Life Without Bruce – Weeks 5, 6, & 7: June 1 – 24, 2011

A few more weeks have passed since the last blogpost and I’m happy to report that life is kinda sorta almost just about slowing down to a reasonable pace now that all houseguests, builders, and friends have gone.

Dareks’ last week-plus was a jam packed one. We managed to scoot into Christchurch to spend an afternoon horseback riding with my pals Tobi, Alex, Dennis, and Colette. The majority of us had not been on a horse for decades, but hey, it’s as easy as riding a bicycle (so they say) and we all enjoyed a beautiful autumn day out in the Canterbury Foothills. I highly recommend these folks for your horseback riding fun.

Back in Wainui, Ollie, Pete, and Kat joined us for the week. Ollie and Darek spent two days trenching and cementing in posts for a retaining wall we’ll be building in the garden area. Hard yakka to wheelbarrow gravel and cement on sloped terrain!

Darek and I harvested our first ever olive crop off of one tree! The tree produced 16 cups of olives, probably a year’s worth for us. These are tiny wee things and we won’t know for six months whether they are edible or not. To process olives, you must soak them for ten to fourteen days in water, then jar them in a salt-vinegar-water solution. I jarred them all up and hopefully we’ll be eating Birdsong olives at Christmas!

Pete worked on installing  lights in the outbuilding bathroom and now that room is about 99% complete with just a few minor things to finish.  So here’s the new utility room complete with laundry/sink, toilet, and the creme de la creme — Ollie’s most amazing mosaic shower!

Ollie and I worked on my new bedroom – staining the floor, painting the ceiling and painting the walls. Hmmm, I’m so close to being able to move into my new bedroom! (the pictures don’t do it justice — it’s hard to see the new minty green wall colour!)

And Darek and I worked on more mulching and chipping which unfortunately ended up with Darek sustaining a pretty sizeable cut on his finger when the cutting blade jammed.  While trying to unjam the chipper (the machine was off), he caught his finger on the blade.  OW!  We sped off to the Akaroa clinic where they taped his finger together – ‘she’ll be right mate!’   I was sorry to have this be Darek’s last memory of Wainui; hopefully he’ll still want to come back some day.

Back to Christchurch for his last few days, one of which encompassed celebrating friend Alex’s 67th birthday, complete with conga line dancing and planking  (old geysers know how to have fun too!).

And last but not least, we had the pleasure of seeing the Dalai Lama when he came to offer an earthquake prayer service.   Attended by several thousand, we arrived early and had amazing seats for his two hour service and talk.   I saw the Dalai Lama about ten years ago in San Francisco and my memory of him was one displaying compassion and humour.   He’s still the same guy.   His message was for each of us to find inner strength in these difficult times and to try and rebuild Christchurch with love and compassion.   And when having a hard time, to put things in the greater global perspective.   The world is full of suffering and tragedy, and you can sink down into despair, or you can swim, and rise above it – grow, open your heart, find compassion and gratitude and move forward.   While he didn’t use those words per se, that’s my take on the message he was trying to convey.

I stayed in Christchurch at our Hoon Hay house for about a week after Darek left doing various chores and projects around the house – hanging up photos, fixing things, and just trying to make the place a bit more like a home.  We’ve been there nine months and there were still boxes to unpack and things to put away.

So now it’s time for me to go into hibernation mode with the days so short and the temperatures so cold.  Nina and I have gone on lots of great walks.   But my ‘retreat’ time has not been so relaxing as there’s been two big rounds of earthquakes in the last week, both of them sizeable and causing further widespread damage across Christchurch, especially in the eastern suburbs and the central business district (which is still cordoned off).  I wept tears of sadness for those who sustained further damage to their homes.  Much liquefaction has poured up through the earth yet again.  The Farmy Army and Student Volunteer Army have come out in droves to help people shovel silt.   Water mains have burst and roads have opened up.    It’s a mess in certain areas.

The first set of quakes measured M6.3 and M5.5 with a whole host of little ones immediately following.  Those happened on a Monday afternoon and ground the city to a halt as all commercial buildings had to be re-inspected again.   About a week later, another round hit at night, measuring M5.4 and M4.7, followed by about ten shallow aftershocks in the next twelve hours.

These things take their toll and one could feel the collective sigh and despair of the city in the days following.   People, including myself, are exhausted from the continual adrenaline spiking that happens in our bodies.   Yet our yoga teacher reminded us that most of us are actually doing okay and have developed strengths over the last nine months – strengths that we may never thought we had.   It was heartening to hear what each of us chose to say about ourselves – I chose patience and acceptance as mine.

The idea has not been lost on me that perhaps we are not meant to be here for the long term.   Several family and friends suggested we leave.   I spent a number of nights researching earthquake behavioral patterns and had a very good chat with a seismologist friend.   All which got me to the point of acceptance and strength to know I’m committed to my life here for the long haul.    Death and rebirth – it’s a fact of life and part of the human cycle.  Yes, I am afraid at times.  But you can’t run from your life.   And when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I know that these times will pass and that Christchurch will rise and rebuild and be a far better community and city than it already is.   It will just take some time.    Patience and acceptance.

And now I am in Wainui for my last week without Bruce.   I’m painting and gardening and weaving and resting.   Having the retreat that I so desperately need.   The rebirthing cycle has already begun as witnessed by our beautiful daffodils which are in full bloom already.   Life is still good!