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February 22, 2012

One Year On


How we need anniversaries. They mark the cycle of the year, reminding us that the sun will indeed return or that another season of growing has passed.  They also help us move beyond Fear.


They remind us of what we have lost and they encourage us to see what we have gained as well as what we have become.

Shortly after the September 2010 earthquake, while I was clearing the Skudder House, I noticed this photograph in an old copy of the Christchurch Press dated June 11 1966.  I particularly noticed it, because this building was frequently in the background news shots of a historic building which had been severly quake damaged.  This image is so triumphant: celebrating Christchurch's progress in a new age of construction and technology. Now Christchurch affords new opportunities to the construction industry - for demolition, and the photograph below from The Christchurch Press dated November 17 2011 shows that the Manchester Unity/AMI building had also succumbed to later earthquake damage.


Opportunity. Entrepreneurs thrive in this post-disaster climate, although that dubious invention of humanity - insurance, and in this case, the reluctance of the insurance companies to reinsure - has stalled many projects. 


Someone has seen the loss of suburban chimney stacks as a business opportunity, offering faux fitted chimneys from a relocatable showcase.

But many of the opportunities for re-vitalisation have come from altruistic individuals and community collectives.  With its shop gone, this abandoned chiller has become a book fridge.  It sits on the corner of Barbadoes and Kilmore Streets, an exchange for anyone to use.


And a few blocks south along Barbadoes St, on the site of a pretty landmark brick townhouse is the serene Butterfly Gap Filler.





Then there are gasp-aloud surprises like this view, spotted driving home one evening. So familiar this dome, yet so utterly out of place.


Someone - both altruistic and entrepreneurial I suspect - has rescued the cupola that once stood as an ornate statement to the hey-day of cinematic grandeur, above the beautifully restored Regent Theatre in Cathedral Square.  Now it perches in suburban Linwood, a forlorn folly.



The gardens have established and softened in the new village in the city.  I return to ReStart often for it's ambience, and easy vibe. But nobody visiting there is oblivious to what has happened to this city. The tourists walk in a daze and ask questions in hushed tones. The talk at the cafe tables is about, red-zoned houses, insurance payouts, whether to stay or go...


When I drive past this scene - the one I opened this post with - my heart still sears with loss, and I remember Simon's ashen face, his dust-filled hair, and grimed hands from digging a co-worker out of the rubble of the pink building to the left of the photo. But I also think of Bryony planning to study Drama at the Polytech one block away, and feel the excitement of a Student world at the epicentre of renewal.

This year of facing and surviving loss - of different kinds - has prepared me for what is about to happen closer to home...


as building after building in my local town is closed for safety reasons. In the wake of the official inquiries into
failure of Christchurch buildings during the February 22 Earthquake, the Waimakariri District Council is prudently distancing itself from the cavalier approach by professionals,
which lead to unsound buildings killing people last year.


Some of these buildings will be retained but some will be demolished as well - the old, the familiar - but no longer do I feel that buildings determine me. I look forward to what might be: our own shipping container enclave; a main street no longer orientated to channel the prevailing chill Easterly right through all the outdoor cafe areas, but broken up into courtyards with linked parking; or something else altogether that honours the small town spirit but remodels Rangiora for the future.

Today there is an understanding that people must be able to commemorate   the anniversary of last year's worst earthquake in whatever way is most healing. For some that is to ignore it; for others it is important to be part of the remembrance ceremonies, and for others it is enough to reflect in solitude.

Here in Ashley, locals have responded to a call to decorate road cones with flowers.  This is really aimed at the roadworks around the city, which have become a symbol of failed infra-structure and dis-location, but these offerings on roadworks at the entrance to the village are heartfelt none the less.

15 comments:

The Sagittarian said...

Beautiful post, my Lady! (Love the reference to that June 11 date - my real brothers birthday, right down to the year!!)....heaps of flowers in road cones over our way too. xx

John Gray said...

I like scars on a city....it reminds us that people and places heal.
One of your most haunting posts thank you x

Jeneane said...

The Sagittarian: Fancy that newspaper having personal relevance - alongside everything else! I saw all the flowers in the river and the road cones on the news; so uplifting on this melancholy day.

John Gray: Thankyou John. I had prepared most of this post a week ago and only added the floral tributes this afternoon. I couldn't have done the whole thing today I realise. Just too heavy hearted. The Sagittarian in More Canterbury Tales sums up the feeling of this day so well in her Remembrance post.

Chris said...

I work on building design and town planning and appreciate how the removal of an old landmark building, once an everday, taken for granted sight by the local people can rip at the heart of any community.

It's good to throw up new buildings and rejuvenate a town or city but a link to the past, sometimes through even the most innocous and plain building forms part of our memories and our past. When it's gone something goes with it.

The flowers in the traffic cones was very touching.

Jeneane said...

Chris: thanks for your perceptive comments. We have certainly lost old and modern and it feels like there are more empty spaces than standing buildings these days. While we miss our landmarks and cornerstones, it is disconcerting to have forgotten what was where in passing.

Owen said...

Always a pleasure to read your thoughtful writing. I hope Christchurch will rise from the ashes and rubble, and that Mother Nature will calm down a bit, you've had far more than your fair share by now. Best wishes from afar...

Jeneane said...

Thanks so much Owen. I can't help wondering what this process is like for people in third world conditions after a massive earthquake. Do they get commissions of inquiry into building failure? Do they have govt funded relief and re-settlement packages? Do they get awards for bravery and kindness? I am very conscious of the privilege afforded our damaged society and that something new and hopefully wonderful will arise from the dust.

the cuby poet said...

As every year passes from the rubble will emerge new creative ideas as your city recovers. The book fridge is such a great idea maybe it will catch on in other places as a great recycling project. Flowers in road cones - brilliant. X

libby said...

That was a sensitive and beautiful post. The world turns...still.

Jeneane said...

the cuby poet: the book fridge is neat isn't it, and the doors left ajar just as we all learn to do with a fridge that's been turned off :-) I think a poet would be a great person to introduce a book fridge to Truro...

libby: Yes, the world does still turn. It certainly felt like our Armageddon last year. I've just added a new website 12.51 to my sidebar - thanks to Dyk of Wellyjewell - for a media review of past present and future. It is well presented and uplifting.

nick said...

Found you via John Gray's comments. A fascinating post on the aftermath of the earthquake through the eyes of a "local". It all becomes a lot more real and immediate after so many rather detached media reports (and not many reports at all in the UK). I love the book fridge and the cone-flowers. Good that there's an inquiry into why so many buildings collapsed so rapidly. People just don't take the earthquake threat seriously enough.

Claire said...

Beautiful and heart-breaking, I love the flowers in the cones x

Steve said...

Beautifully written. The sense of shock - even after all this time - is palpable. Come what may re-building will occur... I hope the new Christchurch will honour the noble spirit of her citizens.

Jeneane said...

Nick: Thanks so much for visiting and appreciating this post. I do remember that although there was a strong international media presence (NZ television used very good BBC footage in the days after the Earthquake) UK residents who were desperate for news - modern communication systems were down for at least four days - found that the sexual excesses of a football star quickly replaced tragedy in NZ.

Christchurch had certainly been complacent about earthquake risk, believing that unlike Wellington, we were in a 'safe zone.'

Jeneane said...

Claire: Heartbreak makes us stronger if it doesn't break us first, doesn't it. And always there are flowers for healing...

Steve: I appreciate your writer's feedback, thank you for that. Like your children's growing, we'll both look back one day in wonder at where we've been and sigh with relief that we made it through :-)