I awoke this morning, looked through the bedroom window into the leafy tree canopy, and saw above, painted across the sky, a Canterbury summers’ day, like last year, Wedgwood blue with Bill Sutton’s clouds on the horizon — angel wings feathering at the edges — and decided I would go again to the central city to view and record the changes since last time.
I would go with an open heart, absorbing the title of my book Giving Yourself to Life and be receptive to what I might find there. I thought too I would take the poet Riemke Ensing, who gave me the phrase ‘…it’s called giving yourself to life…’ from her poem ‘Love Affair’ about author Katherine Mansfield. I would go with both of them beside me, remembering the lines on human suffering from KM’s journal ‘One must submit. Do not resist. Take it. Be overwhelmed. Accept it fully. Make it part of life.’
They came our oldest, dearest, deepest friends from their farm in Canterbury, to the city for dinner at the end of a long, hot, January nor’ west afternoon. On these hot weather days the sky is an airy expanse of sapphire patterned with shifting clouds - angel wings, swans, fantastic creatures like the whisked up shapes in a Bill Sutton painting.
Always I feel invigorated in these conditions, glad to be alive. I like the touch of the sun on my skin. I like the way my body moves more freely in the warmth and I enjoy the feeling of expansion in my mind. On this particular afternoon I noticed how memories of better times in the broken city began rolling in. And this was reassuring because I had thought the earthquakes had damaged my remembering process irrevocably, that it was no longer possible to remember back to childhood and youth without being overwhelmed by stronger images of the recent horror and devastation.
Recently I reread my earlier entries and considered my raw responses, following the catastrophic Christchurch earthquake on February 22nd 2011, and my writing on the one-year anniversary, and decided I still stand by these pieces.
It is tempting as a writer, who also edits, to want to make changes to the work and to worry. Was the writing too emotional, biased, dramatic, distraught? But I have decided that all writing is subjective and one needs to hold a position, otherwise why bother to write. I also see the record as the essential work of a life writer, writing in the midst of extraordinary life events, articulating feelings, questioning, 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 a new journal in progress.
In three days time we will remember the February 22nd earthquake. 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. Her style belongs to the new brand of journalism – provocative, outspoken, confessional begging a reaction and a readership – and a new breed of woman, benefitting from the ‘70s feminist activism, who is every bit as bold and brash as her male colleagues and perhaps more strident.
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 and grew up on the Canterbury Plains. I went to school at the old Christchurch Girls’ High School on the corner of Cranmer Square, studied at Canterbury University and my first job was in the Town Planning department of the Christchurch City Council researching and writing booklets on the city’s heritage buildings. I wrote about the Christchurch Cathedral, the Christchurch Press building, the Christchurch Post Office, the old Public Library, Shands Emporium the oldest wooden shop in the city, McLean’s mansion an eclectic concoction of architectural styles, with impressive Mansard domes that added a dash of Paris to the city skyline and the Christchurch Normal School. At thirty I moved to Auckland and although it was a good decision, I have never stopped thinking of Christchurch as home.