as its certainty may be, this routine provides me with a sense of both comfort and anticipation; who knows who I might meet at the grocery store? What new idea I might encounter in a book before I fall asleep? How the morning light will look above the swimming pool? Of course, each period of life possesses its own inherent routine; as a graduate student, I would study, teach, and attend class instead of go to work, and I biked in the afternoons and evenings around the Finger Lakes instead of in the early mornings in Central Park. As an undergraduate I never went to the grocery store, but I did eat my meals communally every day, and on spring evenings I would walk past the same heavily scented rosebushes on my way home from the library. Now I pass the tall plane trees towering above the Museum of Natural History, and in Ithaca I walked home along the rocky cliffs above Cascadilla Creek. And in each one of these periods these unique yet seemingly passive routines provided me with the strong lattice necessary to grow.

This past week in California was a difficult one, but I relished the elements of my home that have remained the same, year after year, even as I have changed--the pelicans dive bombing off of Baker Beach, the coastal trail wending its way through the fog, and the hot Indian summer that descends upon the Bay Area every September. We call it earthquake weather with all the heavy certainty of an old wives' tale, and each year we wonder if the Big One will strike. Most years it does not, but some--like in the hot October of 1989--it does. And every year the chance that it will grows.

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