No doubt many of you are feeling a range of emotions in the face of the long summer drought and devastating fires that have scorched and ravaged our beautiful vast and wide sunburnt home. Our house is indeed on fire, these are the biggest out of control fires any country in the world has ever known. Our large semi-arid country is particularly vulnerable to global warming. Even for the experts, climate scientists and bush fire experts, it is still a shock, horrifying in its magnitude and unprecedented. I have had to dig deep into my practice through these hard times to find an appropriate response to manage my own grief and overwhelm, anger and fear. Zazen and dharma practice is a potent refuge for steadying ones mind, to cultivate equanimity, mindfulness and compassion. By attending to our own inner life we grow the capacity to bear witness and offer compassionate action to the heart-wrenching devastation. I encourage each of you to reach out, to share with one another in safe circles and find ways to process your grief. Let’s honour the loss of human life, property, the great forests and flora and an estimated half a billion animals and creatures that have died. I find listening to music, creative writing and poetry soothing an avenue of expression. I wrote this poem as a way to share and process some of my grief.
by Subhana Barzaghi
Morning has broken with the sound of rain
drops on the roof barely recognisable,
clouds assemble…..then nothing,
more like a visit from a cruel fairy,
tormenting a mouth as hopeful and as wide
as this sunburnt country,
left gapping open with promises
but leaves us like a thirsty ghost
disappearing back to parchment.
A red-hot fiery wall of flames,so hot it turns soil to glass,
burning everything to a crisp,
along the 2,000 kilometre spine
of the eastern sea board
crossing three state borders.
I gasp with disbelief. Shock.
The image of a joey caught in a wire fence,
barbecued alive, haunts my restless nights.
Women in Holland, knit mittens
for koala’s burnt paws.
Grief has unpicked the lock in my heart,
I cannot stop the tears from over-flowing.
The smell of smoke wakes me,
I throw back the sheets, wondering,
if my house is on fire?
“Our house is on fire”, the children wail.
The city coughs on toxic smoke,
the smell of singed mullets, koalas,
ringed-tailed possums and lyrebirds
fill my nostrils. I’m undone.
A ghastly orange fiery sun, casting
black cumulous billows of smoke
plunge trembling towns into darkness
at four in the afternoon.
“Emergency, get out now”, a brave firey yells.
Warm-blooded creatures curdle with fear,
horrified and fleeing at least those who can
camp by the ocean, bodies wrapped in blankets
by a salt and smoky shore. A Refuge.
It’s 44 degrees at home, 49 in Penrith,
the hottest place on earth.
Outside my door is an oven that burns your face off.
Ash from the ghosts of the charred bush
fall on the verandah,
the garden wilts, my ankles swell up,
day-to-day lives are ripped apart.
What have we done?
Half a billion creatures have been sacrificed
in the funeral pyre of rapacious human greed.
We are left belching and sick to the core.
Their fate is our night terror,
their fur, skin, scale and feather is our loss.
Their deaths mark a burial chamber
seared into the folds of our good heart,
they leave an acrid taste
on the tongue of remembrance. Gone.
I dream, I am a woman with wings
that can fly over this scorched land,
with eye-droppers full of tears
large and glistening, falling and watering
the cavernous mouth of what remains.
Fires raged across 459,123 acres in California,
ravaged 2,240,000 acres in the Amazon,
and some nations stood up and took notice.
Then 6,424,739 acres in Siberia were destroyed,
now 11,300,000 acres in Australia have been
consumed in an inferno. Unprecedented.
This is what a climate crisis looks like, feels like.
The Earth is putting us on notice.
Can we save ‘us’ from ourselves?
‘Omnicide’ a word for human genocide,
can also refer to extinction by
global, anthropogenic, ecological catastrophe.
Perhaps there is a silver lining
to all this destruction,
perhaps the reality of global warming
will break into those staunch conservative seats.
Perhaps it will rattle us out of our creature comforts
and shake us our bones out of complacency. Awake.
“We are one, we are many”,
an Aussie rousing chorus.
A country united: solidarity forged
out of a cauldron of loss,
the bravery of RFS, and volunteers, standing
shoulder to shoulder against an angry blaze,
ordinary folk, doing extraordinary things,
the true unsung heroes. Thank you.
The phoenix of active hope
rises up from the ashen spleen of the landscape,
with an out-pouring of generosity,
donations, blankets, clothes and sustenance,
and with your tenderness and mercy,
softening the blistered and broken hearted,
that feels like the healing balm of so much love