How do you explain what it is like to feel the earth under your feet move so much you can’t even walk? We live atop a living being, indeed the sees, rivers, soil and subsoil are all alive, so too are the vegetation, animals- of which we are just one species, air and the minerals that feed us. The earth is alive and forms part of an immense and complex system of life that we call the universe, but which in reality is made up of many diverse living things.
Almost a month has passed since the earthquake and yet it is still the main subject of most conversations, where were you when it happened? Did it affect you or anyone close to you? What did you/they do? How are you sleeping? Since it happened a lot of voluntary, organised and improvised help has been set up, money collected, and help-lines and information services put in place. Many people have lost their homes and won’t have one again for a long time. For the time being temporary structures have been put up to keep off the first signs of winter and everyone is praying for the rains not to come yet, even though they are due. Some people have lost everything. And we don’t really know the meaning of everything until it is gone. In some of the worst affected areas the “wave” swept away entire families, or the youngest members.
In terms of its intensity and repercussions the earthquake is still very much active, but the impact caused has created work for many years to come, more than four years, which is the term of government whose recent election coincides with these earthly times. Everything must change, project plans, budgets, national, social, family and personal priorities. Immediately after the earthquake you could see the fragility in people’s faces, people looked searchingly into each other’s eyes and everyone was very considerate. A thought that often crossed my mind was: “this person also experienced the earthquake, where was he/ she? What happened to him/ her? I tried to read from his face whether he or she was at peace or not, I am sure many people must have asked the same questions about others, or even about me.
Nothing is the same and yet everything goes on. The cracks are a constant reminder that our lives were “touched” by the earthquake, but that we did not “go under” and that we should give each other a helping hand. On the inside we feel the fear. On the outside there is so much to do in the area that was destroyed. A few days after the earthquake I heard someone who had visited the devastated area say “its all ruined, it is like being in a film, in a war”… How strange, the words he spoke are so true, and yet it is sometimes hard to really understand their eloquence: we could have died or remained alive. I wonder if there is something that stops people from thinking that they too could have lost everything.
Wars are also real and devastating. But there is one big difference, in an earthquake, as devastating as it is, life wins through. Tremendous damage is done, but it makes sense, even though it is hard to understand. In a war the only logic is the badness itself.
In order to live a lighter, more open and simple existence, we must all make an effort on a daily basis, there is no fixed recipe for this dish.
Elisabet Juanola Soria (Journalist)
Santiago - Chile