It was a move without conscious effort; they all did it, to help them understand the news they had heard on the radio a moment before. There was the Earth and there was the coming war, and there hundreds of thousands of mothers or grandmothers or fathers or brothers or aunts or uncles or cousins. They stood on the porches and tried to believe in the existence of Earth, much as they had once tried to believe in the existence of Mars; it was a problem reversed. To all intents and purposes, Earth now was dead; they had been away from it for three or for years. Space was an anesthetic; seventy million miles of space numbed you, put memory to sleep, depopulated Earth, erased the past, and allowed these people here to go on with their work. But now, tonight, the dead were risen, Earth was reinhabited, memory awoke, a million names were spoken: what was so-and-so doing tonight on Earth? What about this one and that one?
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles.
There’s an old map of New Jersey hanging in my living room and I keep getting up and walking to it, trying to match up the cities and towns with the accounts of destruction I’m reading as I obsessively reload Hurricane Sandy news feeds. It feels like some weird Kabbalistic ritual; by locating the cities on the map, I can discover their true names, I can control the damage.
I haven’t lived in New Jersey for several years but today it seems very, very close, and very, very far away.