Thoughts about Home & Fire

I’ve been thinking about home. About home as a concept maybe, but also a very literal place, and also, as a broader setting without defined boundaries but a very specific ~feeling~.

I’ve been thinking about home because I wake up there every morning, because 2020 has a change of home planned, because people come and go and home splits and stretches and reappears somewhere else, and because home has had some trouble.

I live in Australia, which means we’re (finally) nearing the end of summer, a season which hasn’t been particularly easy. If you’ve heard of the Australian fires, I’ll tell you that my home was threatened for only a week or two, and the nearby fires were out quickly, and we’ve been lucky. We had smoke for weeks that cleared right at Christmas Eve, and we could spend the day outside, and it felt like a Christmas miracle. We are lucky.

With all the talk of the fires, it seems strange to me that we’re not talking more about the drought. The fires should not distract us from talks of drought, it should illuminate them. Before the fire season lifted its head, all the vegetation had already turned to tinder, and the moisture had been squeezed from the air. There are towns rationing their water to the final drop, and when a fire appears, they exhaust those precious drops quickly, to fight it.

People love to point fingers, but this summer has been the result of so many factors. It’s arson to a point, sure, and poor preparation, definitely, but it’s a really scary water-shortage problem too, and a high-temperatures problem, and the list could go on. It’s also a misinformation problem. A quick and careless article blaming arson or a certain not-actually-in-power political party, and every self-righteous facebook friend looking for an easy fix and a blindfold is satiated until dinner. I could dedicate my life to debunking, but the 2mil readers who got there first have seen what they’d like to see, so now they’ve closed their eyes.

So, home: my home has been lucky (so far) in terms of the fires. It’s been deeply unlucky in terms of drought. It’s dried up and crumbling away. There are kangaroos in the city centre searching for food, and it makes a cute insta pic, but the flip-side of the cute pic is the real image of the dead animals who didn’t find a greener pasture. It’s the fifth generation farmer who sells up, and the only buyer is a billionaire using the drought as a long-term investment opportunity. It’s the empty shops and unemployment and soaring prices on food and water.

The town is on its last rations of water, but we’re out of town and on rain water and rain is scarce. One day, for the first time in months, it started raining. It poured until the streets flooded and we were saturated right through. Strangers cried together, linked only by their love of a country we share as home. My two-year-old nephew greeted me with “wow! look at the rain!” and at bath-time, reminded his brother that we can’t waste any water.

2020, so far, has been an ongoing expression of Australia’s (and the world’s) resilience and solidarity. All sorts of people stand on the streets in love of our country and our earth, and ordinary people plead with the powerful people to do something, or anything at all. In a world where I can choose to be complicit or to resist, I would be doing myself a great injustice to stay quiet.

Home is my house, still standing because I am luckier than so many others. Home is the town hoping for change, the suffocated state, the scorched east coast, and the country that really, has been treated as if disposable for too long. If home is where the heart is, and shared among friends, then home crosses oceans.

We’ve had rain. The drought isn’t over. It isn’t even nearly over. But as the grass greens, it’s a reminder that we have time to repair all that we’ve broken. It’s also a reminder that the earth will grow back and flourish again, but people are fragile and dependent, and humanity is not a given.

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