Today is the fourth anniversary of the most destructive of the Christchurch earthquakes, and I was part of a group which hosted a site for the River of Flowers commemoration at Tautahi Pa/The Bricks, just across the road from my home.
Yesterday I collected the resources for this from Healthy Christchurch, including about 200 flowers which had been generously donated by Moffat’s Flower Company Ltd. I put the flowers into buckets of water, which sat overnight in my bath. The bathroom was filled with the divine scent of roses.
Roses in the bathtub
Before 9am I set up a table on the riverbank with cards (for writing messages of hope) and pens carefully secured inside a plastic bag as it was drizzling. I realised I needed to also have a sheet of instructions, and went home to organise this. Looking out the window I saw a man with a bicycle making off with my bag of cards and pens! I ran out and hailed him, and he returned, explaining that he’d thought someone had left rubbish and he was clearing it away. I was glad he hadn’t tried to take the table as well.
Before noon I took my five buckets of flowers across and settled down to greet people. Workers on the river restoration had put a barrier across the water just west of the bridge, and I intended to encourage everyone to go nearer to the bridge to ensure their flowers would float downstream.
A woman drove up, got out with a bunch of roses, and headed towards the bank above the barrier. I was ready to make contact if she looked my way, but thought it best not to interrupt her personal commemoration. After she’d left her roses slowly floated down, accompanied by a posse of ducks. To my relief they (the roses, not the ducks) found the gap in the barrier and continued on their way under the bridge.
By the time our ceremony started at least 70 people had gathered. Richard Tankersley, representing Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, offered a mihi and karakia, speaking about the significance of the area and the date. At 12.51pm I sounded a gong for two minutes’ silence, after which a piper played a lament. People then tossed flowers into the river and we watched them float away.
Flowers heading downstream
Afternoon tea at our Community Cottage completed the afternoon’s event, with flowers and cards left by the river until early evening in case others wanted to make a personal commemoration. When I looked at the messages later I found that many had written about remembrance rather than hope. One person had attached a piece of rosemary “for remembrance”.
Tree of Hope
I returned home to find a message from Juliet Batten in Auckland. She’d been thinking of Christchurch and had created a shrine with roses for this fourth anniversary.
“The local folk were pleased to share
a time where we could show we care.”
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