On a walk to Mona Vale last year, my three-year-old daughter made a sculpture. It was a few days after the big earthquake in June, and it was the first time we'd been out for a long walk. For a while, afterwards, you need to stay close to home. Immediately after a big earthquake, when the windows have stopped rattling and the ground is still again you hold the children close, and move around the house in a body. Your chest is tight and your breath is shallow and you stiffen when a truck rumbles past. Gradually the invisible ropes slacken, and you can bear for a child to be in one room while you're in another, or downstairs while you're upstairs, or even out in the garden while you're in the house. Gradually you stop expecting that at any minute there will be another earthquake.
At Mona Vale in June we sat on a bench in the weak winter sun, and watched army helicopters fly back and forth overhead. My daughter picked daisies and piled them on a leaf. We threw bread to the ducks. Purple crocuses were coming up under the oak trees. The ground had spread by the river, and muddy gouges seared the lawns. A minibus disgorged a party of Japanese tourists, who stood on the cracked driveway, blinking, and got out their cameras.
When we left, we floated the daisy boat in the river and watched the current take it.
May 2012 be less historic than 2011.
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