Australia’s beloved poet Dorothea Mackellar wrote in her famous poem:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
It doesn’t matter where you live in wide land of ours, Mackellar’s poem will sing to you. Halfway through last year it stopped raining. Those of you who are regular readers of my blog will notice that I started talking about the heat and how dry it was. Where I live, the rivers run freely and greens compete with each other for brilliance. My spirit is nourished by such abundance and fertility, so I suffered along with the land when it dried up.
The rivers stopped running, and yellows, browns and oranges dominated the landscape. Rainwater tanks emptied and it became harder to find a clean spot in the river to pump from, let alone swim in. December and January baked us then burnt us in bushfires. Nothing grew in our vegie gardens, some of our young fruit trees died and even mature trees dropped their leaves.
Some things like a hot dry spring and summer – flowering trees like the jacaranda and flame tree were spectacular this year, in striking contrast to everything around them. Rosemary, sage, lavender, yarrow and lemongrass, those hardy, woody herbs were the only plants that would grow in my herb garden.
On Australia Day, 26th January the rains finally came. The resilience of the land showed through, and a week later the river ran deep and clear and the greens started their verdant competition again. My spirit felt nourished again, and everywhere around me was beauty.
And guess what? It’s raining again . And when I say rain, I mean torrential, flooding, cyclonic, saturating rain. Major flood warnings have been issued all up and down the coast, and flood-plain towns to the north and south of us are being evacuated. School closed early – they only made it to morning tea before the school staff had to leave to make it home before the bridges went under.
I think the drought has broken .
Later that afternoon the electricity went out as well… mostly we’re lucky and the electricity stays on – but not always. This time, the electricity stayed off for over 48 hours, and we had no phone for 24 hours this time too!
All through that weekend though, all we could think of was how lucky we were and here are
10 11 12 13 14! reasons why:
- Evening entered our house spiked with the light of tealight candles on every flat surface. It looked beautiful.
- We are always grateful for our gas stove and oven. The rain is pouring down and we are eating potato and bacon soup with crusty toast.
- Our house is built in the old way and is as solid as a mountain. It doesn’t leak and when the wind starts howling the house stays firm.
- We have torches, book lights and fresh batteries to go in them. I read the Fairy Queen a bed-time story by torchlight and then I finish Cry, the Beloved Country and sigh in envy of his clear, compassionate writing.
- We knew the flood was coming so I had stocked up on food. This morning’s breakfast was pancakes with lemon and sugar (or honey, banana and macadamia paste for me). The kids and I bake chocolate berry muffins for morning tea and we had nachos for dinner. The water had better go down soon or we’ll all be as fat as little piggys! I’m not sure how long our food will last with no fridge – fingers crossed!
- We have heaps of board and card games. The soccer star and the Bear have played many games of chess by candlelight (the one game I will not play – I find strategy incomprehensible and impossible), and over the weekend we have played monopoly, scrabble (junior and adult), trouble, guess who, snap, pictureka and uno .
- We have two houses. Gold. The little cottage I have spent the last two months cleaning, clearing and beautifying is filled with natural light and is a calm, clean space. At least it was until we had 3 boys come to visit and they made forts inside of it to shoot each other from .
- No electricity means we have had an enforced break from screens – no computer, tv or wii; we have no mobile reception or internet and no hand held devices. The soccer star occasionally gets waves of longing, the Bear is sometimes fidgety and annoying with boredom and I get the occasional urge to indulge my social media addiction – but we’re surviving easily. The children start playing with their toys – they spent an hour playing with their farm set – together! The played cars, played in the rain and we all played a long, hilarious game of backyard cricket.
- The Bear has an old portable radio and fresh batteries. We listen to ABC local radio and get up to date reports on the flood situation, locals call in with flood stories, and the announcer plays really bad music. We don’t care – it’s so comforting to feel connected to the larger world when you’re in the middle of nowhere isolated by flood waters.
- I have heaps of books to read that I am catching up on from last year. I start to read Don Quixote and am amazed at the premise – A crazy man (and I do mean completely mad) and his simple friend set out on a horse and donkey on a quest for adventure. I find myself laughing at the humour and thoroughly enjoying it. I love reading the classics
- We have chocolate!
- Our chickens are still laying in the rain, so we get fresh eggs every day.
- The Bear is in charge of bathing – a challenging situation with no running water. He decides to use a 9 litre watering can – 8 litres of cold water and 1 of hot water (boiled on the stove) – and we shower, one by one like that. Did you know that you can easily wash your whole body and even your hair in 9 litres of water?
- I have a whole new appreciation for cleaning machines – dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner – and the simple pleasure of running water!
The power came on last night – it was off from Friday afternoon and came back on Sunday night. The Bear excitedly turned on the tv – and 15 minutes later he turned it off and came and lay on the bed next to me and read his book .
Have you experienced isolation and no electricity? How did you cope?