Author; Sabina Rabold
A vast patch of burnt orange land floating in a lapis ocean. February 21 1986, the first day of my new life. Downunder, they call it, this continent clinging to the bottom end of the Earth. The bone chilling temperatures of my German childhood are behind me and I soak up every ray of sun for the next thirty-three years. Since the beginning of the 20th century Australia has experienced an increase of nearly 1 °C in average annual temperatures. Bring it on, I say. The Great South Land determinedly but at the tiny pace of seven centimetres a year pushes and grinds north toward the Earth’s great girth and ever closer to the equatorial heat. Move faster, I cheer.
Saturday 25th of January, 1788. The people of the Eora Nation are going about their lives. hunting, fishing and gathering food in the coves and bays around the mighty harbour. Campfires send smoke into the heavens. Azure waters teeming with marine life, Kingfish, Trevally and Bonito. Port Jackson sharks. Huge saucershaped black Stingrays sunning near the water’s surface. The horizon is still clear. Barani, yesterday, they later remember. British invaders headed by Royal Navy officer Captain Arthur Phillip land the next day; 11 ships packed with soldiers and convicts- thieves, rapists, murderers, forgers, political misfits. An orgy so debauched it cost the life of some commemorates the first night ashore. Campfires lit more than 60 000 years ago are snuffed out one by one. An ancient people are murdered for sport or revenge or killed by smallpox, measles and influenza or chased from their ancestral lands by a force so haughty that it denies common humanity. Less than 200 years later my plane lands.
The sun is a yellow-dwarf star at the centre of the Solar System and a hot ball of glowing gases and, perfect sphere of hot plasma that bubbles and smokes and her might holds in place the whole of the solar system. Me included.
Today, December 1 2019, in the news:
- Rural Fire Service Volunteer Charged with Lighting Seven Fires on the NSW South Coast.
- Three teenage boys have been arrested over deliberately lit fires near Brisbane
- Heinous crime: Two Sydney fires suspected of being deliberately lit
Who are you standing in a lonely patch of parched landscape, match in hand, destruction on your mind? When the dry grasses and thirsty trees light up, do you feel satisfaction?
Are you like the tormented girl who slices her flesh, mingling sorrow with blood? Or is it a kind of ecstasy that spreads through your body when flames begin to crackle and spit? Is it the dark secret of your destructive might that tantalises you to light the match?
No rain for months. Bushfires are blazing to the north, the south and the west. I wake after another unseasonally hot night; the smell of smoke reaching for my consciousness. A primal threat system kicks in, wakes me fully. I feel fear though I am safe in my bed in my house in the centre of the city. I think of the wallabies with singed fur and burnt paws, the skin of lizards that fries and shrivels as the fire sweeps through. Ancient trees reduced to a mass of glowing ember. Tears trickle down my face. I get up; the mood in the city is sombre. Sydneysiders woke to a day with air quality conditions worse than Shenzhen, China. We can’t breathe, our eyes sting and our throats hurt.
Warming is occurring at twice the rate over the past 50 years than in the previous 50 years.
How the Sun came to be (Dreamtime story of an Aboriginal Tribe in Central Victoria)
A long time ago a woman chose to leave her tribe. She was upset because the Elders would not allow her to marry the man she loved, so she ran away to a barren, rocky area. She had to go deep into the dry, infertile land to avoid the men from her village that tried to retrieve her and force her to come home.
The ancestral spirits pitied her when they saw that she was tired, hungry, thirsty, and miserable. They lifted her into the sky where she could rest. Upon wakening, she found herself next to a warm campfire with plenty of food, water, and company. Eventually, she started to feel homesick. She looked down from the heavens and saw that her people were cold and miserable. She felt sorry for them and wanted to help so she built her own camp fire large enough to keep the people below warm during the day when they had to step away from their own campfires to work.
I lift the soy flat white to my lips, touch the foamy deliciousness. The white porcelain mug leaves behind an imprint on the table. I run my finger across the tables’ surface. It’s dust. Ash,actually. It’s burnt lizards and trees and wallabies and houses with all their memories that burnt to the ground in a flash a couple of days ago; it’s human beings and dogs and cows and grasses.
The sun sits high against a cornflower sky.