When I came to live in Australia, nearly thirty-seven years ago, hardly anyone outside of the country knew where it was. It was funny and sad at the same time. When the Olympics was held shortly after we were married I can remember reporters asking people if they knew where Australia was. Some were honest and shrugged and said ‘no’. Some said ‘yes’ and then identified it as the country, Austria, somewhere in Europe. Now we are known far and wide for the tragedy unfolding on our shores. I wasn’t going to keep writing about it, but several people have said to me that it has helped them to read some non-news words.

I have re-written this post three or four times now. The situation changes daily, both locally and nationally. It is like nothing any of us have experienced before.

10 January, clearest skies for a couple of weeks

Every morning I do a ‘mountain check’. One look and I see the air quality. That seems ridiculous to do since we are 1500 to 2000 miles away from where most of the fires are burning. But it is not just the fires, it is the drought, aided by the winds, that we are experiencing. We have some fires here, too, but because we don’t have the fuel load and because our area is not densely populated, it is a different situation. Can I see the mountain clearly or is the layer of haze still veiling it from view? Let’s just say our clear days have been so few in recent months that I’ve actually photographed the couple that we’ve had. Yesterday was one. Usually it is crystal clear blue sky here, day after day.  Two or three evenings ago, the dust and smoke haze was so thick I couldn’t tell if the sun had set or not. The smell of smoke is alarming and we are all on edge. This kind of persistent haze has never happened in the 28 years we have lived here.

Many of us are so broken hearted watching the devastation to the land and inhabitants that we love, we have a form of traumatic stress. Psychologists are telling us this is normal, because the circumstances are not. People feel helpless and because most of us are kind and compassionate, we want to stop the pain we see others experiencing. One manifestation of this has been the outpouring of food and clothing and household items donated to the victims. Sadly, this has created another crisis. The inescapable reality is that most of the victims have no place to keep anything. They have lost their homes, cars, sheds…everything. They can only use what they can keep with them in rescue accommodation, and what they can eat without refrigeration. There is still no power in many places.

The agencies helping people are urging us to give money. Someone said to me it seems soulless to offer money, but in this case it is the most useful thing those of us at distance can do. If you are inclined to give money, Donations to New South Wales Rural Fire ServiceVictoria’s Country Fire Authority and South Australia’s Country Fire Service will go towards bushfire efforts. Do not donate to anything that sounds unfamiliar because the scammers are already at work. I’m thinking there is a special place inside a firestorm for scammers, thieves and arsonists, all three of which we are seeing, thankfully only as a small minority. If you are wanting to give money to help animals, Wires and Birdlife Australia are reputable organisations, as well as the ones in this previous post

I ride a daily swell of emotion, occasionally am broken, and then regenerate. A recent occasion was a video taken on Kangaroo Island. More than a third of the island has already been decimated by fire, and the wildlife with it. Today, as I write, the fires have flared and worsened and more homes, animals and habitat have been lost. The people in the largest town were trapped and had moved to the shoreline near the water to wait out the latest fires. The video clip to which I refer was shot by a resident in the previously burned out areas as they hunted to find surviving koalas. A scan of the inside of their car revealed at least five koalas, huddled in and on top of the seats. It was a punch in the guts to see the stunned look on the poor creatures’ faces, traumatised but quietly, awaiting help. I’ve seen many photos and videos of firefighters and others giving them drinks from their water bottles, the koalas gently and eagerly accepting the help. The extreme importance of this colony of koalas is that they were a healthy, breeding population. Chlamydia has infected the koala population on the mainland for years. Experts have tried to manage it but in some areas it has effected 100% of the population. 

To what extent we have contributed to climate change is still in question. What isn’t in question is that the environment is very different than it has been in living and recorded history. We have been warned over and over about erratic weather patterns, violent storms, fires and floods. We have not responded effectively. If this isn’t a wakeup call, I don’t want to see what it will take to create one. At the very least, the way we live is not a sustainable and loving way to treat our planet. This week I have learned that 2019 was the hottest and driest in Australia since records started, in 1900. Our beautiful country was uniquely adapted to its normally dry conditions, but this is beyond…

Remnants of the dust storm last night, 11 January

Last night we experienced the most violent dust storm any of us can remember. As I walked to take this photo this morning, rubbish bins and flower pots were strewn along the road, evidence of the winds. The grit in my eyes from just that five minute walk is reflected in the photo. For the second time in a week, the small amount of rain that came was in the form of mud. The windows are streaked with it, having been cleaned only five days ago from the last pitiful rainfall of 3mm (about 1/8th inch).

dirty rain

Our national broadcaster, the ABC, has aired a donation message using their theme of ‘We are One’. We are indeed. The vision was edited to show the devastation but also the positive work that is being done. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing all that vision at once, but I went into the ‘ugly cry’ and felt terribly sad for a few minutes, which helped me release some of the emotion. And then I started feeling a bit better, for seeing the ways in which our country and the world have come together. We are extraordinarily grateful for the world’s well wishes and donations. We will recover, but we will never be quite the same.

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. –Hemingway

All photos straight out of the camera, no retouching, only cropping.

The date on this post should actually be 11 Saturday January, in case you are confused by the timing of things I refer to. Either WordPress has not figured out how to post on local times, or I have not seen how to do it. Small problems.