In 2006, before my family left the San Francisco Bay Area for the state of Montana, my wife had a dream. In the dream, her and I were living in a futuristic apartment near the shore, but there was something separating us from the ocean. It was a dome. We couldn’t figure out how to get down to the water, which washed against the exterior of the dome. Inside the dome there was a form of artificial daylight, but gazing outside, we could see a starry night sky. We were upset. At the time, she didn’t know what the dream meant.
My wife and I were married on the beach in 2002, and it has always been a spiritual place for us. We honeymooned along scenic Highway 1, from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz to Monterey. Some of my most cherished memories center around our many trips to Pescadero or Bean Hollow: falling asleep together on the sand dunes and waking up sun-burnt, playing the kalimba to the sounds of seagulls calling and the crashing surf (I still have a mini-cassette recording somewhere) or watching baby sharks swim through my legs- baby sharks! When I was a teenager, my friends and I would frequent the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the summer and go boogie-boarding. We would marvel at the golden flakes of iron pyrite in the water as they shimmered in the sun. In high school, the ocean nearly took my life when I caught my leg between some rocks while trying to escape the incoming tide. The ocean is home, and when my wife moved to California to live with me, it became her home as well.
Life has not been easy for our family in Montana and for years we have tried in vain to return home to California. One thing or another has always stood in our way: family, money, college and now it seems atomic radiation, due to the ongoing situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
If, in reconsidering a move back to California, I were to attempt to explain the very real dangers of radiation exposure to my folks, they would undoubtedly say I was overreacting. After all, if all you do is sit in front of the television watching mainstream news, you would assume the whole Fukushima nuclear disaster was over and everything was under control. The current media blackout on Fukushima is even more complete than the blackout over the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. With cooperation from the media, TEPCO and the governments of Japan and the U.S. have largely downplayed the risks.
But many scientists and experts believe the risks are significant. We know that the Fukushima nuclear plant is still in crisis. We know that TEPCO continues to evacuate hundreds of metric tons of radioactive sea water into the Pacific Ocean. The initial disaster resulting from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011, has already exposed thousands, if not millions, of people in North America to a sizable amount of radiation, and, as I write this post, a massive plume of contaminated water is heading straight for the West Coast. It is set to arrive in 2014. Hardest hit will be Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia (Canada), Washington, Oregon, California and Baja California (Mexico).
Furthermore, next month TEPCO will begin the daunting task of manually removing over 1,300 fuel rods from the facility’s damaged No. 4 reactor. The entire operation will take years to complete and is wrought with potential mishaps, reports RT and others. Worst case scenarios approach the cataclysmic, but best case scenarios are bad enough. Even now, high levels of radiation have been detected in cow’s milk from U.S. dairy farms, which indicates the radiation has penetrated the food and water supply.
Surely Montanans are being radiated too- we all are. But what kind of exposure levels should we expect if we decide to move back to the Bay Area? What should we expect after visiting the beach a few times, wading in the water and breathing in the ocean mist? What if my wife or daughter were to develop thyroid cancer or leukemia several years from now? These are the risks that need to be analyzed and addressed by our government, for the safety of our citizens. But as cancer rates see a sharp rise in North America, or more dead sea creatures wash ashore, more than likely it will never officially be blamed on the Fukashima disaster.
It’s surreal. These days, I feel as if I’m clinging to my memories of the ocean like a fading dream, meanwhile my wife’s bizarre dream is becoming more and more like a prophetic vision. I understand dream symbolism. Of course the dream represents obstacles to returning home. It represents being separated from a peaceful, comforting place. My thoughts brought me to tears the other day. It was not an ordinary sadness, but an exasperation over the dire condition of our planet and what we are facing as human beings. Perhaps God is working to keep us from going back to California, to protect us from one calamity or another. I have tried to comfort myself in this, knowing full well that our nation is teetering on major upheaval. Maybe I am overreacting; maybe we’ll go back after all. I’m confident God will reveal his plan to us, that our path will become clear. In the meantime, I guess the mountains are nice too.