Usually, we run a faintly humorous pretendy news item up top here, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to write such a thing at the moment. Though the Clarence Valley was affected by significant flooding, we were hugely fortunate, compared to many of our beautiful Northern Rivers’ neighbours. The fact that we’ve been able to resume ‘business as usual’ while others haven’t makes levity feel disrespectful.
It’s astonishing to think that as recently as September 2019, the Clarence Valley and much of Australia’s eastern seaboard was a place of fire. I will never forget being on the roof of our Wooloweyah house, hosing the gutters with water, a roaring wind whipping the lake into whitecaps through the smoke. The bushfire front had jumped Brooms Head Road – our pre-agreed cue to leave. There was a deafening roar as a jet firebomber swooped through the gloom, so low I ducked down involuntarily. It banked above us to lay down a precise trail of iridescent pink retardant along Angourie’s southern flank. Below me, at the base of the ladder, our dog barked with urgent concern. It felt like we were thrust into some kind of disaster movie
I can also remember – as we moved through and into 2020 and the smoky sky returned itself to clarity, the sun from red back to gold – the glorious sound of rain on the tin roof for the first time in a long while. La Niña was on the march, and the summer of ’20-’21 was reassuringly rainy. Blackened vistas became green again. La Niña never really went away, though, and February this year saw that reassuring rain become relentless, then wrathful.
(In case you’re wondering, “La Niña” occurs when trade winds become stronger along the equator, changing surface currents and drawing cooler water up from the depths, it starts a chain reaction that ends with warm water being pushed to the Western Pacific off our Australia’s East Coast. Warm water means more rising air, more clouds, more storms, more cyclones and rainfall.)
And now, as we head into the respite of Autumn, we see the ongoing efforts of nearby Northern Rivers regions: cleaning up, drying out, sweeping mud, helping neighbours, returning to equilibrium, as high water marks along the east coast waterways start to slowly dissolve into the landscape.
When nature bares its teeth like this, it galvanises our sense of community and connection, while reminding us clearly that despite all our cleverness and devices and discoveries, we’ll always live at nature’s mercy.
I might be biased, but I reckon there are few places blessed with as much variety of potent natural beauty as the Clarence Valley – from the jewelled coastal fringe to the lush agricultural zone to the wild forested headwaters. It’s impossible for residents and visitors NOT to connect with nature every day, from a pelican or eagle crossing our field of vision, to simply crossing a bridge and seeing the sun bounce off the water. Nature surrounds us here, and it’s SO good for our mind, body and spirit.
It’s beyond me to make any sense of fires, floods and loss, and insulting to moralize or propose any ‘take-aways’ or ‘learnings’. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing to share this vague intuition, and it’s nothing we don’t already know anyway, but here it is regardless: the more we can understand, appreciate, respect and exercise some sense of custodianship and care for the nature of our beautiful Clarence Valley – and for each other, of course – somehow, the better. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Words by Gra Murdoch
Image Credit: Susan Polsen