Caribbean Awakening January 28, 2010Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in Barbados, Buddhist concepts, disasters, earthquakes, Haiti.
This piece is cross-posted at Shambhala SunSpace.
Reports of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Caribbean region continue to shake my world in Barbados and remind me of Suzuki Roshi’s wisdom.
A 6.0 earthquake sixty miles southwest of Guatemala City shook the Guatemalan countryside and parts of El Salvador on January 18. The next day, one week after the Port-au-Prince earthquake, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the Cayman Islands. And though it was underreported, the devastating Port-au-Prince earthquake did in fact trigger a localized tsunami. It swept at least seven people to sea and drowned portions of the Haitian coastline in the village of Petit Paradis, located on the south side of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system that ruptured to produce the January 12 magnitude 7.0 temblor. (More on this here. )
As a geologist my mind knows that the Caribbean is a tectonically active region that poses volcanic, seismic and tsunami hazards. The hazards result from the subduction of the American Plate beneath the much smaller Caribbean Plate; it generates the overlying chain of volcanic islands as well as lithospheric crustal movement along the subducting plate boundary and in the region of intense folding at the plate margin.
But aside from the volcanic activity ongoing at Soufrière Hills, Montserrat since 1995 and eruptions in 1979 from Soufrière in St. Vincent and in 1976 from La Soufrière in Guadeloupe—Soufrière means sulfur in French, hence the large number of volcanoes that bear the name — the area has been relatively quiet, volcanically speaking. And though earthquakes have caused the second and third most destructive geological disasters in the Caribbean as a whole, they occurred in 1692 — an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Port Royal in Jamaica and more than half the inhabitants died in the event itself or later of disease — and 1843 when an earthquake severely damaged Guadeloupe and nearby islands. Relatively minor earthquakes in 1761, 1823, and 1918 caused tsunamis on various islands but none resulted in devastating disaster and death. So, when I read reports warning that the “long-sleeping Caribbean” has awakened — that the ruinous quake that struck Haiti could be the first of several in the region — I experience cognitive dissonance.
I’ve come to the eastern Caribbean with my partner and our two children on a family sabbatical of sorts so that we might rest, rejuvenate, and live with ease. While so engaged the earth stirred and reminded me that, in the words of Kalu Rinpoche:
Nothing is permanent:
The sun and the moon rise and then set,
The bright, clear day is followed by the deep, dark night.
From hour to hour, everything changes.
But I’ll also take the advice uttered by Jean Frank, a Haitian fisherman in Petit Paradis making a fishing net in the shade away from the heat. Having already lived a long life, the fisherman said in Creole “Me? I’m not afraid. I’m old … I take life as it comes.”