I hope that you are ten thousand miles away, or have, at least, found high ground. I, too, am far, though it hardly matters where. I can tell you that the crocuses have pushed through the dirt, that white petals have flocked the plum trees, that the robins have returned, that the crows never left. The tide is high, encircling all but the uppermost bit of Seal Rock. There are no seals, they come in summer, but the cormorants will stand there and face the wind, stretching their black wings to dry. There is a volcano to the east, a scattering of islands to the south, and a great stretch of water straight ahead. Were it not for the immensity and curve of the earth, I’d be able to see Japan.
Topography was their tragedy, not only the crashing plates but the flatness of the land.
On a transoceanic flight, I once sat next to a hairdresser, a tiny woman who kept stretching her legs and pointing her toes; she had ample room, as her feet barely reached the ground. She was pregnant at the time, and had a dazed, contented air. She said the young often wanted spiky styles, streaked with red or blue. We swapped airline snacks: my chocolate biscuits for her package of salty peanuts. She lived by a river up north. The Shishiori? I don’t remember.
After the quake, there had been a sucking sound as the ocean drew its waters in. On the island’s blurred edges, there had been nowhere to run, no hill, no place higher than the wave. Rescue workers, speaking softly to reporters, speak of the difficulty of their efforts: the victims are strewn far and wide over low coastal plains, they are hidden, pinned down by debris, they are almost always dead. And natural disaster isn’t the half of it: shaken reactors melting down, radiation pluming up. The hairdresser’s child would be three or four by now. I wish I could place her on a map, know if she might be among those who stayed dry.
On the news: footage of an orderly throng. They wear white paper zip-up suits, their faces are masked with only eyes visible. They are trying to ward off the ionic plague. One of these white clad figures, out of step from the crowd, too far away to see clearly, flicked a V for victory, or was it the peace sign? There was something in the gesture, in the gait, that made me think it could be you, signaling.