Sunday in May.
I pause at the kitchen window, gaze out over my forest domain; a bounding moving shape catches my eye. Although it left its’ mothers’ pouch this summer I still know it as the Baby. It is zooming around leaping onto a fallen log disappearing in the brush appearing again the other side of the rusty burnt out van, another fast circle and abruptly stops. Mum comes into view already carrying a tiny new model in her pouch. She is in no hurry nibbling sweet green shoots.
Early morning sunlight streams into a sleepy world still autumn deep in shadowy places, last nights dew sparkles on the tall grasses and leaves of the aspiring return of growth.
In among the burnt forest still trembling on the edge of recovery or Not, three black swamp wallabies( an adolescent young male frisky with hormones comes into view) go about their Busy ness.
The question I had been pondering this morning over my bowl of porridge and not for the first time …….How on earth did they survive – the wallaby the snake ( sightings of red belly black and diamond python) the echidna, the goanna ( the big ancient one and a young fella) the bandicoot, birds ; when there is not a skerrick of unburnt land for miles around me, not a patch here in my 80 acres of forest or next door in Keiths or Patricks. Except for our house and they did not come in here.
I call this place an ark do I not as in an ark of possibilities for living in some other way – without locks or keys or alarm systems, without flush toilets, without dependency on the electricity grid And with Earth Bird Bee Animal and Other.
What did the snakes and goannas do holed up in their hollow logs when the logs caught on fire?
Perhaps like the stories I used to tell Kingston the wombat burrow attracted and became a refuge for forest creatures that crammed in and waited out the fire???
The stories always started ‘Once upon a time there was a little boy and his name was Kingston john who lived in a beautiful forest with all his kin. One day Kingston john and his friend Wa wa ( aka black swamp wallaby) decided to visit wombat.’ These stories often involved rescue missions/ magical tales that he joined in with as he grew older. Visiting wombat was about learning from a wise one who offered sage advice, blackberry cordial and scones.
An Other explanation???
It took water (lots) hoses pumps face masks for John and I to stop the fire from taking our house.
Perhaps some of the animals jumped in a dam doggy paddling round and round and round until the fire front passed. But then what?
The fires continued, trees burning for weeks, hot ashes everywhere, scorching beds of coals, thick choking smoke fumes . Can a snake or a skink slither over hot coals? And how about the teeny feet of skink or echidna?
It is still a mystery to me serving to remind of the intelligence wisdom resilience of creatures to survive and adapt. And to honour the potential for magic and miracle.
Their food sources were obliterated and our bird population has been drastically reduced. For weeks we put out food; pellets sweet potato carrots , fruit hanging in trees and maintained water stations.
We noticed wallabies hobbling with burnt feet and one day I came across a charred body and have since found some bones. They say over 1 billion animals ( does this include birds) died in this summers fires.
Seeing the exuberant play this morning was a gift in a time when grief is still raw and tender.
Yesterday I discovered a newly made burrow, a large earthworks of a very big wombat. The size of the tunnel tells us the size of the maker of the burrow not necessarily who might be living there. I went back this morning and the very big wombat was poised at the entrance to greet me.
Young fella wombat has been observed renovating a bank in the gully below the dam. This gully whose aspirations to become a rainforest has suffered a severe set back. In the early weeks after the fire young womby hid out under our bedroom verandah occasionally joining its mum and her new bubba in her burrow.
For so many this summer the world was turned upside down.
When I see the wild creatures going about their Business I offer up thanks for this glimpse into their world, taking note of their healthy appearance, their capacity to endure play and Be.
Today in this moment my forest domain is safe; the ark is fulfilling its mission of providing home and refuge, home for Other, home for Being to thrive.
May all Beings be so fortunate.