Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stark reminder in the air

We're into our second day of completely smoke-haze covered skies here in outer metro Melbourne. The rest of the state must be under the same conditions. More is to be expected into next week. It's so thick today that the hills, right in front of our faces usually, are hardly visible if at all.

It is truly heart breaking. I got up to go to the gym this morning and the sun was red. A glorious, unnatural, surreal red. I took a photo but it doesn't do the big angry fireball nor the macabre orange-filled sky much justice.

Last night, the moon was magnificent. It's a half moon now. Through the smoke screen, it shone a brilliant orange. I took these photos after 11pm at night and yet it was out, shining tantalizingly in full view of our front porch. I stood in the relative darkness, scanning my eyes across the sky. Not a star could be seen. The street light glowed in what looked like mist on a cold winter's night. But the heavy, unpleasant smell of thick smoke in the air and filling my lungs left me in no doubt.

Again, photos here do not give the majestic moon any justice. It was huge, as if it had been hung there by some massive unseen hand. Such a shame I've not learned yet to capture the moon looking as large as it really is because we get the most phenomenal moon rises here every month.

What you may not properly see is the deep aubergine colour of the sky. It was, quite simply, stunning last night here.

The sunsets since Sunday night, a day after the fires first started, have been equally as surreal. Beautiful yet kind of hard to appreciate because you know just how much suffering and impact has happened for you to be viewing such an amazing array of colour across the sky. My computer isn't representing the richness of the colours very well, I haven't corrected them at all yet.

I am trying hard to find the beauty in this forced change. I truly am.

It is interesting to me, with my book writing on hold during this trying week of emotions (my heart is mostly "out there" with the souls lost, the souls searching, the survivors and all the untold animal and plant life lost that we may never fully realise), that this is very familiar territory.

Five years ago, Steve and I were going through our own monumental, life-changing crisis. Coming to terms with the devastation, the survivor guilt, the desperate need not to be engulfed whole. We were just two individuals, so tiny, insignificant in the wide world.

I see on a grander scale the absolutely heart-wrenched need for able-bodied, affected but much less so, people on our periphery who clamoured to do anything they could to ease our suffering. There wasn't much they could do. But they did it. The very, very few broke through and did it. Thank God for them.

Now, out of nowhere today as I drove home from my workout, my lungs so filled with smoke they felt like they were on fire (and that was inside an air conditioned building), another small unexpected piece of healing was given to me quite out of the blue.

I see more clearly now that back then, and in the years since when people have offered us their genuine gestures, those comparitively small offers were so sincere. They were all those people knew how to try and give back. To us, it was like tiny pebbles being chucked into a bottomless, cavernous pit.

That was not the point. It was NEVER the point. The size, the frequency, the duration of the giving was not ever the point. The point was that it was offered. How very blessed were we. This is the very thing that keeps the human spirit connected.

And today, as I drove home realising this, I tuned in to a local talkback station and learned that they are already rallying to create community gardens. "A place of healing, of coming together, of regrouping..." I cried then. I am crying now.

Out of this will surely come so much good. It has taken absolutely unthinkable loss and suffering. The impact was tremendous and the fallout will continue into the weeks and months and, on a lesser scale, years from now. However, the foundations we all have been provided to now come together are incredibly poignant and meaningful.

I hope we never lose our sight now. Like my masthead says....

Knowing what's important is what's important.

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