Sunday, March 6, 2011

Earthquakes and My Personal Loss.

I write about my personal loss during this Earthquake Event with a deep sense of gratitude. I lost a house on Sept 4th, I lost almost all my contents on February 22nd. Compared to the losses of life...I lost nothing.

From the moment of the Sept.4th Earthquake it was perfectly clear that our home, a dream house, set on the banks of the Avon River was destroyed. This house, not quiet 80 years old, had been a haven during the 5 difficult years we had lived there. The personal stresses that Richard, and hence, our family, had endured during those 5 years sometimes crept in the doors of that beautiful house, but for the most part we could lock them out, and retreat as a family. We laughed surrounded by the rimu paneling, and enjoyed the sunshine through the large windows peeking down at the river. We read books by the log fireplace, and made fun of each other in the dining room. I felt its loss, but my sadness was more for the value that it added to the scenic river, than for my own loss.

Oddly enough the Sept 4th Earthquake took few of our precious possesions. I mourned the loss of a broken pottery bowl that Richard had made when he was 17 or 18 years old. Glass shattered in picture frames, but for the most part, what was held in those frames remained in tack. At the beginning of this Earthquake Event, it was okay to mourn the loss of things. We were a city that had endured a 7.1 Earthquake without a single loss of life. But as it was I did not need to mourn much at all, for our contents loss were little, carpets, glasses, and a stove, the most replaceable of all possessions.

That all changed on Feb. 22nd. This strange earthquake, richter scaled at only 6.3 shook the ground at twice the force of gravity of the first event. No one needed to tell us that this was twice the earthquake, we knew it as the house shook around us vertically, till every south and north facing window blew out. I took no time to assess damaged when it finished. Ric put my shoes on my feet (I never wear shoes if I can help it!) and we ran for our children. It was a day later before I walked through that house.

I've lived an extraordinary life. My parents left the city where I was born when I was 6-7 years old. Since then I have wandered the earth, making 7 countries my home for long periods. Visiting many others. I guess I'm a 'Keeper' rather than a 'Thrower'. I have, or should I say had, beautiful things I've gathered around me from the world. A pottery set from Settle, Washington, a carving of the butterfly dancer from Bali, pictures from Texas, a limited edition print of Cambridge, England, maple tables hand-made from a friend in Saskatchewen Canada, a hand-blown jug from West Virginia, a little pottery person from the North Island, china mugs from England, pottery mugs from nearly everywhere in the world. The rimu furinture, hand-made by the prisoners of Paremoremo Prison on the North Island. Just a tiny page fromt the catalogue of my life. These things, these memories of my life are now shattered. When I walked through that house, it seemed my life lay in little shards across the floor.

I have things---of far less monetary value, which mean more to me than even clothing (can you imagine keeping baby clothing from 5 babies!), the quilt my grandmother gave me for my wedding, the quilts I made for my children. These are a few of the things I desperately want to find in that rubble.

As I write this, Richard is back at the Old 'new' house (Maddee's term). He probably shouldn't be. It's been 'Red Stickered'. So, as the law requires, we have had a qualified builder inspect it. It is unsafe, the roof too heavy to be supported by it's broken foundations. What can we take out? What will be safe for us to remove? Ric is there looking for those precious little things, the little memories, it may be unsafe to ever pull out the big things. I told him, no risks! No risks! No one thing is worth a life. Not a collection of piled things could ever replace a person.

And I know, in reality, that it was not my life that lay broken and scattered on that floor. It was only things. I have lived that life. I have those memories. I have written about my journey. It is not taken from me. I've shared those memories with my father, who recently returned to His Lord, I continue to talk about them with my mother, I use them to poke fun at my brothers, I laugh about them with my sister. My husband of nearly 26 years and I say..."Do you remember ...." and together we piece together some almost forgotten story of our life. Somewhere along my journey, these children of mine started saying, 'Mummy remember when..."

Memories are not the things. Things are reminders of the memories, and though I hope to save a few, and I feel a certain sadness at their loss. I still have those memories. And the people with whom I shared the experiences are not under rubble. They are safe. I have all that truly matters.

Written by Barbara on March 1.

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