The summer that wasn’t 2019 2020

The Eurobodalla Writers extend a huge thank you to firefighters, emergency and essential services, and volunteers for your dedication and courage over an extended period of time to help our communities.

Emotions raw of survival, of loss, of friendship and community, of a future unknown, of counting your blessings – we hope that everyone is getting the support and comfort in ways that will help you, your loved ones, friends, and community.

Many stories are being told of tragedy, fear, that sliver of hope realised, tenderness, and even laughter and joyful moments in the midst of despair. Thoughts of the summer that wasn’t circulate and press upon memory, and this page on the Eurobodalla Writers’ website will include short stories and poems by members expressing the many and varied impact of the bushfires, and then floods. You can share the link so that others can read, but please respect the writers and don’t copy or share their work.

Dark Days

The dragon breathes out

Spits tongues crimson, tangerine, gold

Devours brittle bush

Black spumes spew forth

Demonic, hellish, apocalyptic

It is 2 am

The eye sees, the ear hears nothing

No power no phone no internet

Embers tossed high spat up like fire crackers

The dragon gorging morphing

Acrid smoke punctures lungs, curdling

Blackened leaves rain down

Strewn like seaweed along the sand

Preparation protection packing

Decision indecision

The little brown suitcase – quick!

Precious link to the past

Rattled minds raw hearts stunned

Huddling on beaches, backs to the water

Holding each other in the 2 pm dark

Plugged in again

Information double-edged

Too little

Some lost everything

Who?

Others spared

Stopped at the gate, took next door

Who, who?

Too much

Wildlife incinerated, forests blackened sticks

How to process so much loss

And yet… courage, community and hope

Exhausted fireys return to the fray

Helicopters hammer close by, scoop up water, taming the beast

Homes and pockets open

New shoots spring fluoro green, bright fuzz on scorched trees

A chicken lays its first egg

A wallaby, nursed back to health, returns each evening in thanks

A firey cradles water dragon eggs, from the rubble of a gutted home

© Rosie Toth March 2020

 

Please Send The Fire Away

At 6.30am on 31st December 2019 the Rural Fire Service sent everyone an urgent phone message: the fire is here, seek shelter or go to the beach.

I fled at once to the local evacuation centre, 2k away. By 10.15 I was sent to a motel in Batemans Bay CBD, 1k away, with a woman I knew slightly, both of us oldies with health issues. At about 12.30 lunchtime the huge glass windows in our room got really hot, the sky was a horrible brown, so we soaked bath towels in case we had to put them over our heads. Suddenly the whole world turned crimson for maybe 30 seconds, then pitch black. We felt our way into our tiny shower room and quietly and calmly said the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm repeatedly. We remained like that for 30 or 40 minutes. For the whole time we were in that situation, I felt like we were in a quiet, calm little bubble. We came out when the sky lightened in the tiny window.

On 4th January in the middle of the day, the motel windows started getting hot again. I was alone and went on the verandah and watched the sky go brown again. Motel staff were hosing the trees. I watched a large, horrible, dark brown cloud slowly, determinedly coming towards us from the south. Oh, no, I thought, not again! It kept coming and was almost above us and I spontaneously said aloud “Oh God, please send it away, please send the cloud and fire away, I can’t bear it again, please send the fire away, dear God, please send the cloud away, please send it away!”  Immediately I said these words, the cloud stopped in its tracks, then retreated! It did not dissolve, it just went back south, slowly and determinedly, the way it had come! It did so immediately, and very clearly. Fortunately I had the room to myself and was able to thank The Divine aloud, over and over again, in between sobs of relief!

Two days later on the 6th, I was meditating on the motel verandah, the sky a light grey. After meditating, I was just staring vaguely and peacefully at the sky, and suddenly realised I was staring at a sky chock-full of dancing vibrations! The air around me was just chockers with sparkling, dancing vibrations. I sat there in bliss, watching, and quietly thanking God in adoration and gratitude.

NOTE: The sparkling vibrations in the air are called Chaitanya in the Hindu religion.

I have not exaggerated or embellished anything; everything happened exactly as I have written. I went home on the 8th. A few houses on the other side of my suburb were destroyed. My side was untouched. It was wonderful to be back with my meditation corner in my bedroom!

In those nine days alone, some 456 homes were destroyed in Eurobodalla shire, more than a dozen businesses destroyed or badly damaged, and more than 1,000 out-buildings – studios, garages, storage sheds, farm buildings – destroyed. The fires went on to do much more damage during January.

These are only some of my experiences in Batemans Bay from 31 Dec to 8 Jan

© Jennie Mairie 20 March 2020

 

Dark Days

(as part of the bushfire stories and poems series)

Blazing lights, piercing pain

Frightened screams cry out in vain

Heart beats faster

Cold, scared – disaster

Dark days

A shadow above – exultation

Monsters in night

Fears ignite

Circling demons enter the gloom

Sobs heard from that scary room

Dark days

Room fills with light – salvation

Banished by the group

No way to recoup

Heart fills with fear

What a toxic atmosphere

Dark days

Arms that open wide – absolution

Joy to despair

No long a pair

What did I do wrong?

I no longer belong

Dark days

Nothing can help – desolation

Wheeled chair in rain

Limbs racked with pain

Life’s inhumane

Too late to complain

Dark days

Radiance above – liberation

© Lalla Barden 19 Feb 2020

Bushfire New Year

Smokers cough
but no tobacco
scarlet king parrot’s
blackened breast,
reminders of the dark day.

Blood red sun
dimmed
by glowing orange
horizon
anxious gathering
on a beach
scanning the sky
for promised wind change
frantic drive
past flame-licked verges
trees quenched
but scorched
bleeding ash and embers.

Join the crowd
gathering
stunned and
seeking security
waiting for
news
food
and comfort
in the dark
more ways than one
but needing to share
rumours of tragedy
unhappily
not all incorrect.

The world mourns
a lost generation
or more
of unique fauna
but soon hints
and splashes
of green
appear
as the flora
fights back.

© Rosemary Patyus 4Mar2020

A Tree

Her gnarled black fingers claw at the skies

And through her misshapen form the wind sighs;

Stripped bare of her finery, twisted and worn

A stark lonely shape against the grey dawn

© Margaret Armstrong Feb2020

 

Scorched – Clyde Mountain

Scorched, silent sentinels stand.

Stoic, stunned, submitting their sap,

Surrendering their souls

To the searing shooting stars of fire.

Now stripped of life’s desire,

Collateral damage in cataclysmic ire.

Black, burnt, beheaded,

Beaten, blazed, betrayed,

Our once flourishing forests,

Fauna, and faithful firefighters

Now furiously flayed.

Waiting, wishing for the welcome Wet,

Our teardrops seeking, beseeching

The heavens to open, and relent,

With rejuvenating, refreshing rain

To restore the forests, the earth,

Our shattered hopes and lives again.

© Bonnie Atteridge  Jan 2020