Deborah has posted her fourth annual Christchurch update, this one written in January 2015.
They came our oldest friends from their farm in Canterbury, to the city for dinner at the end of a long, hot, January nor’ west afternoon. We ate outdoors on a terrace beside a lawn that sloped down to a stream. The meal was salmon with salads, roasted vegetables, wine, berries, meringues. This felt significant, sharing good times again with good people.
Earlier that afternoon I had noticed that, occasionally, memories of better times in the broken city have begun surfacing. This was reassuring. I had thought the earthquakes had damaged my remembering process irrevocably and that it was no longer possible to remember back to childhood and youth without being overwhelmed by subsequent images of the more recent destruction and horror. Perhaps as the city rebuilds and as optimism about its future slowly grows the pain might lift somewhat.
Recently I reread my earlier entries and considered my raw responses, following the catastrophic earthquakes in Canterbury and decided I still stand by these pieces.
It is tempting as a writer, who also edits the work, to want to make changes and to worry. Was the writing too emotional, partial, profuse? Was I writing out my distress? Probably. But I also think a writer needs to hold a position and that the style should somehow transmit the flavour of the person, her interests and passions, otherwise why bother to write. I also see these outpourings as the essential work of a life writer, writing in the midst of extraordinary life events, articulating thoughts and feelings, reflecting, remembering and documenting for the records.
One year on from the February 22nd, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, Deborah reflects on the impact of the quakes and the ongoing aftershocks, in an excerpt from her journal.
Three days from now we will remember the February 22nd earthquake that killed 185 people and destroyed a city. But already the anniversary is on my mind, provoked today by a column in the Sunday paper by a journalist who writes regular pieces of a controversial and inflammatory nature. Invited by the editor to reflect on the anniversary she chose to examine her apathy towards Christchurch, thinking she might be speaking for many but also aware she might ‘not win myself any friends here.’ She blundered on regardless explaining that she hadn’t visited Christchurch since the quakes and that it was ‘not a city I have ever had strong feelings about one way or another.’ She remembered falling in the Avon River when she was five and ‘lusting after the period homes bordering Hagley Park when she was 35.’
Recently Deborah read a personal response to the Christchurch Earthquake at the Writers' Read In staged in libraries throughout Auckland to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake appeal.
I was born in Christchurch. It is the city of my childhood and my girlhood. I went to school at the old Christchurch Girls’ High School on the corner of Cranmer Square. I studied at Canterbury University on the Ilam campus and worked in the central city in the Town Planning department and later at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in my early twenties. I was married in Canterbury and began raising my family there. I have a deep attachment to Christchurch and wince always when people denigrate the flatness, the boring culture, the sinister underbelly. I have always loved Chch to my wider whanau, forged I think through loss in childhood but also through my love of beauty in the natural world and the built world.