Friday 3/11/2011, 2:45 a.m. I awake to hear Bella growling in the middle of the room. Might as well get up and go to the bathroom, when I let her out. She stands in the middle of yard barking. Now, Bella and Tippy often wake up and go outside, when we get up at night . Tippy usually wants to run around. Bella either goes to the driveway gate to bark at cats or forest critters, or she settles down to sleep by the door. It was unusual for her stand in the yard and bark. I do not hear the goats, coyotes, or other alarming sounds. I’m not trying to wake up that much anyway. I go back to sleep as she continues barking.
6:15 a.m. I’m writing my blog about beaches in Rhode Island. Our friend, Paulette, who came out the evening before to join us at the Ham, Bacon, and Egg Sale, gets a cup of coffee and notices a text message. “My brother’s texting me from Hawaii. They’ve been evacuated to the Dole Plantation because a tsunami is supposed to hit there in about an hour. There’s been an earthquake in Japan…”. I finish writing my thought and open a new window to Google “tsunami, Japan earthquake”. Within a few minutes we are watching CNN coverage of the tsunami which rolls across coastal villages and rice fields with with boats, roofs, etc.
With a little calculating, I figure that Japan is just about half way around the world from us, 13 hours different. The earthquake occurred about 2:45 p.m. there. With shock waves traveling at about 9 to 13 kilometers per second through the ocean and continental plates, an hour would be about the time it might arrive here. A couple of days later, the news reports that NASA has calculated that Japan has moved 8 feet from the earthquake. This change in the earth’s mass has shifted the earth’s axis 4 inches. Our rotation has lost 1/8th of a millisecond per day. Bella is more perceptive than I am. Apparently these shift occur at times. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake has a 9 foot displacement of the San Andreas fault. NASA is concerned that atomic clocks need to recalculated for the loss of the 1/8th of a millisecond for spacecraft and satellites to remain in proper position. I had already been contemplating time and how entwined our culture is around this concept.
First I pondered the vast quantity of words we use to designate durations of time: seconds (with various fractions down to millisecond and nanoseconds), moment, minutes, hours, day light/night, day, week, month, year, decade, century, millennium. Other durations are less precise, but more linked to age: infancy, toddler, childhood, adolescence, young adult, adult, birthday, anniversary, senior citizen, sunset years, generation, dynasty, epoch, eon, alpha & omega, standard/day light savings time, time zone, beginning and end, geological time, eternity, infinity. I see two cultural trends in these words. One views time as a linear series of events: past, present, future. The other views time in cycles: annual events, seasons, reincarnation, history repeating itself. The former has the perspective of progression or regression in the events. Once the act has occurred, one cannot return to a prior time, except in sci-fi stories. The later may progress, but sees the opportunity to build on learned experiences or learn lessons missed in previous cycles.
Second, I ponder the phrases, with accompanying ideas that are our cliches of time: “In good time…”, “A time for war, a time for peace…”, “Too (much/little) time…”, “Time on my hands…”, “Work hours (clock in/out)…”, “Free time…”, “Just a second/minute…”, “When I get ’round to it…”, “I was just about to do that…”, “Early to bed, early to rise…”, “You’re next…”, “Waiting…”, “Time is on my side…”, “Time is running out…”, “Meet the deadline…”, “I’ll pencil you in (on my calendar)…”, “Better late than never…”, “I’d rather be early…”, “Time well spent…”, “A waste of time…”, “If you’ve got the time…”, “Take-5…”, “Break time…”, “Running out of time…”, “Down to the wire…”, “The shot-clocks just about out…”, “Times up…”. Maybe I have too much time to ponder these things while working around the farm.
I think natural disasters (another concept worth blogging about some day), either give us no time to worry about these things, if we are the ones affected by the event, or give us an opportunity to consider how vulnerable our time is. For those on the coast of Japan, they had seconds to realize that a 30 foot wall of water was about the crush their homes and lives. For those of us on the other side of the world, we should consider that an event so directly remote has shifted our rotational axis 4 inches. In time we may realize how this has affected our linear direction and the cycles of our lives. We are just beginning the Lenten season. Let us remember, humbly, dust to dust.