I create – in order not to cry. – Paul Klee – Painter
In 2010 and 2011, two major earthquakes and their aftershocks, decimated the city of Christchurch. After the disaster, the population dropped by 2.4% and was a marked switch for the city, which had an annual pre-quake population growth of 1%.
As we drove past Mount Cook in all its glory, and stopped at Lake Tekapo for a picnic in a field jumping with bunnies, we wondered what Christchurch would feel like nearly five years later. It is hard to find words to capture our experience but it was a city rising.
Amidst the empty lots and debris filled dumpsters, were jewels of creative genius that reminded us of a renaissance of sorts that we came to know so well in Europe. Our eyes darted from the crumbling cathedral to the shopping mall made out of shipping containers.
We stood in awe of the Cardboard Cathedral erected as an interim place of worship that somehow felt timeless and futuristic. We ordered burgers delivered to our table in pneumatic tubes in the historic 1932 High Street Post Office building. We watched families row peacefully on the Avon River where fences, gardens and the earth itself, has been offset along the fault trace. We frolicked at the Margaret Mahy playground; a huge brilliant section funded as a way to have joy at the center of the new urban footprint. Cafes hummed in the shadows of steel cranes. Our GPS found almost every road block and yet somehow the energy flowed seamlessly.
Assumptive World Theory (Janoff-Bulman, 1992) proposes that traumatic events are psychologically distressing because they shatter some of survivors’ fundamental assumptions about the world. When those assumptions are blown apart people proceed to form new beliefs by engaging with the world from new perspectives and creativity soars. It takes courage to be creative, and survivors often have a visceral connection to their renewed sense of personal power. To crumble or to fly is always a choice …
There was evidence of the trauma of this seismic disaster around every corner in Christchurch but what we will always remember was a palatable, momentous, burgeoning, radiant colorful, rising.
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