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On Saturday night, I took a nap in my sleeping bag in Union Square, while watching Bullitt, a classic San Francisco film. When I awoke at 10:00 p.m., I marveled that I had fallen asleep without fear in public, because a friend was with me for purse watching, and a crowd of peaceful moviegoers was assembled around us.

After the movie, my friend drove me home. I put our uneaten food in my fridge, and our half-empty wine bottle at my kitchen counter's edge. I climbed into bed at 11:30 p.m., feeling content.

Four hours later, a violent force woke up the whole Bay Area but me. At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I logged into Facebook, to learn that all my local friends had been shaken out of slumber four hours before. Like the movie in Union Square, I had slept right through this earthquake. My wine bottle, still perched on the counter’s edge, revealed no signs of shifted earth.

In recent weeks, life’s fragility has been everywhere: my close friend Kristin died. Robin Williams, and then a colleague, quickly followed. The Ferguson police killed Michael Brown, and San Francisco news has featured a rash of mysterious deaths.

In that time, I celebrated a dear friend’s wedding; I stood on a chair for Robin Williams, with hundreds of bereft San Franciscans, as we watched the Dead Poets Society members do the same; I danced like mad to New Orleans brass; and I planned a road trip to San Diego, and train travel to Denver and Chicago, to visit loved ones this fall.


Sunday's quake did not threaten my sense of safety. This proverbial tree did not fall in the forest, having failed to sound for me. But it reminded me that, as inclined as I am to lament the past and fret the future, life truly is a moment-to-moment event. Nothing is promised, even after it is given; and seismic shifts do stop, even if they've stricken terror that outlasts them.

It’s my job to fight for joy in a world that shakes my foundation. I must keep moving forward, laughing and crying where each is required, leading the fullest life possible. But I should also move that wine bottle against the wall.

With a Perspective, I’m Katie Burke.

Katie Burke is a family law attorney and writer. She lives in San Francisco's Dolores Park neighborhood.