I wake to thickness. My breath labours, though I can’t yet smell the smoke. The fine particles powdering the air and setting off my asthma come from hundreds of kilometres away to the east, a tiny incursion on my summer, a broken fingernail compared to the raw devastation suffered by those living in the fire path.
The torch of anger, fear and pain blazes through public and private commentary on this unprecedented fire season. Fingers point, blame is apportioned, scorn greets the responses of authority. We are all affected, all involved, whatever our politics, outlook or beliefs. The dry tinder of our polarised, simplified public discourse is easily ignited by such overwhelming events. The only innocents are the victims, the habitat and its animals, and the firefighters working to contain and subdue the blazes.
Long, cold showers needed all around.
Fire is a leveller. After the flames, the rebuild. Of course it needs to involve honest, generous cooperation. To honour the call to steward the earth for the good of all. To encourage intergenerational respect and collaboration across lines old and new. To birth humility as we are reminded of our shared vulnerability, responsibility and capacity as humans.
We flower briefly here. And I acknowledge that my hope will be shared and spoken by many, not least in Canberra. But fine sentiments are quickly clouded by the demands of more immediate life once the crisis is over. After our own fire my new-found clarity faded as normality resumed. We found new junk to fill our restored house, new petty concerns to fill our minds. The fire changed me but perhaps not enough. It became another one of those things that happened, not a defining moment.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here. Let’s hope that this does change us all, for the better, for good.