Where my feet have walked

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

They're still searching for the dead in Oso. A month ago, the rain poured down, the river rose, the earth swelled, the hillside collapsed, and the tidal wave of mud came thundering down. They counted 41 dead, but a month later, they're still searching for more.

On the radio this morning, a geologist said he never imagined that a landslide could do what it did there, wiping out the highway across the river, burying homes, killing people. He had walked up and down that slope before, with the mind of a man who thinks about the way the earth groans and shifts, the processes that bring things down, raise others up. His feet touched the ground that was cursed, doomed.  He thought of the motions of rock and rain.

And he did not see it. Did not see it coming.

What patches of earth have your feet walked upon? How do you know the fate of the place you call your home?

You cannot know.

I like to ease my own anxiety with the thoughts that things like this could never happen to me, not in my neighborhood, far from fault lines and oceans that rise and mountains that fall. Still, nature will manage to find a way for death, when it wishes. Last year we watched the rain fall and friends' homes flood. Before that, there were the fires, blindly consuming. Last week I heard tell of a woman whose mother died because of chemicals leached into her drinking water for years. So her home that seemed so safe actually killed her.

This is what harrows me about disaster, that it is so blind, and immunities don't hold.

I have walked the mountain road that flash flooded last year, where the teenager drowned in her car, where the old man drowned in his basement.

When I was young, I walked the halls of the high school where two boys would later stage a massacre, and kill a dozen children.

Five years ago, I walked the streets of Damascus, before those same streets where I shopped and snapped photographs became a war zone. Bombs hit and bullets flew where my feet had tread.

My feet touched these sacred grounds, these hallowed places. Why should I have been there at a fortunate time, instead of a month, a year, a day later?

We do not smell death coming. Not even those of us trained to look for it, trained to read the rock and rain.

No comments:

Post a Comment