Australia Burns

‘It was once a beautiful city by the east coast of Australia known for its warm weather, azure blue bays, many majestic park lands, vast open spaces and clean air. That was before the fires came’

I wrote this over a month ago to go with some photos I took from the top of our local Westfield building early one Sunday morning while most of the city was still sleeping. It appealed to my interest in apocalyptic style movies and books, and I had two story lines rolling around my head. One of them I wrote as a short story for a competition, but there was a whole book in me wanting to come out.

This feeling now feels far too close to our reality here in Australia, and my desire to write these stories has been extinguished. The flames devastating this country sucked out the oxygen of the emerging seeds for these stories. The last month has been soul destroying and horrendous. Our firefighters have worked tirelessly for a very long time to keep as many people safe, but not without some losses, both lives and livelyhoods. Our ABC have done a fantastic job in keeping everyone informed https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/

Here is Sydney, where I live, a thick smoke has blanketed our city for what seems forever. The atmosphere is grey and depressing. I flew into Sydney airport on New Year’s day and the ‘view’, if you can call it that, had me in tears. Grey fog like air covered all the loved landmarks, and there was a rancid smell of smoke welcoming us as we descended the steps of the shuttle bus from the plane.

Our air quality, normally clear and healthy, has been skyrocketing on the AQI, some days over 2000. Healthy levels should be less than 100! I don’t suffer from any breathing problems or asthma, but in this smoke even I have noticed a heaviness and shortness in my breath when walking.

But we are the lucky ones here in Sydney. We are not in the fire danger zones and often live in air-conditioned houses with our comfort intact.  Tornado like fires have not ravaged our lives and our homes are not demolished in the tracks of the burning flames. Our lives here in the city are as normal as can be under the circumstances; people are safe and appear to go on like they have before. And yet, do they?

I know I have felt the effects of the fires on my soul. I have cried over the devastation and the horrifying photos and stories posted on Facebook and other websites. I have wanted to stay informed, but part of me have also wanted to shut myself away from it. I have felt helpless and useless. I have reached out and said comforting words where needed, but never felt it was enough. I have adopted a koala and donated money in my small way. I have felt a need to be KIND. To do SOMETHING.

In the last few days I have noticed online posts are changing. We seem to be starting the new decade with a new mantra. From photos of devastation, anger, despair and name blaming; to a deep need to help and be kind to others. So many stories of normal everyday people showing enormous generosity and kindness. Like a chemist on the Sth Coast keeping his business open and providing free medication to people who have fled their homes and lost everything.

Big businesses are getting behind the kindness wave too, e.g. Airbnb have set up a link to Open Homes, for hosts opening up their places for free to people in need of shelter. Many donation links are popping up and groups are being set up to coordinate help. This morning I joined an animal rescue craft group and will knit pouches and nests. It’s a small act, but lots of small gestures add up to big outcomes.

Maybe that is the ONE POSITIVE in this tragedy; people starting to care for each other and for our environment. Something we should have started many many years ago. Why didn’t we? Who knows? Our own greed or maybe our beautiful Australian  relaxed  ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We don’t want to lose that feeling, but we must face reality when needed. Our environment needs looking after NOW or our future generation will never know what it means to breathe in clean air. The fires Australia has witnessed this season feels like nature is giving us a wake up call; shouting ‘sit up and listen to who is boss’; Mother Earth. This has nothing to do with politics; it is something we as humans need to do no matter what we believe in.

If you feel the same as I do and want to help there are many options. I list some of them below, but you can find many more online. Let’s fuel the flames of KINDNESS, and keep this earth and Australia beautiful.

Thank you for reading and for any support you can offer. Please feel free to add any comments or links to sites or groups helping out.

The RFS  https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/volun…/support-your-local-brigade

Vinnies Bushfire Appeal  https://donate.vinnies.org.au/…/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal…

Wires https://www.wires.org.au/

WWF Bushfire Rescue https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency

Wildlife Victoria https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/

Koala Ark https://www.aussieark.org.au/koala-ark/

Salvos https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/

The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/

Givit  http://www.givit.org.au/

Animal Rescue Craft Guild https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/

AirBnB free homes, https://www.airbnb.com.au/openhomes/disaster-relief/bushfire-new-south-wales-

Thanks Giving Dinner

Short story written for competition. Only prompt was this picture had to be the opening scene. Didn’t win , but I loved writing the story

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‘Is that a chip?’ Moira thinks out loud leaning across to pick up the sparkling wine glass. The table is set with luxurious silver ware, sparkling glasses and perfume rich flowers from the garden. Ready for her distinguished guests.

‘Oh damn, I am down to the last of my mother’s best set. Must be more careful when I clean them. I cannot replace them,’ Moira thinks to herself.

Dinner is ready and the smell of roast turkey with all the trimmings is wafting from the kitchen.

‘Hope there is enough this year for all of us. They come hungry and dig in like it’s their last meal. For some it may be,’ Moira fights back a lonely tear making its way down her cheek.

‘Must be happy and grateful tonight. It is Thanksgiving Day’ She reminds herself and puts on some cheery music, trying to fight back the memory of 3 years back.

The doorbell rings twice and Moira opens to greet all her guests. They come together all dressed in their best Sunday suits and dresses.

‘Thank you for inviting us again Moira. How have you been?’ Frank asks as he leads the group into Moira’s dining room. His face weather-beaten and red from too much alcohol over the years and his suit worn and frayed at the ends.

Moira smiles without answering. They all know.

‘So good to see you all’ Moira announces noticing Lily admiring the silverware running her finger across the smooth lines. Lily is wearing a long 70s dress in silver herself. Her unwashed hair has been brushed. She looks almost attractive if not for the dark sunken eyes and bruises on her arms.

‘What’s for dinner Moira?’ Tom asks as he sits himself next to Moira. The hungry one, Tom is. Also the youngest at barely 24. He joined in the annual dinner last year invited by Tammy after Dave left the city.

‘Just vanished one day,’ Tammy told them all ‘no farewell, just took his few belongings and left,’

‘We are going to have Roast Turkey Tom, hope you all like it. I have tried a new stuffing this year,’ Moira tells them all.

‘I liked the old stuffing’ Gary quips up looking frightened. He doesn’t like change. Has never moved from his tiny place in the city.

‘You will love this one too Gary’ Moira reassures him patting his shoulder as she gets up.

‘Tammy and Tom, please help me,’

The young couple jump up eager to help, hoping to grab a morsel before the others.

Trays of food is brought in and placed on the table to the hum of appreciative noises. Moira looks at her guests; their eyes shining and their mouths eagerly smiling in anticipation.

Her rich and colourful family from the city streets gracing her home once again. They are her family now, her only family. They all help each other on this often lonely Thanksgiving evening.

‘Thank you all for joining me; enjoy your dinner,’