COMMENT: Writing columns is easy in theory. In practice, it is usually not. The foremost reason for this is that there is always a need for a topic, and in the repetitive melody of life, topics don't usually make themselves abundantly apparent.
The exception is that sometimes, on weeks like this one, they do.
Something emerges too great, too tragic to ignore- there is no overt demand to speak on it, but to not give it attention would feel like the wrong thing to do, as moderated by some internal compass.
So, your topic has been chosen for you by the way of the world. But then the question still remains of what to say.
That question echoes around an empty and cold space. The sound that bounces around and comes back is not an answer, but rather the same question over and over again. Lots of questions.
The blank page you stare at seems to say much more than it says. The concepts and emotions are so sacred that to try and put words to them is only to devalue them. Think about the time that nice old lady in Spain tried to restore the fresco of Jesus at her local church.
Perhaps, the blank page seems right because the answer is that there is nothing left to say, because what does remain in the aftermath is unremarkable. Like after a fire clears a landscape, the only comment on the blackened plain that remains is not to note the presence of the ash, but rather the absence of anything else. Whatever used to be there is gone- transformed into another state, or simply taken away.
A lot has certainly been lost, and a lot has changed this week. To state so would just be the filler in conversation, the part when the voice of the speaker trails off into nothingness as the audience stare down into space, in their own thoughts rather than the conversation, and only silence replies to what has been said. You can survey the landscape with your own eyes, you don't need me to paint it for you.
As time passes and ash blows around, what was there before begins to re-emerge. Elements of our world contrast against the black background more so than they would have in the vibrant and colour thick backdrop that was there before the fire - although they were always there. Now their edges are perfectly defined, and in the nothingness that surrounds them, your eyes are drawn straight to them.
Maybe it is community spirit, an intangible magnetic force that draws in the tangibles of flowers, hakas, tight circles of people in waiata, the presence of people standing together.
Perhaps it is the love that raises $10 million in mere days, the hallmark of a nation and a world so desperate to help but without knowing what to do. In a world run by money, the gesture is thick with symbolism.
Or maybe it's a teenage boy with an egg who speaks for a nation without saying a word, and somehow couldn't have said it any more perfectly. Laughter does always seem to come so freely when accompanied by tears, usually resulting in one big mess of spit and snot and tears and sob chuckles.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote a column which I have just read over again, tinged by the embarrassment with which an adult might view the naivety of their teenage years, and with the deep ache of a bruise still coming to the surface. I physically grimaced reading it.
I talked about how lucky we were that it couldn't happen here, not to our people. How lucky we were to not live in fear of the possibility of a mass shooting, specifically. What I wrote, what I took as fact, was not correct. I was wrong.
That is a shift which has happened last week for most of us, I think. Amongst all of the platitudes and clichés, this I know for fact - New Zealand will never be the same again, and that hurts.
'So we beat on, boats against the current', drawn onwards ceaselessly into a future we were not ready for. We were not ready to say goodbye, but it is time to go.
Amongst this shifting landscape, wherever we find ourselves, only the core message of that column I wrote still remains unchanged- if there were any people I would want to have by my side moving forward from this, it would be us, you. For that, we are still the lucky ones.