The Sway of Earth

Are you not moved when the sway of the earth shakes like a thing unfirm?


We have clams for lunch.

For dinner, earthquakes.

First, a food report from a restaurant on the Adriatic. The photos below were taken at a fish place called La Marianna that my wife LOVES. It’s in Rimini, next to the Roman-era bridge of Tiberius, completed around 21 AD. We drive over it every time we go to this part of Rimini. How’s that for engineering?

In the lunch photos you see fizzy white wine and piada–


steamed cannocchie (a sweet crawlly crustacean)–


clams in white wine and olive oil–


seppia and artichoke salad–


polenta and clams–


razor clams and baby scallops cooked in the oven–


dessert menu–


and plates with traces of crema catalana alle castagne (custard cooked with chestnuts) and pera al sangiovese cotta al forno con prunge (pear baked with red wine and prunes)–


Also a photo of the bridge–


It was a moving experience.

The bridge is a local reminder of the ancient world, the wonders of that world visible almost everywhere in the old city of Rimini.

A couple days later came the quakes. Today I am reminded Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Casca reporting supernatural events to Cicero:

Are not you moved when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
Th’ ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam
To be exalted with the threatening clouds,
But never till tonight, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
Incenses them to send destruction.

We were having a bite to eat in the apartment. Around 7:00 p.m. there was a long wobble. Maybe less than a minute. Earthquake, I said to my wife. I heard doors opening in the corridor, then voices and agitation. People were leaving their apartments and going outside. A woman who lives upstairs said she felt an earthquake a few days ago in Florence. According to the United States Geological survey, it was a 4.2 jiggle in Certaldo, not too far from Florence.

The first one we felt last night was 5.1. The second, which came two hours later, around 9:00 p.m., was magnitude 6.0. Longer and much stronger, also about 100 miles away, not far from Amatrice, which was devastated in August by a 6.1 quake.

I was a little nervous going to bed that night. Next day I heard reports of people in towns nearby who spent the night in their cars, people who were driving during the quake and saw trees swaying, a person who was swimming laps in the pool and had no idea there was a seismic event.

There was a little earthquake in Michigan a few days after we brought our son David home from the hospital in 1986. (That week the space shuttle exploded too.) Since then, I’ve felt 2-3 earthquakes in Michigan, one or two this year. These events last night were altogether different and unsettling.

These days such events are free of mystery. We live in a saucy world. But when the earth moves, its sound and fury signify nothing. Scanning the USGS website today, I see more seismic activity: a 3.0 in Pecos, Texas; 2.7 in Tonkawa, Oklahoma; a 3.0 in Tonkawa, Oklahoma; a 2.8 in Tonkawa, Oklahoma; more shakers in the British Virgin Islands (2.6, 3.3, 2.8, 2.6, 2.8, 2.7), Pawnee, Oklahoma (3.3), Puerto Rico (2.9, 2.8), Bridgeport, California (2.8), Aromas, California (2.7). The list goes on. A total of 41 quakes somewhere in the world today. In the last thirty days, there have been seven “significant quakes,” ranging from magnitude 6.9 in Papua New Guinea to 3.7 in Soma Linda, California.

The next day, after our quakes (significant), with no fatalities other than a heart attack (15 dead later reported), we went for lunch at a restaurant on the Panoramica, a long curvy drive along the coast just north of Pesaro. It was a sunny day. Some kids were sitting at the edge of the restaurant parking lot. No school? I asked. They said they were home because of the earthquake.

The sky over the sea was clear and blue, gentle above all the visible world. It was all we were given to see. We told the kids to have fun, to be good, and went inside to eat.

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