by Mary M.

The New York Times today reports that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has changed time. Essentially, the quake altered the weight distributed around the axis of the Earth’s spin, altering the Earth wobble and thereby shortening a day by 1.8 millionths of a second.

In the report, scientists counseled that this is not unusual, that the Earth’s wobble is always changing, altered most recently by the 8.8 earthquake in Chile last year (shortening day by 1.26 millionths of a second and moving the axis by three inches) and the Sumatra earthquake in 2004 (shortening day by 6.8 millionths of a second).

Not much time, that 1.8 millionth of a second, but precious nevertheless. Perhaps in the short term its impact on human lives in most of the Earth nations is minute. But I am pondering its impact on our non-human relatives whose seasons are guided by the rotations of Mother Earth and her magnetic poles. I wonder what that 1.8 millionth of a second means to the whales and to the birds and to the monarch butterflies and, of course, to the Salmon People.

I wonder how they experienced this great shifting of the Earth.

A friend who retired to enjoy life on water found herself in the Gulf of Mexico the evening of the Sumatran quake. Distant from news, she and her husband sailed late in the dark, seeking harbor, when unexpectedly the water around them churned with fish–dolphins and others–schools of moving forms shadowed in the dark. Only when they reached harbor, anchored and woke the next morning did she see the news and coordinate the time of the quake with the activity in the water around their boat.

We hear that time is speeding up, and we feel its impact in the rapidity of information access, the intensity of our daily lives (seemingly more work and less time to accomplish it), the pace at which technology jettisons us into the future. Even the spinning off into space of 1.8 millionth of a second alters, on some ineffable plane of existence, the nature of our lives.

Perhaps like Changing Woman, the Navajo Being who models for us adaptability to life, we also adapt. We are of the Earth, as surely as the creatures of the sea, and perhaps this event gives us opportunity to reclaim that understanding, not only for ourselves but for all the Earth’s children–four-foot, two-foot, rooted plant-foot, fin, and wing–while we all still have time.

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