Quake - a year on: The biggest test of all

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As New Zealand prepares to mark the first anniversary of the February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake, nzherald.co.nz asked local bloggers to describe how their lives have been affected in the year since. We sought a range of voices to paint a broad picture of how life really is in the shattered city.

Journalist and photographer Adrienne Rewi has blogged extensively on the state of her city since last February's quake. Her writing is detailed and personal, and her photos are sobering reminders of how dramatically the landscape of Christchurch has been altered.

Read Adrienne's blog, Adrienne Rewi Online, and follow her on Twitter: @AdrienneRewi.

First thing in the morning, just after I wake, I lie still and try to remember life before the earthquakes. Often, my thoughts are shunted sideways by another aftershock. There's been over 10,000 of those now, since September 4, 2010 when the 7.1 tore through our lives and changed our city so irrevocably. And it's a year now, since February 22, 2011 when the 6.3 earthquake compounded that shock and horror.

It has been the most exciting, most unpredictable and most painful year of my life. Exciting because I thrive in a climate of change and unpredictability; and painful because, unwittingly (until three weeks ago), I have spent the last year walking around, hiding under tables, falling over, shovelling silt from the liquefaction, and snow, and unblocking flooded drains with a fractured spine.

The spine is another story. The earthquakes are more insistent, more determined it seems, to unsettle our lives and shift us in ways many of us would never have imagined. Our memories have been tampered with, our visions and hopes have been torn assunder - or at the very least, re-routed. Our homes are no longer the secure nests we could always rely on and in some cases, our livelihoods have been compromised.

Yet for me, on the plus side, it keeps coming back to that excitement, the change, the anticipation, the wonder, the awe, the new possibilities. I quite often find myself thinking about the incomprehensible power of natural forces and how one split second can completely alter your life's course.

Living with ongoing earthquakes has made me re-evaluate the worth of material possessions and the ownership of things. It's made me aware of the superior value of friendships and communities. It's reinforced by already-established belief that we all have valuable contributions to make - no matter how small - and that making every second count for something should be a priority greater than materialism. It's expanded my mental and creative horizons and it's made me think bigger and bolder. It's re-opened doors to creative pathways that had been quietly closed in favour of 'earning a living.'

On the negative side, dealing with insurance companies and EQC bureaucracy, and coming to terms with the uncertainty around property and rebuilding, is perhaps the biggest test of all. It's a test of patience, endurance, tolerance, understanding and compassion - all of that fighting with your inherent and instinctive desire for concrete decisions and finality; and for the earth to stay still.

But the earth doesn't stay still and I still carry my cellphone at all times, even from room to room. I still have torches in every room. My camera and handbag (complete with passport and portable hard drive) are still stored under my kitchen table ready for a quick getaway. I still have a month's supply of food, water and blankets stored in the boot of my car. My heart still pounds with every aftershock over 4.5, as adrenalin courses through my body.

I still wonder if this will be the day of the next big one. I still despair over the very thought of more liquefaction and the clouds of dust still rising from the last lot. I still dread rainy days when the clogged and broken drainage systems overflow and flood the street.

And I still wish I could make people outside of Canterbury realise that living with ongoing earthquakes is so much more than dealing with shaking and the immediate fear of damage and potential loss of life. I wish I could make them realise that this chaos and disruption to almost every aspect of daily life is not just paranoia on our part and that they too, may one day have to deal with it - and that they should be doing everything they possibly can to be prepared at some level.

But most of all, I just wish I could get my house fixed. It would be nice to lie in bed and not wonder if the sagging ceiling will collapse in the next big aftershock. It would be so much better if I could open and close windows without worrying if they will fall out; and it would be great if a tennis ball didn't roll downhill across my lounge floor.

In the meantime, I'll just get on with capturing what I can of this unforgettable moment in our history, grateful that I am alive and thankful for the opportunity to reassess things, to think bigger, laugh louder, love harder, be kinder - and to see more, more often and differently.

See also:
Mike Dickison - City without a heart
Bex Davies - Christchurch is 'the waiting place'

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