creating beautiful journals and books
It is now the beginning of February. January has passed and I still don’t feel ready for the year ahead. Outside the window, the crab apple tree is nodding in the breeze, the lawn is parched, cracked and bare in parts. The naked lady lilies are blooming shameless pink (too soon!) in what is left of the vegetable garden.
It could be easy to be complacent and to imagine the fires that ravaged our small coastal communities have done their damage and moved on. But all is not well. Australian wildfires have devoured millions of hectares in the past few months. Thirty three people have lost their lives, the destruction of flora and fauna is unimaginable and over 3000 homes have been destroyed.
The south east of New South Wales is not the only place that’s burnt and parched. But here, whole towns have been wiped off the map, friends and neighbours have lost all their worldly goods, businesses have burnt down or collapsed, highways have been closed for weeks. Towns have run out of water due to fires and drought. Some families have packed up and evacuated six times. Others have packed up and left for good.
We may not have lost our homes, but most of us have lost our peace of mind. Many people I talk with are traumatised by the force and scale of what has been described as a humanitarian disaster.
I am finding it hard to settle at anything. However, this week have started creating images for a ‘fire’book. It is inspired by my friend Dorothy who lives in the forest and whose handbuilt house has been under threat from fires four times in the past few weeks.
Here is the first image. It began with a collograph print which I have digitally manipulated to make the pattern. It reminds me of seen and unseen connections made by tree branches and tree roots in the forest.
Now the smoke has cleared briefly and we can see the sun, the new moon and stars, for the first time in weeks. We are the lucky ones. We have only evacuated once (so far).
Today, the temperature here on the coast is over 40 degrees. Wildfires to the west and south of us are burning out of control, threatening southern suburbs in Canberra, the national capital. The local fire fighters and emergency services have been on call for over two months. It’s a hugely heroic effort which seems relentless. Reinforcements have come from all around the world to assist in what must be horrific conditions, but still the fires burn out of control.
The only remedy is soaking rain.
More extreme weather conditions and gale force winds this weekend will fan the coals of ‘zombie’ fires along the coast and inland. Under normal conditions, those fires should be extinguished but now they smolder and leap back to life. Lightning from dry storms will ignite new fires in the forest, more plants, animals, birds and insects will be lost. These fires create their own unpredictable weather. I have experienced the fearsome force of a pyro-cumulonimbus cloud and it is terrifying.
All around, there are so many images of loss, grief and destruction. Driving through the extensive fire zones, it is remarkable how many homes have been saved when all around is burnt to ash. What a tribute to the fire fighters and all those who support them in so many ways. We owe them our lives.
I can only hope this massive ‘smoking ceremony’ will help clear the dross and complacency that has severely polluted our planet. May the undeniable effects of climate change around the world open human beings to awakened and enlightened ways of living. And may all the displaced people of the world find dignity, safety and peace.
All the best to you for the new year and an exciting and challenging new decade!
Below: Fires burning on the east coast of New South Wales. 1st February 2020.
Reference nsw rfs fires near me
Adventures of a mushroom-growing writer on the NSW south coast
Dr Emma Powell
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