Friday, July 28, 2006


I spent part of the summer of 1994 in Costa Rica, and it haunted my dreams for years afterward--not because of anything I saw there, but because of something I felt.

It was the only place I've ever been where I experienced frequent earthquakes. I noticed the first one while I was standing on some exposed rocks at the edge of the ocean. The water suddenly lapped back and forth in the tiny tidepool between my feet. I stared at it, uncomprehending. Later I found out that there had been a quake in the interior, and that a restaurant I'd eaten at the night before had been partially destroyed.

Another time I was using a Brunton compass to measure the strike and dip of a rockbed in a housing development. I couldn't seem to get a good read, and I chided myself for being so unsteady. Then it occurred to me, suddenly, that I was staying in one place and the earth was moving.

Let me repeat that: The earth was moving.

For the rest of my time there, I couldn't sleep. At night I would wonder, groggily, if my dormitory bunkbed felt rickety because it was falling apart or because the ground was pitching beneath it. I was uneasy--and still am--with the idea that something I hold so basic could be so undependable.

That's the same strange feeling I've gotten in the last couple of days. Part of it is due to something completely pointless and stupid: my hair color. After having dyed my hair progressively lighter and redder shades over the last couple of years, on Tuesday I let my hairdresser lowlight it in a shade that is more or less the color of my roots. It looked great. I paid, drove home, and went about my life.

Then I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, and it was all I could do to keep from yelling in alarm. It wasn't me! Since when did I have such dark hair?

Since I was about eight, apparently. Old photos corroborate it. But I look so, so strange to myself. How is it that a person can forget what she looks like?

Now either the color is mellowing out a little, or I'm getting used to my real hair color again. Maybe a little of both.

The second disorienting issue this week has been a series of power outages. They started during a couple of violent rainstorms on Saturday and Monday. But then, long after the rains had subsided, they continued at random intervals. It was as though we'd been hooked up to a third-world country's power grid.

None of the interruptions lasted long; the average was about 30 seconds. But I quickly got tired of rebooting my computer and recovering my word-processing files every 15 minutes. The s.o. and I became irritable and prone to yelling "What the f-ck!" And even now, some of our clocks continue to blink:


I have been lax in resetting them, because even though the outages seem to have stopped, I can't quite believe that they won't happen again at any minute.

What will it be next? Will cats and dogs lie down together? Will I eat an olive?