Valentines Day quake a bumpy reminder of what really matters

Stuff.co.nz

Hundreds evacuated in central Christchurch after Sunday's earthquake.

Valentines Day and I'm hunched in a doorway, face to jowl with my elderly cat  as the house sways from side-to-side like an insignificant dinghy on rough seas.

The cat burps in my face and lies down, curling herself into a ball as the house shudders uncontrollably around us. Her indifference to danger is somehow comforting.

For some reason this big 5.7 magnitude earthquake isn't a surprise. Perhaps it's because we are so close to the 5th anniversary of the February 22, 2011 earthquake, that I feel like I've been holding my breath, waiting for another one to happen.

Nick Smith/ Volo Jetski Adventures GRAEME JOLLIFFE HAMISH PRINGLE/SUPPLIED SUPPLIED BRYN HILL BRYN HILL Supplied PETER COOK Iain McGregor CHRISTINE TUCKER Iain McGregor/FAIRFAX NZ GRAEME JOLLIFFE MIHCELLE O'BRIEN DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ Iain McGregor/FAIRFAX NZ FACEBOOK FACEBOOK ADELE MILLER GEOFF COLLETT JOHN WALKER/FACEBOOK TARYN MCFADDEN DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ DANIEL BURT DANIEL BURT TOM BURGESS Supplied JEFF TOLLAN JEFF TOLLAN

Cliffs collapsing at Sumner.

Huge clouds of dust rising in Sumner the moment the quake struck almost blocking the view.

Hamish Pringle and his family were no more than 200m from a cliff that collapsed during Sunday's quake.

A pair of friends found their walking track at Taylors Mistake began cracking beneath their feet during the quake.

Richmond Hill cliff collapse and dust over Sumner just after shaking stops (as seen from Scarborough Hill).

Richmond Hill cliff collapse and dust over Sumner just after shaking stops (as seen from Scarborough Hill).

People watch on as huge dust clouds rise have Talyor's Mistake, where a cliff collapsed in Sunday's earthquake.

Dust coming off slips at gun emplacements at Godley Head during earthquake.

Liquefaction on Linkwater Way in Parklands.

Christine Tucker's front fence after the quake.

Tina Bell at her house on Linkwater Way in Parklands with a pool that broke in the earthquake.

Huge clouds of dust rise in Sumner, almost blocking the view, following Sunday's earthquake. ,

Liquefaction is blocking this New Brighton street.

The Valentines day 5.7 quake caused more of the already damaged front of Christ Church Cathedral to fall away.

Danny Morris checks out the liquefaction outside his Broadhaven Ave house in Parklands.

China and dinnerware litter the floor in Briscoes after the shaking stopped.

Stock fell from shelves during the quake.

A bit of a mess at a garden shop Christchurch's eastern suburbs.

Briscoes is a complete mess following Sunday's earthquake.

Once again, liquefaction is a problem.

Rocks and boulders were shaken from cliffs Takamatua, Akaroa.

Visitors to the COCA gallery were evacuated when the Valentines day 5.7 quake hit.

Speights Ale House is a mess after Sunday's earthquake.

The 5.7 quake made a bit of mess at Speights Ale House in Christchurch.

Dust rises over the beach following the 5.7 earthquake near Christchurch on Sunday.

Parts of the Christchurch Cathedral have come away during Sunday's earthquake.

Buildings were evacuated after a 5.9 quake hit near Christchurch on Sunday.

Items were thrown from the shelf in this store during Sunday's earthquake in Christchurch.

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* Christchurch earthquake in photos
Insurers not expecting big claims 
Earthquake minister Gerry Brownlee says shake was expected

Often there's a fear beneath the surface of every morning. Will it happen today?

It subsided for a while. Gradually I stopped scrutinising the earthquake drums on the Geonet website, I walked through an underground car park, heart hammering. Wherever I go I still plan where I'd take cover should 'it' happen.

How safe do you feel in Christchurch?

Share your stories, photos and videos.

Some of these imagined scenarios would require me to do manoeuvres my middle aged girth is totally incapable of in a Briscoes aisle but having some sort of plan helps make me feel better. For the same reason my phone is always charged.

Are you ok? #eqnz That's what we message each other on Facebook after every quake. 

Maybe it's just me but whenever there's a quake, I'm jolted with five years of memories and moments. Shadows of people and their quake experiences overlap one another.

Dust clouds rise in Sumner following Sunday's large earthquake
Graeme Jolliffe

Dust clouds rise in Sumner following Sunday's large earthquake

For a long time I've tried to be OK. But I'm not strong, I'm not resilient. I'm anxious, scared, financially drained and exhausted from putting on a brave face. I'm sick of thinking about it and worrying about it. But, somewhat perversely, I worry that if I don't worry about it somehow I'm tempting fate.

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I'm still anxious about everything from multi-level buildings to shops with high aisles full of dinnerware. (Watch me walk rapidly past the Jamie Oliver range, inhaling like an asthmatic).

Sometimes I like to picture the earthquakes as a Vaudevillian-style villain, twirling its moustache, snapping its cape and breaking in to our lives to tip our lives up onto the floor. Alone I greet the villain in the door frame and say "aha, you have returned my old foe". Humour helps.

Five years ago on this day I interviewed a woman from Samoa about her experiences in the tsunami. She and her family had moved to Christchurch after their terrifying experiences only to find themselves living in a garage after the September 2010 quake.

She had told me about finding a dead baby relative on a beach after the tsunami. We had cried together. Her hands shook as she told me about her post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Because of what happend a week later, I never got to tell her story yet I often think of her around the time of the anniversary of that day.I didn't know much about PTSD then. But that was a different city. We were all different then. I really hope she reads this and gets in touch.

When she told me that she couldn't get her head around not being able to trust the very ground beneath her feet, and how it frightened her right down to her marrow, I thought I understood her but I didn't really get it then.
Now I stand in a doorway on Valentines Day, confronting the anxiety that rampages through my mind, upending everything, and I understand her words all too well.

Are we OK? I think so.

Perhaps the Valentines Day quake serves as yet another reminder that broken stuff is just broken stuff and nothing really matters, but the people you love and the people and burping cats who love you.

 - The Press

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