My senior year of college at the University of California at Santa Cruz was the Loma Prieta earthquake. It was not a spiritual experience, but it greatly affected the course of my life, caused me to invest magic in my truck, and led to a significant event in my life as a heathen. This year is the 25th anniversary of this event.
Quotes from my memoir:
“Most of my memories are fuzzy about the time and date on which they took place, but there is one I can date to the minute: October 17, 1989, 5:04pm.”
“…the plate glass sliding doors in the living room rippled like water…”
It was the great quake of ’89, its epicenter in Santa Cruz County. I have a detailed description of what happened in my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts. After a week of sleeping outdoors because the buildings were not certified safe, I thought:
“If I had dad’s truck with me, I could sleep in it. No freezing soccer fields. No worries about rain. I could have all the supplies I needed right in there, ready for me any time I wanted them.”
“…The only coherent thought I had all afternoon was, “This is not going to happen to me again. I am not going to depend on anything or anyone outside myself. I can’t depend on the water always turning on and being fit to drink. I can’t depend on the buses always running and the stores always being open. I was depending on the government. Now I’m going to depend on myself. Alone.”
When I returned to Santa Cruz from the family home in Sonoma, I was driving the truck. The same one I still drive, which my mom had named The Warhoop Wagon while it was still my dad’s: an ’84 Chevy Silverado. Longbed. Two-tone brown and cream paint job like a palomino. Camper shell on the back. Freshly stocked with supplies from survivalist catalogs. Not just a vehicle: a place I could live in.
“Before we left I walked around the truck, simultaneously conducting a safety check and casting a spell of protection. I imbued the truck with energy to journey safely and to prevent harm to myself and others on the road. To my inner eye it glowed with the armor of my directed will, but beneath that was its own personality, a protectiveness like the best qualities of its previous owner. Driving my truck—my father’s truck—was a holy act of inheritance of ability.”
Over the years, I have reinforced and enhanced the safe-journey magic and the truck's own personality grew stronger. Its formal name is still the one my mother gave it, but I more often think of it as My Faithful Truck. It's hard to explain to non-pagans why I won't give it up; I usually just tell them it's lucky.
The first place I drove it was to a pagan ritual in the middle of rubble-strewn San Francisco, in the hard-hit Marina district which was still blackened and choked from gas main fires: the Spiral Dance. I brought my mom with me, and that was how I came out as pagan.
Back at college, I found myself in a spiritual battle for which I did not feel at all prepared. That is another story, coming in the next post.