A Day of Reflection

Sunday marked the passing of one year since the 8.8 earthquake and tsunamis, and we spent the morning watching news programs that captured the events from beginning to end. We sat on the couch, holding one another, crying. We cried for our own experiences, and even more so, for the tragic losses that others had undergone. Although life has returned to normal, under the surface, emotions and psyche are still in turmoil. There are some events in life that are too traumatic to just put aside.

February 27, 2010 has changed the way that we live life, and has forever removed any simplistic innocence in how we go about it. There is always the knowledge that it can happen again, and probably will in what remains of our lifetime.

One of the many changes that I find myself is less neuroticism about taking care of or even having possessions. My family would always laugh about how I would rewrap, individually, the fine silverware after a dinner. It was a purchase to last for future generations, and I had wanted to preserve their appearance. However, for months after Feb. 27, these “precious” belongings would find themselves jumbled together in a pile in the china cabinet. It took half a year before I was ready to compromise, and at least stack them neatly in boxes… forget the individual wrappers.

The massive bookcases are still standing in the place to where they had shimmied. I haven’t had the psychological strength to remove all the books, push the cases back into place, refit the shims underneath, and then reorganize the books. The bookcases are happy where they are standing, and haven’t moved anymore, at least not noticeably. Until the ground finally finds some peace, I’m reluctant to expend the energy in constantly putting them back into place.

Three days ago, we finally bought the first of many needed cans of paint, to start repairing and refreshing the apartment. Although our building has sustained the quakes well, having been built upon a hill of rock, there are cracks in every room.

For the moment, the can of paint and brushes are sitting on the bar, waiting patiently for the day when the creative tension has built to such an extent, that all else will be put aside, and the first brush stroke applied.

We are more conscious about keeping water on hand. It is the one element that humans can definitely not live without, and having been reduced to gathering water from whatever means available, I find that it is much easier to recycle empty bottles. The water is frequently changed, having been used to sustain all of our potted plants. Just knowing that they are filled and waiting on the balconies provides a comfort.

In addition to water, we are careful to keep supplies in the house. We’ve replaced the candles used last year, always have basic food essentials on hand, and keep our sleeping bags, air mattresses and tent in the car. Our suitcases are always at hand, and frequently only partially unpacked from the last trip. Clothes and shoes to quickly change into are never far from the bed. It’s important to always be ready to run.

The most surprising change in our psyche is that we want the next replica (aftershock) to occur, just so we can relax. We know that they’re coming, eventually, and there’s such an emotional release to just get it over and done with. Living in Chile is living with occasional quakes. The problem is that now, we want our fear fed.

In addition to wanting our fear fed, we also tempt fate. We long for normalcy in a world subject to the whims of nature, and thrust ourselves into the full throes of embracing life and freedom in the captivity of Earthly turmoil.

For our day of remembrance, my loving man and myself first joined his Mom and cousin Maka for Buffalo Wings, Chilean style, meaning that merken was the pepper of choice, and sausages from Chillen were mingling with the poultry. Then, with tummies floating in heat and fat, hopped a bus to the municipal stadium (which in and of itself can be a much scarier experience than anything nature can throw at us), to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with about 12,000 others to watch U. of Concepcion lose shamefully to U. of Chile. The sun was shining, the fans were in full regalia, and the wood bleachers hard, splintering and warped. We loved every minute of feeling that all was right in our world.

After a long, leisurely walk home, we settled in to watch a news program featuring a chronological unfolding of the previous year’s February 27. Then just as we were about ready to doze off, Mother Earth decided that it was feeding time again, and gave us a hearty and long 6.1, not only to serve as a reminder, but also because She can.

We finished the evening wide awake, watching for the four-leaf clover wind chimes to move, waiting for the next shake.

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