April 18 is our thirty-ninth wedding anniversary. Peter and I journey north at dusk to Tomales Bay, a drowned rift valley bisected by the San Andreas Fault. What more romantic spot to celebrate long marriage than on the unstable strike and slip fault zone where two active continental plates grind up against each other far below the surface of dark water?
To the east the landward flank of the North American Plate stretches out under thick riparian cover. Below briny waves to the west, the unhitched mass of the Pacific Plate inches north, a submerged sea mount bucking and snorting in slow motion toward the Gulf of Alaska.
April 18 is also the somber anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, one of the greatest natural disasters in North American history. Registering a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, the shocks from this earthquake were felt from Oregon to Southern California. With its epicenter in the ocean, the earthquake caused a small tsunami as well as massive fires that burned continuously in San Francisco for three days. Three thousand people lost their lives. Refugee camps throughout the city ministered for months to more than three hundred thousand Bay Area citizens.
With full respect for the gravity held in the shared date, we also celebrate the occasion. At sundown we drink a toast of cold spring water spiked with a pinch of West Marin sea salt. Cold water is chased with a still-warm chocolate cherry cookie from our favorite Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station. At dusk, Peter presents me with a quart-sized Mason jar ablaze with plucked California poppies, the State flower, and absolutely illegal to harvest. On the more stable side of the fault line of marriage I surprise Peter with a coveted copy of Mark Musa’s two-volume translation of Dante’s Paradiso.
Almost a month ago I stood on this same unstable seismic terrain with 20 other authors, artists, and activists for a unique literary conference called The Geography of Hope: Women and the Land. Inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic, Silent Spring, 300 participants, mostly women of all ages and backgrounds, joined in a responsive surge to meet the current challenges of climate chaos, environmental depletion, massive species extinction, and severe poverty and social injustice.
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