This morning I moved the bookmark from one book to another. At the end of one journey and with the anticipation of the next, I feel sad that the first is over but also have a deep sense of completion because it was such a good read. It was also a distraction from my small piece of dishevelled heaven.

The world is in chaos. The COVID-19 virus is spreading like wildfire. Countries are in various stages of lockdown, with multitudes ill and many dying. Everyone is learning to live an insular life until the spread is stemmed and eventually halted. There will be dreadful repercussions, the degree of which largely depends on our ability to be prudent, stick to the rules and take responsibility.

We are bombarded with constant updates. Reminders are everywhere.

It is devastating.

Before this level of disruption descended on us, the little cottage my husband and I call home in the beautiful Bega Valley was in its own state of disarray. Towards the end of last year, we purchased a huge four-section wall unit ready for the next stage of turning the storage room into our longed-for library. Between Christmas and New Year we began the arduous task of sorting through boxes of stored papers (old business records, university essays, research notes, teaching materials, writing drafts etc., as well as archives from my husband’s illustrious career as an electronics engineer through the expanding years of television).

By the weekend, piles of papers covered every available surface as we culled and categorised what we would keep or hand on to others… and more boxes awaited our attention.

In the early hours of New Year’s Eve, we fled from our home as flames rushed down the ridge towards our small community. Initially evacuated to Cobargo, we were soon on the run from there too as wild fires rained down on the whole area swallowing homes and lives as it progressed. Our fire experience will be the subject of another blog, but suffice to say here is that we returned almost three weeks later to find our home standing, with some damage to the outside and looking sad with the destruction around it.

Inside was as disrupted as we’d left it in our haste, everything was covered in ash and there was a distinctive closed-in odour. Amidst several attempts to free our home (and the piles of papers!) from fire dust, there were meetings and negotiations with government departments, local council, insurers, and recovery services.

The first of the official clean-up projects in our yard – the removal of twelve huge pine trees, burnt and dangerous – was three-quarters completed when COVID-19 struck, and the three remaining trees (most dangerous and closest to the house) stand waiting for the arborist and his chainsaw.

Our lives outside home are on pause. Having run from the wild fires less than three months ago and begun restoration in the meantime, we’re now bunkered down against the wildfire spread of the virus.

Staying at home is no problem for me. Since retiring, I spend most days in my office… researching, planning, writing, editing, re-writing, reading, keeping up-to-date on all things writing, discovering the lives of ancestors, and so on. I’m happy to be a homebody, venturing out when necessary or when the mood takes me. The suggestion of an ice-cream at the beach gets me every time. I like to socialise, but I don’t have to. I also like solitude. I continue to teach writing courses when the opportunity arises and regularly attend poetry afternoons an hour away from home. Social media also allows communication with friends and fellow-writers.

Most recently read books.

The isolation associated with the virus is different from my self-imposed work-related appointments with my computer. The current hibernation has no element of choice and there are dark clouds surrounding it; fear of the virus… anxiety for children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other family members and friends… separation from these loved ones… and concern for the aftermath.

On the upside, I have enjoyable and productive activities to pursue, our vegie garden will get plenty of attention, Ron and I have an opportunity to get the library sorted, and my writing routine will surely thrive.

A few of my waiting treasures.

Our part of the world is accustomed to adapting. The fires were fuelled by the stubble of long excruciating drought, dry riverbeds and an abundance of brittle undergrowth. Their pattern and ferocity were unprecedented. Drought led to fires, followed by floods and contaminated water, and now a threatening virus pandemic.             

Australians are resilient and will face this challenge head on, each person moving into the new ‘normal’ in their own way.

As my journey evolves, I am pleased to be a writer and reader who can get lost in words for long periods of time. Just as reading has been a welcome distraction during the fires and the unfolding medical crisis we’re living, the book I finished this morning inspired me back to the keyboard after a void while adjusting to our new – but temporary – enforced lifestyle.

Stay safe everyone. Happy reading and writing – not just while you’re cosseted away, but into the future…


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