"Fuckity fuck fuck fucking fuck" is about the only (not particularly insightful) comment I've got on the Christchurch earthquake, and Russell has a series of useful links for those of us who can't do much except watch with stunned disbelief and wait to hear from our friends and loved ones.
But about the only thing that raised a wry smile yesterday was news that the Christchurch Art Gallery - one of the best in the country - is doing duty as a civil defence headquarters. Which sounds oddly right for a city with such a proud - and living - history of literature, theatre and art.
I'll throw open the comments for anyone in the arts to check in -- of course, it's most important to know people are safe and well. But anyone who has pictures, observations, stories and well-wishes from the cultural tip is welcome to join in. (I will ask, however, please be very mindful who's reading this. Don't spread speculation or misinformation, especially about deaths or serious injuries. There's also a time and a place for politics - this is not it.)
Until then, all I can think of is a wonderful piece by Christchurch poet Bernadette Hall (from her 2004 collection The Merino Princess: Selected Poems [Victoria University Press]):
Trilogy: Be Still and Know
(as painted by Joanna Margaret Paul)
The clouds stack up like gorgeous quilts on the horizon.
The body is the ship that will take us to an honest place.
I separate out the three paintings: the brown cross-hatch
of a haystack, a sky smear crossed with a scarlet thread,
a green ripple of reeds. I spread them room by room
through the high house as if they might hold everything
together she’s gone and done her crazy thing again.
I change my mind, I give them back to one another
above the bed. If I stretch my head back on the pillow
the whole psalm is there quoniam ego sum deus.
The sky is a radiant lake; the cloud, a beautiful swimmer.
I fear the terrible dancing shoes, the blinded boy.
You hid small treasures in the patchwork’s tricky pattern.
Maybe you just wanted to be able to find your way back.
In the face of unspeakable tragedy on a scale that's hard to comprehend, something so intimate and domestic might seem so far from the point it's almost tasteless. But I still hope Bernadette and so many others will find their way back. And if you can point the way, you'll have my gratitude.