Finding the ground beneath your feet

A week or so ago, Andre the small black cat had an operation to remove an abscess from his inner ear. Post op, he was forced (oh the humiliation) to wear a plastic collar to stop him from scratching his stitches. Poor boy, he spent the first day or so, whiskers curtailed, crashing into everything. And yet surprisingly quickly, he adapted and learned to feel his way around.

On Sunday night, standing at the oven making frittata, I caught part of a conversation between dinner guests about an athlete training with a large plastic collar. I think I have this right, but apparently in training for some kind of ironman race, he’ll go to a very stony riverbed, put the collar around his neck, fix his sight on a destination and run. Unable to look down and see the ground beneath his feet, he has no choice but to feel his way to his destination.

I began to draft these thoughts on Monday night, intending to say that perhaps there is something to this collar thing, learning to find your way without being able to see you feet. And I’d been planning on posting this on Tuesday after I’d had an opportunity to photograph the cat with the collar. But at 12.51pm yesterday afternoon, Christchurch was struck by its second major earthquake in 5 months and this time it was devastating.

Over the last several months, Christchurch has experienced thousands of aftershocks in the wake of the major quake which struck last September. Its citizens have become very weary of the ground beneath their feet. With good reason. This week, it brought the city to its knees.

The television footage shows a place resembling a war zone. Rescue workers carefully working their way through the rubble. Families of those still trapped in buildings, sitting silently in vigil, their gaze downcast. Home owners slowly putting one foot in front of the other, picking their way the wreckage of their houses. Mostly patient people standing in line for water.

This country is a small one, New Zealanders hardly ever more than 2 degrees of separation from anyone. I feel deeply for those who are struggling to find, let alone trust, the ground beneath their feet. I feel deeply for those who less than 36 hours ago were so sure of their destination and it changed in the blink of an eye.

Tonight, beyond contemplation of the notion that we might choose not to see our feet but instead feel our way, I’m just so very grateful that for now,  I am sure of the ground beneath my feet. And I’m profoundly grateful for the good people in Christchurch who are there to help tonight and in the days and weeks to follow. There to take someone’s hand and guide them across unstable ground and to put a hand on a shoulder and gently but firmly give them direction.