Grief, the international currency


Just under three weeks on from the second Christchurch earthquake, and it seems the tragedies keep piling up. They’re still trying to recover bodies in the city of Christchurch, and now Japan is being put to the sword. Having been through both 7.1 and a 6.3 magnitude quakes, I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying a 9.0 must have been. After the tsunami alert here in NZ last year, I’ve had the odd dream where I’m at the coast and see the water rise up into a wave the size of a mountain. I know I’m not the only one. I have no idea if there are any readers of this blog in Japan or with loved ones in Japan, but if there are, know that our thoughts are with you. There’s a Māori phrase that is becoming almost a prayer for Cantabrians and New Zealanders in general. So from one earthquake-striken land to another – Kia Kaha; stay strong.

But tragedy isn’t always brought by the earth tearing itself apart beneath your feet. Sometimes it can be something that is utterly insignificant to the rest of the world, but which leaves you personally desolated. The thing is, grief doesn’t keep score. Tragedy isn’t a competition sport. But maybe that’s the point – we can find a way of surviving the unimaginable, but humans don’t live in a global setting: for the most part, our emotional lives really depend on the small things. The things we love, be they human, animal, material or spiritual. If we can be saved by an act of kindness from a stranger, we can also be lost by something as simple as dropping Aunty Mabel’s ugly vase. Straws and camels. Tipping points. Limits. Patrick Kavanagh was right. And if drama can be local and personal, tragedy is even more so.

Enough. Duende is curled up in the chair across from me, tut-tutting. Time for Federico Garcia Lorca.
Kia kaha.

Casida of the Lament

I have shut my balcony
because I do not want to hear the weeping,
but from behind the grey walls
nothing else is heard but the weeping.

There are very few angels that sing,
there are very few dogs that bark,
a thousand violins fit into the palm of my hand.

But the weeping is an immense dog,
the weeping is an immense angel,
the weeping is an immense violin,
the tears muzzle the wind,
nothing else is heard but the weeping.

– Federico García Lorca
(1898 – 1937)

translated by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili
From
The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca, edited by Francisco Garcia Lorca and Donald M. Allen

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