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If you were to draw it as a line graph—something like a metaphorical echocardiogram—you would notice something obvious, which nonetheless bears repeating: Between those painful-looking spikes, the bumpy lines get less and less bumpy, gradually settling down into . . . Oh. Wait. This is not quite the uplifting image I wanted to convey.

Begin again.

Imagine a seismograph. You can even imagine attractively rumpled Geology graduates sitting around at night somewhere—say, in the Sierra Nevada—drinking coffee, playing cards, conducting long-distance email affairs with visiting  foreign professors, whatever. The key thing to keep in mind amid all this enticing scientific window dressing is that at some point—especially if your imaginary lookout is near Mammoth Lakes—there is going to be an earthquake. There will be many. In fact, perhaps we should travel further afield than Mammoth Lakes, where significant seismic activity is almost constant. We certainly do not want that. It would wear us out.

So midway through your imaginary evening, the needles go whump, and start their scratchy dance. Four points on the Richter scale, maybe five. Coffee cups are bumped and sloshed, cards are tossed facedown on tables, emails end with “more later” in whatever language is appropriate. What you need to remember is: After the initial event, the seismograph settles back down. The customary aftershocks occur, but decrease over time, until the ground is once again steady under your feet. There may be injuries, especially in areas where the masonry is of poor quality and the contractors lied about how well the walls were reinforced. (Let us leave architects and their airy-fairy notions out of this. They are idealists and, as such, have enough trouble as it is.) But even if the Red Cross has to come, you will, in almost all cases, recover. The heart is a pump, but also a furnace. What doesn’t circulate passes through or burns away. There are laws about these things, which we have no hope of breaking.




the heart is also a furnace

magdalen powers