A Freaky Friday…..

Did you feel the earthquake Friday morning? 

We were sitting in our recliner in our home when the whole house started shaking and the chair started moving rapidly back and forth. We live on the coast, so at first we thought it might be a change of direction or increase in the velocity of the wind, which can cause our house to creak and the windows to rattle a bit.

 But we saw no change in the ripples on the water, so we then thought that perhaps a big truck was on the roadway. But there was no truck. Those two thoughts came in rapid succession within about five seconds, so as the shaking of our chair continued, our next, panicked thought was, “It’s an earthquake!”

Five seconds later — about 10 seconds in total — the shaking and rattling stopped.

We immediately looked out our windows to see if the water was receding from the shoreline, thinking that if it were an off-shore quake, under the ocean, there might be a tsunami. (Of course, there wasn’t.)

We then went on the internet to search for “Boston earthquake,” and there were a bunch of posts on X and other social media confirming that there had indeed been an earthquake.

The earthquake’s center was in New Jersey, where the seismographic recording was a 4.8. The effect in our area was considerably less.

Although there was no damage reported from the quake (even at its epicenter in New Jersey), we have to admit we were shaken to our core. Our otherwise calm Friday morning had been upended by the most random event we could have imagined — an earthquake. It made us realize how fragile our existence is and how at a moment’s notice, our world can be upended. 

It also made us empathize with those who are the victims of a major earthquake and for a few seconds, we understood the sheer terror that one feels amidst an event such as that.

We realize that some might say, “It is what it is,” but we have a better one: “Everything is good….until it isn’t.”

……and a Manic Monday

We had not intended to view the eclipse, so despite the hype, we had not purchased special eclipse eyewear. We figured we’d focus on what was happening around us — the birds and other animals, the shadows, the suddenly-cooler air — rather than on the interplay between the moon and the sun.

But a neighbor drove up as we were standing outside our home and mentioned that he had an extra pair of eclipse eyewear, which he offered  to us. So we took it and got a chance to view the eclipse safely — and we are so glad we did.

Watching that black moon disc slide over the glowing sun (to about 92% of totality here in the Boston area) was indeed a spectacle that was jaw-dropping. Although the news was filled with reports of traffic jams and millions of people traveling to watch the event in places where the eclipse was 100%, viewing the actual eclipse itself brought about a sense of calm and serenity that we can’t describe. It was as if our brains were hypnotized in some way by a celestial, supernatural event.

All of us take the sun and the moon for granted each and every day. But Monday’s eclipse created a sense of wonderment that never will be forgotten by those who viewed it.

State budget woes: Here we go again

With state revenue falling off a cliff and almost $1 billion being spent (on an annualized basis) to house, feed, and care for immigrants who have made their way to Massachusetts from the southern border (and with no end in sight), the outlook is bleak for our state’s finances.

Gov. Maura Healy last week announced a hiring freeze for state employees. In addition, the governor’s $58 billion budget proposal’s allocation for local aid, particularly for education assistance, is falling far short of the needs of many cities and towns who are dealing with the influx of new migrant students. 

For those of us who have been around for a while, we are well-familiar with the ups and downs of the state budget cycle. The down cycles seem to hit their trough every 12 years or so. The last downturn occurred during the Great Recession of 2008-09, but the state avoided a down-cycle during the pandemic thanks to the massive federal spending that occurred during COVID and its aftermath.

However, the unrestricted COVID funding stream has run dry and state budgets now have to deal with the new reality of less aid from the federal government amidst a time of falling revenue and increased spending. 

Hopefully, with federal infrastructure spending coming on-line and unemployment still at record lows, we’ll get by with a little bit of belt-tightening — and we’ll avoid the starvation-diet mode that marked previous state budget troughs.

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