``The last time they blew in that direction,'' the Captain said, staring up a pole at several nautical flags, ``we had that terrible earthquake up the coast.'' ``Are you saying we should expect an earthquake?'' ``I'm simply telling you,'' he said, ``that the last time the wind . . . ''
I had – twenty years ago yesterday – driven into the little California harbor town of Moss Landing. The breeze or wind the Captain mentioned was hot and humid, and seemed to come from an unusual direction, something one doesn't think about until it happens –the hair goes up on the back of your neck; you sense something is not right.
The Captain was not a captain. That was something he was called called because of the way he spoke and dressed and the nautical theme he gave his Moss Landing antique shop.
``In any case, matey,'' he continued, but deadly serious, ``I am going to clear antiques off the higher shelves . . . just to be on the safe side . . . ''
Twenty-seven hours later I was driving up Highway 1 with photographer Kathleen Olsen to cover the devastation of the Loma Prieta Earthquake in Watsonville and Santa Cruz. We both worked for the Monterey County Herald.
The highway was deserted and, passing darkened Moss Landing, there was little sign of movement or life, just the glimpse in the distance of emergency lights and the sound of people's worried voices echoing over the bay and Elkhorn Slough.
The important thing was that the two giant Moss Landing power plant towers had survived the quake, as had the major oceanographic centers which call Moss Landing home.
I, of course, thought of the Captain, and how intiuitively ``on'' he had been. I'd questioned his nautical act, now I was second thinking myself. He'd picked up on something in nature that I hadn't. If he'd never been a sea-going captain, well, what the hell, he had the instincts of a good one.
I've written about that night before – cracks in Highway I, a bridge out, the haunting sensation of being the only human beings traveling on a dark and deserted highway, the slight illumination from the stars and distant fires; entering the towns, houses off their foundations, people huddled around bonfires, children crying, rampaging looters, rescuers urgently digging through crumbled old brick buildings in an effort to save lives.
It was one of the longest and more dangerous nights of my life.
But the Captain had shown me that, if you keep your senses aware and receptive, nature may give you a warning before it unleashes its forces. I've become, since then, quite sensitive to the direction and feel of even the slightest breeze.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...