Saturday, December 31, 2011

No Mayan calendar shit here

Welcome to 2012.

2011 was not an easy year. Our points of reference for it here in Christchurch are 'the February EQ' 'the June EQ' and now 'the EQ on the 23rd of December'.

The 5.9 and 6.0 quakes on 23 Dec were demoralising. They wrote off some already-damaged houses and made others more fragile. A man i know walked home and shed tears, just grieving for the city, just grieving. Children who had seemed bulletproof throughout caved in on 23 Dec, scared to sleep, crying in the aftershocks. There was a sense of oh no, not again. Just when we were getting to a new normal.

This was the first big EQ i expereinced when i was outside walking. My vision shimmered and i sat down. People were clinging to a telegraph pole. The ground just shuddered. i had no sense of scale at all.

i suspect there have been a lot of earthquake related deaths. What happens when you live with consistently elevated levels of cortisol and adrenalin is you wear out and get sick. Your body writes cheques your brain can't cash. Your heart gives out. You can no longer fight the cancer cells.

People also talk about mental stress. People say how they are quicker to anger than they used to be. And there is more to get angry about - the war of attrition fought with the bureacracies in charge of zoning and fixing and detroying and compensating. Probably most Christchurch homeowners are embroiled in such a war, and it takes its toll. Some go bust, financially and mentally. Some take the money and leave. It is a leaner meaner city now.

i know that our years are human made things. A more natural time to start the year might be on the solstice, 1 January doesn't really mean much and calling this year 2012 won't stop the earthquakes. But i am glad to see the back of 2011.

The best i can say is that it has been a huge test of our mettle as individuals and as a community. We all have learned something about how we cope in a crisis, even if (for some of us) it is that we don't cope. The workers who did emergency psychiatric triage got some training from an overseas expert. They asked, who should we be worried about. The answer was, the people you are always worried about. Yeah, most likely, but i did notice that some of us who are not usually so robust found some inner heroism and dug silt and baked cakes and fixed walls. i think a sense of purpose galvanised some people and they found some skills. i suspect that those who do best are those who can be psychologically flexible, who can deal with uncertainty, and who can live in the moment. Helpful traits for anyone, i would think.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

To the elves

On this Christmas day i would like to thank all of the people who made this celebration possible.

i know none of them and probably never will. They made the clothes i wear, the computer i type this on, and most of the things i give and take as gifts.

It is astonishing to think i owe them so much of my life.

They are the people who took over from us in making and storing and transporting things. There was a time when we did that ourselves. Even fifty years ago there was manufacturing in this country.

Now, the makers and storers and movers are from China and the Phillipines and India and wherever labour is cheapest. The mega-companies that employ them know no national boundaries. i hear terrible things about the conditions they work in, but i don't know for sure. i do know that without them the consumer culture we have now would probably not exist.

So thank you to the real elves, who made the iPhone and the X-Box Kinect and the tinsel and the socks and the crockery we used, and the real reindeer who brought it to us and took it away again, and i wish all of you rest, and silence, and friendship, and justice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Occupy poem

Recently i organised a poetry reading and barbecue at the local Occupy corner. i feel strongly at times that our society is deprived of the arts. And that we can occasionally hark back to an age when art was communal and we did not rely on 'big art' to sustain us.

The poetry bit didn't really come off, but the barbecue did.

However, i did write a poem for Occupy. There is some good poetry out there, on with contributions from famous people such as Lemony Snicket and Ursula Le Guin. There are great poems about tear gas and Tahrir Square and the activism of ages.

Mine turned out to be this:


If you've lived to my age you probably have a history of protest,
one way or another,
you were there for it.

Small spirit sparks
light lives
measured out in days and days and days
and the days present themselves to us,
and we live them.

And you know

In the deepest ocean trenches
tiny bright scarlet creatures
live and move in darkness

And you know

Under the loamy earth, in rhe blank rock
the shimmering labradorite
iridesces in darkness


A small spirit spark of it.

Protest is easy by the time you get to my age.
It's just saying yes in the darkness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

i want to thank my husband for not noticing my weight loss

Seriously, my husband did not notice the first 14 kilos. He put it down to seeing me every day. My work mates noticed the first six. Even prior to my operation for the lap band i had dropped a dress size. But the Archduke only noticed once i got to about 60 kilos.

i want to put in a good word for the open blindness of marriage. He didn't notice my weight loss but then again he may not have noticed my greying hair and the random whiskers i keep pulling out of my chin, or my fashion mis-steps. And i in return have not (much) noticed his weight gain or the hair slippage. We age and change together and apart. It's the frog in the pot story, what therapists call 'news of difference'. One day you wake up and discover you are living with a stranger. That is news of difference. If you're smart, and of course provided your marriage is not abusive or destructive, you never receive the news.

These days, i have lost 17 kilos. I hover around 58 kilos. I have lost 17 cm off my waist. i am a size 12-14 depending on what garment it is. i still make some food mistakes but mostly i am comfortable. i have conquered the chain stores, which is suprisingly if superficially liberating.

i got fit enough to consider running. Here is a good guide to running for absolute beginners who have only ever run for buses and then arrive on the bus wheezing and gasping and needing to be helped into seats.

Start slower than you think you should. You will have tried running in the past and what happens is you start off at full noise and then collapse early and feel a failure. Start with a sort of fast shuffle, which is technically running because both feet are off the ground, but has a really short shuffly style. It is not elegant and it is barely faster than walking, but it doesn't exhaust you and you discover after a while you can just hit a speed that suits you and you can keep moving. Building on success, you can shuffle round the block and then speed up with your leftover energy at the end. so you arrive through the gate really running and feeling you have achieved something. After further time of this you can go faster and for longer. You realise you can just keep on and on. And now you are running.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nada 2 ways

Thousands of words are written about God and they all fall short. But that doesn't stop our attempts to step onto the pages where 'the ink leaves only a blot'.

Here is that most refined of mystics, St John of the Cross:

nada nada nada nada nada
nada y au en el Monte nada

The best of this language points away from language. It deflects itself, tricks us with an allusion of a riddle inside a joke. It folds its arms and points both ways and says 'He went thataway!' It subverts the very moment of reading it.

You'd think i would know better, but of course i don't, so here is what i wrote, as a sort of joke really:

God is all there is
God is all there
God is all
God is

and here it is again, all in a rush, an exhalation, un petit mort.

Hah. Actually i need to confess. This form of it was not discovered in some deep meditative state. This is what it looks like when you tweet it, because Twitter doesn't do lines or paragraphs. It was a fortunate discovery however.

God is all there is God is all there God is all God is God