On 17th October this year our little corner of the universe became the news. Hot, dry, windy weather combined with some not insignificant human-centred errors started several bush fires, one of which tore through rapidly and ferociously through our community, consuming nearly 200 houses and scarring nearly 150 others along its journey down the mountain.
The fire responsible for much of this devastation (Linksview Road) was declared out this week – just short of four weeks since it started. Today marks one calendar month.
There have been many thoughts whizzing around my head since 17th October. Thoughts that awoke me from my lackadaisical slumber, intruding on me and my quiet tree-loving life, taking me by the scruff of the neck while begging me to review my connection to ‘home’ and what I value. Telling me that this is not ‘my’ mountain, that it doesn’t owe me anything, that I must respect it.
Those October days were punctuated by news updates, evacuation notices, helicopter fly overs and panicked sirens. Those days were intense for all of us, not just those that lost worldly possessions (thankfully no lives were lost) but as the initial panic and bewilderment subsided we were left with a different reality. A new normal. This is what I want to talk about today.
Today I sit here looking out of my office window to rain, steady, soaking, rejuvenating rain. Rain that came too late for some but that came nonetheless. Rain that will hide the tears, will wash away some of the pain and will nourish new roots given time.
For me the rain serves as a baptism into a new life, a new start, a new perspective. A new normal in which my attachment to ‘stuff’ has been re-framed. One which has strengthened my respect for the environment in which I live and one which has helped me to gain a better understanding and increased empathy for the human impact of natural disasters. Well, to a point of course. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like living in the Philippines right now. Can anyone? Really?
This one month anniversary from the start of the Linksview road fire also marks a day of climate change action by Getup.org I forgot about that today and didn’t attend the local meeting (could have had something to do with the 40th birthday celebrations for a bush fire impacted friend last night but was probably just one of those things) but now it seems eerily significant.
While the fires that burned our beautiful mountain recently were man-made they were exacerbated by a prolonged and unseasonably dry and hot spell of weather. I don’t know why this is, I don’t care for a political debate but I do want to understand – understand how we (mountain dwellers) might learn to work with the mountain and our environment, to prepare for and respect this, to live awake to this reality and to be creative and collaborative with our tactical solutions. To be here.
Maybe just maybe the problem isn’t about climate change action, about taxes, policies, human rights or wrongs, blame, cost, inconvenience, dominance, winning. Maybe the problem is that we (me and mine) have been living here with our eyes closed for too long.
So with that in mind I feel happy to embrace this new normal, this re-birth and awakening. I feel happy that every day I get to breathe in her air, tread her soil and listen to her powerful voice I am listening. Yes we do need to work together but we need to be here. We need to be here.
I am here.
PS: I understand that at some point this environmental stuff becomes political but my point is if we skip the personal we have nothing left but a power game and nature deserves more than that. She deserves to be listened to in my opinion.