The Tsunami As a Metaphor

Writers’ Trigger:

As we watch the effects of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan, the resulting tsunami and the damage to two of their nuclear power plants, we can only imagine what we would do if an early warning system sounded here in the States.

How prepared are you to hunker down? How are you fixed for drinking water and food? If you flee, do you have a full tank of gas? Do you have extra gas on stand-by? How  are you fixed for camping gear? Do you have a stash of basic medical supplies?

  • Begin a short piece that begins with an emergency – a blizzard, a forest fire, a flood, a nuclear disaster… whatever.
  • Perhaps extraterrestrials have invaded our space.
  • Emergencies lead to frayed nerves and short tempers.  Personalities come into conflict. Perhaps a relationship unravels.
  • Or, conversely, sometimes people who have always been at logger-heads, find that in survival mode, they have more in common than they thought they had.


Thinking of the Tsunami, I instantly thought of “The Great Wave at Kanagawa”(1831-33) by Katsushika Hokusai.  

According to Dr. Witold Kinsner, Manitoba University, “The large wave is a massive yin to the yang of empty space under it. The yin violence of Nature is dismissed by the yang relaxed confidence of the expert fishermen who will slide down the seamount and dive straight through the wave to make it to the other side.”

I’ve always liked this print, but I had never thought of the picture in exactly these terms.

And speaking of emergency preparedness and balance, such is the case before the 112th Congress. Last year, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program approached the 111th Congress with H.R. 3820, a funding request for 906 million dollars over five years. The bill passed in the House but failed to pass in the Senate.

That bill is still out there. Any way you slice it, money for hazard reduction is tricky. If we need money for live or die programs today, how do balance those needs against not-if-but-when needs tomorrow?

Obviously we want to reduce our vulnerability to inevitable disasters, but those disasters may not happen this year or next. Maybe this sitting Congress will be off-duty and ride the wave. If enough time passes and the boat swamps, maybe the disaster will fall on the heads of the 113th Congress.

Given the struggling economy and the call for tax relief, I see a Tsunami of budget cuts that will affect not only emergency preparedness but research, innovation, and education. It’s a risky business: the outcomes are unforeseeable.

Only time will tell if “we dive straight through the wave and make it to the other side.”

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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