My local beach is scattered with broken scallop shells, the most fragments I have seen anywhere. As a child I remember seeing my first scallop shell, and marvelling at its beauty: the perfect fan, the little base, the one flat side and one scooped out. I enjoyed finding two halves and fitting them together, in wonder.

Emails have been pouring in, telling the stories of my friends who have survived the quake. This afternoon, I could bear it no longer. I took my spade and bucket and went down to the beach. The tide was coming in fast, bringing with it swirls of broken shells. As I gathered them, I looked for the whole shells, wondering how many I could find. Miraculously, some have survived intact.

Under the surface of the stories I’ve picked up a theme: retrieval. My brave and resilient friends are telling not just of the disaster, but also of the good. As I picked up one whole shell after another, I decided to put them together, with the fragments, in a shape that suggests an icon, a stained glass window, and stability.

I hadn’t been working long when a strange thing happened. I smelt incense: beautiful fragrance. Where it came from who knows, maybe some house on the cliff top, but it felt like a blessing.

For all those who have suffered the shattering of homes, hopes and human lives, I offer wholeness amongst the debris. May a new order emerge, and may goodness continue to be retrieved, more and more, until eventually the retrieval becomes stronger than the fragments, which nature will claim just as the incoming tide claimed my shrine.