June 15, 2011

After after

Seven mobile phone pictures taken on the five-minute walk back from Beckenham School to home this morning, registering only the things that were not there on Monday, before the 5.5 and 6.3 aftershocks (or are they new quake events?). New cracking and fresh mud on curbs and roads. New safety fencing and a spraypainted "keep clear" sign on the wall of the already ruined school pool. Roads that were repaired just weeks ago now have fresh holes, and there is a newly collapsed river bank. New signs warn of contaminated water in the river; a homemade "slow down" sign appears, warning of slightly more damaged houses and nerves.

The illusion of normality is partly for the sake of children. School returns as normal but there has never been a morning so quiet, on the school grounds, in the park, on the roads. The morning is beautifully clear and cold and I think of some comments from Christchurch poet Joanna Preston, made at the Auckland Writers Festival in May, remembering the morning of the first, September quake: "Afterwards, you didn't know what to do. The sun came up and it was the most incredibly beautiful Canterbury day. Early September, I think there had been a frost. It was blue and it was perfect. Because they had closed the airport, there were no planes going overhead and it was quiet. No cars, no noise. Just quiet, like a day in paradise. The thing is, you have to die to get to paradise. It really did feel a little bit like we were walking in the afterworld.”