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Just before four in the afternoon on January 20, a 6.3 earthquake struck beneath Eketahuna (which small town I was told is a metaphor in NZ for being in the boonies) on the lower North Island.

Madeline and I were walking in Queen Elizabeth park when it struck. What an amazing experience! Especially in retrospect, once we knew the earthquake was not centered near Wellington, and that no one had been killed or injured.

We could see the ground around us rise and fall and shift, and the feeling of the ground rolling, lifting, and dropping under us was extraordinary. Scary in the moment. We each reached out a hand to the other’s shoulder, tears sprang to Madeline’s eyes, and the movement seemed to go on for a long time.

We knew it was a big earthquake and in that first moment, we did not know where it was. M. got through to Wellington and got the all-clear before the connection cut out. We walked back to town watching the sea, ready to run inland if the sea sucked out.

The experience made it clear that fear is about anticipation, not the current moment. When something dire is happening, the focus of consciousness narrows to that very instant.

When I got back to my room, everything small on the dresser had fallen over.