Living in Montana, I have been aware of earthquakes from a very early age. When I was about 7 years old, the mountain moved in Yellowstone, taking lives, creating Quake Lake, and making the front lawn of our house in northern Montana roll like waves on a lake. My father at the time was in Helena, where the Great Northern was transferring us. As he was sleeping in the depot, the quake woke him to see his car rolling back and forth on the street.
Helena has been a town with a history of quakes that toppled clock towers and cracked the altar of the grand Saint Helena Cathedral. The mountain that dominates Helena’s view is Mount Helena, an old volcanic cone.
Now I live even closer to a quake zone, still in Montana, but just north of Yellowstone Park. It is typical in our region of the states around Yellowstone to experience tremors. I’ve had the kitchen cupboards rattle and jolts of the bed wake me at night. It is something that happens without damage and without bringing much attention.
Still, living next to the caldera of a super volcano in Yellowstone, I have a quirky habit of checking the USGS site of earthquake reports several times a day. The link is on the bookmark toolbar of Firefox, as one of my most often visited sites.
The larger magnitude of 6 and higher stands out in a bold red color in the list of quakes on the USGS page. Last night before going to bed, I checked the USGS site just as I was about to shut down the laptop. There it was in red… an 8.9 off Japan. I immediately turned CNN on the tv, and the horror of live helicopter videos of the tsunami kept rolling.
Living near something like a super volcano, I guess we become complacent. If it goes off in my lifetime, there is no way I could run from it. The pyroclastic flow would destroy anything as close as our town. In order to keep living in this zone, one is aware of the great power of nature, but it is a type of denial that keeps the danger “out of sight, out of mind”.
I feel great sympathy for the people in Japan who have been hit by this disaster.
“Faithful Tourist” is a painting I created in 2005, a nostalgic memory of all the trips I’ve had to Yellowstone since the 1950’s.