Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Magnitude of a Moment

We've all heard the saying "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take your breath away." For most of my life, there was just one thing that stole my breath and that was being Mom to my precious son. I never imagined anything would be better than that. Lately, at the end of yet another long and incredible day, I realize that my breath is being stolen multiple times a day. I can't believe my life, it's so different than before, and it's just magical. Still nothing is better than being Mom, but, oh boy, is this new life surreal.

On April 16th, 2016 Ecuador was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the northern coast. Since then the same area has been jiggled and jolted by literally thousands of aftershocks or smaller quakes. Many areas along that coastal region suffered from what ranges from destruction to complete devastation.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Now I know you're asking, "Scarlett, how in the world is this a good thing? You just said your life is magical. Are you warped?" My answer is No. The earthquake was a terrible event and I still hurt every day for the people on the coast, some of whom have relocated to Cuenca and I've had the pleasure of meeting them. I'm working on several projects to help the efforts and there isn't a single day that I don't connect in some way with the efforts. But amid all the hate, prejudice, intolerance, and vitriol in main stream and social media from my home country, the response to the catastrophe here renews my faith in humanity. It isn't all lost. And if we try hard enough, we can share enough love to make a difference.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Those of us in the Andean region of the country felt the quake, but there was no damage here except for a few minor cracks in the plaster, which is fairly common. But the people of this region want to help. The expat community and the local Cuencano community have all reached out to help in any way we can find to do so. In the beginning, help meant sending truckloads of water, diapers, canned foods etc. And then the bigger problem of finding shelter for over 25,000 newly homeless and beginning the rebuilding of the coast. Several organizations are working to help the people and the animals of the region. Bamboo is being harvested from the northern regions and supplied for rebuilding efforts as it's proven to be a versatile and earthquake stable building material as well as sustainable. There are many volunteers but the largest need, of course, is money. And how do you keep the dollars coming for a long term project like this?  Many programs, projects, and events are beginning to take place to raise those extra dollars.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

A group of Cuencano artists formed a coalition to raise funds for the rebuilding effort in Canoa. It was a group of visual artist, writers, actors and musicians who planned to combine their talents and offer a one of a kind event. They called their new group Unidos Somos Mas (Together We Are More) and invited the expat writers to join in the event by writing about their personal experience with the earthquake.  I joined right away. I sat down and began to write. When I stopped writing, the tears still streaming down my face, I realized this piece was much more poetic than anything I have ever written.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

I enlisted the help of my very dear friend and poet Barbara Snow to help me arrange my words. We made a few different passes at editing it until we were satisfied and I read it Thursday evening at two different events. The first event was a Gringo event called the Cuenca Art Walk and the other was the Unidos Somos Mas event called A Night of Poetry and Art for Manabi.  Manabi is the province most destroyed by the April earthquake.

Photo courtesy of John Keeble

Here it is, the first time published, for you and I hope you like it. If it inspires you to want to give to the cause, I highly recommend Hearts of Gold and please earmark it for the Proyecto Saman en Canoa. I'll include the link about the Canoa project at the bottom of the blog, you know, just in case.

                                            The Magnitude of a Moment

Written By Scarlett Braden

Arranged By Barbara Snow

A shiver and a pause.
                              One thousand one. One thousand two.
A quiver and a question.
                              One thousand three. One thousand four.
A rumble and recognition.
                              One thousand five.  One thousand six. 
A roll and a call to action.
                              Seven seconds.
Jump into the doorway.
               Just numbers to some. For others --- everything.

               A new experience.
               A moment of wonder.
               An earthquake.
 A moment of curiosity.
               Is this one close?
A moment of clarity.
               Earthquakes don
t occur near here.
               This must be really strong someplace far away.
A moment of confusion.
               The ground is still shaking.
               A long time.
               Will it ever stop? 
A moment of peace.
s stopped.
               Only the hanging fixtures still sway.
I run to my computer, check my newsfeed.
               Yes, others felt it too.
               But how strong was it?
               Where was it?
               Is everyone okay?
Facebook and email our interconnected lines of communication in a foreign land.
We were eating dinner. I was in bed. We were taking a stroll, I was washing dishes,
               Where were you? A soccer game, a volleyball game, a parade.
ust another Saturday evening, until…
               Until 7.8.
In mere moments, it flashes across the web.
               An earthquake off the coast of Ecuador. A 7.8!
               More Facebook messages, more emails. Is everyone all right? And we wait and we wait.
               An hour ticks by. Facebook sends a message…
"You are in a dangerous place. Are you safe?" 
               Yes, I
m safe. My friends begin to check in: Yes, I’m safe. One by one and two by three.
               So many still silent.
Family and friends around the world hear the news.
               Are you okay? We heard. Whats happening there? Should you leave?
               Im afraid and worried. Were anxious.
By daybreak the news is bad. Destruction and desolation.
               Missing friends. Is it  lack of power, lack of internet, or something more deadly?
               Should I stay calm? Worry? Be sad?
7.8  Just numbers.
               Numbers that mean time,
A day of disbelief. And we ponder.
               What can I do? How can we help? What does this mean?
               In social media posts, family and friends search for loved ones who are not responding.
               And then, a city galvanized into action.
               Everyone racing.  A nation in unity. One purpose.
               Help the coast. Ayúdanos.
A plea for help. Ayida.
               Help me. Ayuadame.
Today everyone is Ecuadorian. By birth or by choice. 
               Discounts if you buy to donate to the coast. We’ll box your purchases for transport.
               Every tear shed is for our fellow Ecuadorians. Extra tip jars for the coast.
               We all volunteer together, the Quichua, the Incas, the Spaniards, the Gringos. 
               We ask our friends, our family, our co-workers, and our social media friends.
               Please help us.
Ayúdanos, por favor.
Yes, I am okay. Physically.
               My body, my home, my pup, my family are still whole.
But my heart - my heart is shattered.
My soul - my soul is tormented.
My voice - my voice sobs and quivers, like the quake itself.
For the lost loved ones, the broken families, the lost pets, the crumbled homes, the shattered             dreams.
For the victims, there is so much lost. Every family affected. A lost family member, a friend, a home. Lost  transportation, heirlooms, mementos or livelihood. An uncertain future.
The victims have so many questions. Should I go or should I stay? How will we survive? How  can I provide? What does my neighbor need? What have I left to share?
The aftershocks shake and jiggle.  Will the glass stop breaking, the buildings stop falling, the cracks stop opening. The tangible evidence of my history is gone.
Dare I try again? How do I start? And where?
We are strong. We have friends. We are family. We will rise again.
Thank you to every countryman, foreigner, and nation,
               to every heart, soul and body who is doing what they can to help us.
               We will not forget you.
Viva Ecuador!

©2016 Scarlett Braden & Barbara Snow All rights reserved

When you click on the website at the top right is a button to select English version and at the bottom of the page is a button to donate.

Click here for information about Proyecto Saman en Canoa

 Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog!

Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca even more!


  1. Stunning, my friend!


    1. Thank you for your kind words, they mean the world to me.

  2. I am so proud of your talent and your caring. This is now our home and we love Ecuador. Bless all the efforts you are involved in to help our new country.