28 April 2015

We'll weather the weather

As we flew into Sydney from Dubai last Monday morning, my Cassidy was shrieking with excitement as we bounced through the turbulence during descent.  The lady across me, gripping her husbands arm in a grip that would surely leave a permanent imprint, was not having such a great time.

"It's just like a roller coaster" yells the small person, giddy with excitement.  "This is such fun!!!"

The lady turned a greener shade of green and was not having fun. Thankfully she was too busy not vomiting to be able to give death glares or tut loudly but it's unlikely Cassidy would have been deterred.

Turns out we were flying through the start of the storm that would sweep through Sydney, the Hunter, the bit up the coast, the bit inland and the bit to the west, knocking down trees, flooding properties, removing roofs, flooding creeks, buckling train lines, decimating roads, sweeping away cars, closing schools, reshaping beaches, demolishing houses, repositioning boats and killing livestock.  

Over $2 billion worth of damage and 8 people dead in under 72 hours. 

It was a doozy of a storm. Cyclonic they said.  It absolutely dominated the papers for a few days and we giggled at the plethora of umbrellas abandoned, shook our heads at the idiots driving without lights, and felt absolutely heartbroken for the families who lost loved ones and homes.  And then the sun came out and we were on to another news story.

These paddocks were six feet under water

Which of course is very chipper of us and things like the Nepal earthquake, the Bali Nine executions, Princess Kate being four days late and Bruce Jenner coming out as a she all fill up the news feed pretty quickly and are important too. Yes. 

But for a lot of people, the storm didn't just interrupt their commute to work or leave them without power for a week. It's destroyed their livelihoods.  Animals have been killed, fences destroyed, feed is going sour due to water logging, crops annihilated.   

Boats sit in paddocks hundreds of metres from dams, carpet is being scraped from floors and thrown onto bonfires alongside dead cows, pigs and chickens.  Irrigation pipe lies tangled with flotsam stuck in barbed wire fences and beneath an enchanting blue sky, property owners are stripping it all back, counting the rising costs of uninsured loss.

This is a boat in a paddock. Not on purpose.
Because it is not financially viable for most farmers to insure everything in the unlikely case of catastrophic winds and a once in a century weather patterns that got rewritten this past week as once in a decade.  You insure what is most likely to be damaged and hope that not everything gets damaged at once. And when you spend $6,000 on barbed wire fences, my brief experience helping take down broken barbed wire fences on the weekend tells me you need to spend about twice that on gloves.

It's not only the financial cost. Turns out it takes a really long time to tear down fences and put up new ones.  It takes quite some time to grow animals big enough to breed or be ready for slaughter.  Apparently animals are not born of the polystyrene boxes in which they appear in supermarkets! And many of these farmers do it alone, with help from partners that work full time and their school aged children and friends and family and complete randoms who show up with a few hours to spare and absolutely no feckin' clue. 

There were no peaches on our visit to the country this time

We can't fix everything in the world. I get that.  I do, but it seems to me that sometimes we move right on when we no longer see something or it's not being rammed down our throats.  We focus on the big big things that are going wrong and Colin knows we can't keep up with Mother Nature's ill humour lately.

But we can remember to ask if people need help locally as well as overseas. We don't need to cancel one out with the other. We can give of our time even when it is entirely not the right time for us. Because it never ever is. We can take a moment to check in and make sure our neighbours are okay once the sun comes out or the tree on their house is removed or they've burned their cows. 

Because it takes time to recover from the unimaginable.  Lots of time.  And gloves.  

And it does us well to remember that. 

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