Autumn Earthquake

Thu, 11/12/2020 - 5:00pm

My dog is big and my house is old. The latter is a constant source of worry, what did some noise signify, every first-time-notice sound, be it an engine offshore or the clattering of metal at the transfer station across the Neck, more than a mile away.

There is a spot in my dining room where Autumn tends to stop in mid-step and scratch that ear-tending motion, the sound of which is familiar to anyone with a dog of any size, the thump-thump-thump on the floor.

Sunday morning I was sitting here, at the desk between two east facing windows, checking the morning news before tuning into church, the rest of the room behind me. Autumn dropped to the floor behind me and scratched but the impact was so much greater than the usual thump-thump-thump. The house seemed to be vibrating, and not the passing of a big vehicle, which may be more in my mind than in fact, triggered by sound. This was worse, and more, and longer, never a good thing in a very old house set on a very old fieldstone foundation. I worry about just about everything, including the sonic booms of long ago, but never thought about the dog knocking the house down. It had to have been something up the road, like the tree taking down I had heard a few days ago, thinking the description of “on the corner” meant the turn from my field onto Mansion Road instead of where it was, the half-mile distant turn onto Corn Neck a few days ago.

Then I got up and there was no dog in that expected place on the floor, no bunched up rug. She was blissfully playing in the yard beyond the west facing windows, tossing and catching, “taming” one of her omni-present sticks, this a broken tree branch that had come down in some wind.

I walked around looking for evidence of whatever had just happened, more concerned than before, then just conceded to my default “it couldn’t have been that bad and even if it was what can I do about it?” position. Settling with my coffee, picking up my phone I saw a stream of people all over the island and in South County posting to social media, asking some variation of “what was that?”

With no idea what is normally on television Sunday morning just after nine I flipped it on, thankful for the umpteenth time in several days for clear reception of a local station. There was a “breaking news” banner on the screen, hardly the first of the week, but instead of an inter-active country of blue and red states it was over a map showing “earthquake,” the first report 4.2 with an epicenter in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

That reports of it from so far away were coming in was attributed to the geology of the area, the reverberations carried though the New England rock like the lingering tones of a rung bell.

It had been a week of reverberations, of prolonged vote counting and shifting results that seemed to be hanging around Philadelphia, home of the great Liberty Bell.

It was an odd week that left me wondering over the “revelations” around the voting process in this country, and a renewal of my own acknowledgement that not everyone grew up in a house where elections were always important, in a town where a single vote had made the difference, but more than that, where we used to have to wait at least a week before the absentee/mail ballots were counted.

That last piece is not the factor it used to be decades ago, when the local vote was often overturned when the off-island absentee ballots were counted upstate. The numbers have to be very, very close now to be altered but I still never consider anything short of a triple digit lead a sure thing.

And on a national scale, not everyone had a mother who delivered on-going civics lessons, every four years reminding anyone who strayed that nothing was final until the electoral college had met, that if we read the ballot we’d see we were not voting for a candidate but “electors for” that person.

She would have loved the pure geekery of these days of coverage, with maps detailed down to counties, and would have been one of the tiny minority of viewers who perked up when one commentator started talking of “faithless electors” seemingly to the chagrin of his colleagues.

Maybe election coverage shouldn’t be sealed with a projected winner when the California polls close, it should take as long as it takes to count votes, it should be a lesson in civics even to glazed over eyes.

And then a little earthquake to realign us.