I Have This Thing About Volcanoes

The Volcano Sabancaya in Eruption, seen from Colca Canyon

The Peruvian Volcano Sabancaya in Eruption, seen from Colca Canyon

I can tell you the day and time when it first started. It was at 6:00:41 am PST on February 9, 1971, when the earth started shaking. I held on to my mattress for dear life, even as it was sliding onto the bedroom floor from the massive jolts. The noise was deafening with all those structures shaking, and all the kitchen cabinets being emptied onto the floor. I had just lived through the Sylmar Quake in which 58 people lost their lives.

It was then that I realized we as a species were not exactly in control. Man inhabited a thin crust which was criss-crossed by earthquake faults and floating atop oceans of magma waiting to break out at points along the globe and cover our puny undertakings with layers of lava and ash. And there I was, right on the famed Ring of Fire, in a state with hundreds of faults and not a few volcanoes.

Since then, I have been to Iceland to see Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull, which at various points in history—the latter in 2010—caused havoc worldwide. And now, even as I write, it is Bárðarbunga which continues spewing lava after several weeks.

In September, I saw two volcanoes in Peru’s State of Arequipa spewing ash: Sabancaya and Ubinas. Both are highly active and may continue erupting for some time.

Our lives on this earth are incredibly fragile. I am most impressed by earthquakes and volcanoes, but there are other terrestrial and atmospheric events that can cut our short lives even shorter. That’s not even to mention microscopic bacteria and viruses, slips and falls, tree branches crashing down on our heads, automobile accidents, or any number of causes. Life is magnificent even when it is at its most destructive. Enjoy it while you can!