how on earth…

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.

the fates thread the loom

 

before new years eve……

thick smoke envelopes our valley

coats our tongues

slipping particles into the blood stream

rivers and dams collapse under the weight

of the hot dry winds and fierce Sun

forests have sent up smoke signals

all is not well

heed the children.

 

and then one day  Fire came

orange red  flames licking

gorging on grasses wood,

devouring the tree the spider the worm

those that could scattered

rose up into the air

some diving to ground trembling bodies pressed suffocating

others fled running  for their lives

some hid to be chanced over, others fried.

 

I waited at the house

in an outfit

I had carefully selected and laid out the night before

jeans and belt

pink woollen socks big boots

singlet, green checked woollen shirt

blue crocheted woollen beanie

thick golden gloves and a face mask.

the hoses were in place

half a dozen of them in snake formation around the house.

the job description was easy,

apply water

to verandah and under

up the poles and onto windows

even the walls.

water water water

next hose next verandah repeat

oh and stay alive.

 

strangely calm

waiting, watching the advance

creeping into the bush like a thief in the night

with  an almighty roar.

John in his red woollen shirt ,

hoody up and mask on,

starts the pump

water is running from every hose

the verandah wetted from the night before

but we hose it all again.

the gutters are filled with water

watching

a ring of fire at the dam

the shack goes up

a loud  whump signals the end of  Rebeccas BMW.

fire scaling up tree trunks

gobbling shrubs ferns grasses

stringybarks bush-cherry

angophoras red gums

snapping leaves leaping dancing cavorting

and coming directly towards us.

it  picks up pace coming up the slope from the dam

a wall of flame approaches the south verandah.

John is calm

he has a the high pressure hose

fire meets water and determination

water holds

John stands firm.

 

He built this house

made every brick

from the earth in front of the house,

it literally rose up out of the ground

one brick at a time

for over 30 years a family home

one that now rings to the tune of grandchildren,

blood sweat tears births deaths marriages

this house alive, pulsates with love.

 

inside smoke is thick

visibility zero

bath tub full of skanky dam water

Zoes woollen blankets a sodden heap on the floor

a good escape to crawl under to steady the breath

before returning  outside to the heat,

the inferno the hoses and water.

embers skipping onto the roof

making holes in the clear roof panels

curling embers meet sodden verandah and vanish

no burns on the boards, no blisters on our bodies.

a window cracks in the bedroom

the window where our mobiles sit to get reception.

 

dust soot ash and charcoal coat everything

charred trunks and limbs

a whole understorey has disappeared.

will we see now?

will we wake to reality?

our Planet home

our beautiful beautiful home

trying to deal with our consumables, our plastics

our fumes our anger.

too much she cries

too much,

forgive us for we do know what we do

we know

that’s the tragedy

we know.

 

some days after the main fire front had passed

trees still smouldering

roots deep in the ground  burning,

many elder trees are continuing to fall

walking on crusty black ash

the ground as if plowed up

giant holes where once a root system lived

patterns of ash like crop circles

skirting fallen trees

shallow breathing the air

smoky thick and relentless

visibility limited.

we leave our burnt forest

drive through a silent world

a charred smouldering valley,

some neighbours houses mere rubble

power poles smashed sideways

wires curling in chaos

cows dead.

We come to our village

half the main street has been smashed

this is my new world.

 

 

the tower has fallen

the spin of ideas and aspirations has tripped

been knocked sideways

taken a slam.

the Fates thread the loom

again

They weave

brightly coloured lights bounce from fingertips

glories rarely glimpsed

consciousness stretches

tugs

elemental energies dance

holding holding holding

while the tapestry is woven

the women are Singing.