When I was about ten years old, I felt an earthquake in Southern Indiana. It was a very mild one, and I might not have noticed it at all if my grandmother's hutch hadn't started rattling.
Then, in 1994, I felt an earthquake in Seattle. This one was a little stronger - it kinda felt like a very heavy truck had rumbled off the road and then lightly smacked into my building.
In 1996, the day after I'd arrived in Alaska, I was sitting in a chair in the living room of my Anchorage apartment. I was taking a swig of soda from a can, and I leaned back to get the last few drops.
The next thing I knew, I was on my back, and the chair was on top of me.
The news said it was an earthquake. To me it seemed more like an earthjolt but I'm no seismologist. Whatever else it might have been, it was certainly a harbinger of things to come.
During the months I spent in Anchorage, I never went a week without feeling at least one earthquake. Some weeks would bring as many as three or four. None were ever particularly strong. Even that first one hadn't been more than a 5.2 or so - it had just caught me off-guard and off-balance.
Most days I worked in the customer's building, but every now and then I'd have reason to visit my own company's Anchorage office. Calling it an office was a bit of an overstatement. The company had been founded in Anchorage, but had relocated to Seattle at some point, and there was only one permanent Anchorage employee. A nice girl named Brenda who did everything from sales to accounting to first-level customer support to sweeping up at the end of the day.
She didn't like earthquakes very much. So I had a lot of fun walking heavily around the office, making the floor creak and the partitions sway. I never could see Brenda when I did these things, for if she'd been able to see me that would have ruined the jokes, but I liked to imagine that she crawled under her desk every time I did it.
One of the things that struck me as funny about Anchorage was actually one of the more depressing things. People are always yammering on and on about how beautiful it is in Alaska. And it certainly is. Words are inadequate to describe some of the natural beauty I saw up there.
But one of the most beautiful phenomenon was actually man-made, though I didn't know it until Brenda told me.
See, it was so cold up there that the actual smog would freeze.
Frozen smog would coat the leafless limbs and branches and twigs of every tree. It turned every tree into a crystalline work of art. It wasn't like the ice-coated trees I'd seen before. Nope, it was fuzzy and delicate. Just really really pretty stuff.
Caused by air pollution, but still one of the most beautiful sights in one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen.