Praying for Australia


I recently read a news story with the headline about the apathy toward the horrific bush fires and loss of life in Australia. I don’t know who wrote the story (my apologies to the writer, but I’ve been reading so many stories about the fires there and I simply do not recall) but it has not been my experience. On my social media every third or fourth post concerns that country and the people posting are filled with concern and compassion. The story focused on the outrage displayed throughout 2019 toward the climate crisis and the lack of political will to do something to address it. The author wondered why there was not more news coverage in media outside Australia, with the climate crisis in mind. So, of course I had to google it and to my dismay the author was absolutely right. I scrolled for a few minutes but found nothing on the ongoing battle to contain the blazes, nor anything addressing the climate crisis. That was yesterday (or was it the day before?).

 However, I don’t think people are apathetic. At least, if social media means anything, there is an outpouring of caring and praying for the island nation. Having been forced to flee forest fires here in my city of Fort McMurray my heart goes out to the people of Australia and the national disaster they are facing. It is heart-breaking to see the devastation and loss of life these bush fires have wreaked. Naturally people do not have to have had experience with fleeing forest fires to feel empathy for the Australians, or for that matter any nation dealing with a natural disaster. I am praying for the people of Australia and I hope you will join me.

I took this shot as we were driving out of town on May 3, 2016 as the forest fire caused the evacuation of the entire city of Fort McMurray, AB, Canada. It would be a full month before we were allowed to return. As I see photos of the horrendous fires in Australia I cannot help but remember the terror of trying to escape the flames that encircled the city. May the people of Australia receive all they need, now and afterwards so they can pick the pieces and rebuild their lives. My heart goes out to you.

Two years since the wildfire


I wrote this yesterday, but was without internet due to moving to our new home….

3 May 2018 Two years since the wildfire

Last night our friend who rents the basement suite of this house accidentally set off the fire alarm while making toast. We have moved into a new home and the fire alarm is very loud and a disembodied voice instructed us there was a fire – there wasn’t. It was just smoke from overcooked bread. We were surprised to say the least as the siren continued for a minute or two. We had just gone to bed. And until I heard the voice saying, “Danger! Fire!” I thought my daughter had inadvertently triggered the door alarm. I did not panic, but as I think back it is interesting to me that the alarm did not trigger any “fight or flight response” especially on the eve of the two year anniversary of the wildfires. But afterward we all laughed about it and went back to bed. I was comforted with knowing if there ever is a fire we will get an instant and noisy warning – no one could sleep through that alarm!

It’s been two years since the wildfire that was nicknamed “the beast” roared into our city and caused the evacuation of approximately 80,000 people. Shortly before that event I had been out picking up household goods. Outside the store there were literally thousands of white feathers in a long row beside the building. White feathers (or feathers in general) are said to be a sign that angels are near. I was amazed at the number of feathers laying on the ground. As I think back on those feathers I cannot help but think angels certainly were nearby when we evacuated the city. There were no direct fatalities as a result of the wildfire. Sadly, two young people were killed in a collision as they were driving to Edmonton, so the wildfire did cause deaths albeit indirectly. It remains a source of wonder that more people were not killed. The wall of smoke on the edge of town was so intense that we literally could not see past the hood of the truck.

I wrote this poem and posted it on the first anniversary of the wildfires. I consider it to be divine intervention and the fine work of first responders that kept nearly everyone safe that day. I am adding my poem, ‘A thousand feathers’, as a tribute to all the angels, ethereal and otherwise, who helped us escape the flames.

 

A thousand feathers

A thousand feathers lay upon the ground

It may be there were thousands more

I did not stop to count them

But left them to be carried in the breeze

As I hastened on my way

And I wondered as I scurried

why

It seemed as though heaven’s angels

Had been stripped of their attire

Perhaps exchanged instead for that of steel

Did they fold their wings around us when we had to flee?

That day hell’s inferno came to be

And flames encircled on every side

Licking at our heels as we sought to leave

Did angels see us through the wall of smoke

Where daylight failed and darkness

Tried to steal our hope and faith in all we believed

Yet hell itself cannot succeed

When a thousand feathers lay upon the ground

And angels fly with agile strength

To do battle in our name

May 2, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One year after the fire


“Don’t feel guilty for having a laugh at something. You might say, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be laughing.’ Yeah, you should be. … Your family is with you, you’re alive and that’s joyful.” – Sharon Watcher, Slave Lake, AB

The above quote was taken from a news story talking about how the people of Slave Lake, Alberta, who also survived fire, were reaching out to evacuees from Fort McMurray to offer their support and advice. The quote struck me because one of the long lasting effects of the fire was the incredible sense of guilt I feel for not losing anything of material worth to the fire. They call it “survivor’s guilt” and it’s with me still, even a year later. Mostly it’s because so many people have yet to rebuild their homes, or have taken a substantial financial loss by walking away. I witness faces filled with frustration, sadness, or pain almost on a daily basis.

Last year we spent the month of May safely ensconced in Sylvan Lake, a picturesque little town halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. It was a stressful time, but it was also a time filled with more blessings than I can count. And I do like to keep a positive attitude as much as possible. But a year after the fire it feels like Fort McMurray has been forgotten, except for the obligatory news stories. Yet many here continue to grieve and to struggle with the trauma left by “the beast”. (That’s the name firefighters gave to the inferno,)

For the people of Fort McMurray the fire cannot be forgotten. There are reminders of it everywhere. – Blackened tree trucks and dead wood are everywhere around the city – so it makes forgetting impossible. We live with it. What other choice is there? But I hope that the moments of sheer grief are lessening for my fellow citizens, that there are more moments of joy than of pain. Tree trunks will remain black for years to come, but our hearts need not be.

Scars


after-the-fires-fort-mcmurray-ab-june-2016

Trees reaching outward

Their blackened branches like accusing fingers point

Beauty marred by charcoal trunks

Idyllic scenes no more

Mother Nature reached out to soothe

Covering wounded fauna with her green palms

Breezes ruffle and cool as Mother sighs

Throughout the summer she worked her charm

To cover up the fire’s harm

But alas it cannot be

And stands as warning

To take care

For forests burnt

And beauty

Stained

Will for decades bear the signs

Of the fire storm

That like a wild beast unleashed a roar

That hurt both ears and eyes

And left us sobbing to the skies

That filtered not their ungodly light

Of garish orange

As flames leapt high

And gave no answer as to why

But left us only with the scars

Mixed Emotions


The roller coaster ride continues with ups and downs, fits and stops. Two days ago we went to Anzac to pick up the truck we left there in our scramble to get out of Fort Mac. It did not have enough gas and in addition needed mechanical work.  Friends had kindly taken us to Edmonton to meet our son. All the terror of that day came flooding back as we drove down the highway – blackened forest went on for miles making my heart sore. It was hard to digest the magnitude of destruction, and hard to stem the flood of emotions as memories of that day coupled with seeing evidence of the reach of the “beast” fought to consume me. As we drove along we came to one stretch where one single evergreen stood out among the wreckage as if in defiance of the fire’s onslaught.  It stood surrounded on every side by blackened others. Gazing at that one tree, that lone survivor, gave me hope and loosened the hold grief had on my heart. The “beast” has another name – despair – but that lone evergreen helped to strengthen me and give me hope. Like that evergreen I will stand tall and will not let the “beast” consume me.