Summertime in Australia with its high risk of bushfires can be a worrying and stressful time for many.
In my community – at the base of Kinglake where fires wreaked their most havoc back in 2009, when over 100 people lost their lives and hundreds more lost their homes – we look for any sign of smoke across the ranges, and hold our collective breaths whenever fire sirens blast their call across our rooftops. Our fire apps ping and beep, and we remain hyper-vigilant until the weather has cooled and rain has come.
For many people already, however, it’s been a dangerous and heartbreaking outcome as fires ripped through various parts of our sunburnt country, destroying livestock, properties and homes, and in some cases, lives.
For our friends, Susie and Shelton, who live in the hills of Western Australia, they weren’t so lucky. As they took refuge at a friend’s house, their family home of 35 years burned to the ground. It was a tragic and very sad outcome.
Yes indeed, it could have been worse, but it is still bad enough, as loss and its ensuing grief are all relative. Unfortunately, there is no way out of the pain and suffering: the only way forward is through. I can only imagine the amount of strength, self-care, support and compassion that must be summoned in order to survive the impact of such a loss.
Seeing Susie’s photos of the destruction has been shocking and sad, and has made it very, very real. I’ve been amazed and astounded by the courage, fortitude, tenacity and resilience she is showing in the face of heartbreak. She and Shelton have an insurmountable amount of emotional, hard and dirty work ahead.
Thankfully, friends and family have surrounded them with love and support. Working bees have been set up, and Facebook – despite its arguable shortcomings – has allowed them to reach out to their wider community: getting hold of tradespeople in short supply, and finding hands short of work to come to their aid. A roster of volunteers has now been set up to help sift through and remove the mountains of ash and rubble.
Something that touched me deeply was of one of Susie’s recent Facebook postings that accompanied a picture of their ashen land. She wrote:
“…At one stage I was sitting, feeling hot and dusty and dirty and like I was out in a blackened desert, feeling so desolate and gloomy and it all felt too despairing, to austere, too miserable, too bleak, too wretched, too forlorn, and all too much. And then some part of me kicked in an I started counting the red bricks lining the edge to the path that was in front of me that are undamaged, and got to 64 and thought , “Well, I am grateful for them.” I needed to dig deep, and yes, there is always something to be grateful for, yes there is.”
This is a wonderful example of Susie using her strengths to carry her through turbulent and difficult times. Her words above show her strengths of hope, perspective, persistence and gratitude.
New beginnings are sometimes thrust upon us; we are not always given the luxury of choice. They can be the best of times – and the worst of times.
Such is summertime in Australia.