Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flood Recovery....random snippets of memories.

*It's a perfect day. The rain has dropped it's tears to clean some areas nicely but just as you begin to think that the smell is all gone, you turn a corner and the wreaking stench hits you hard, like a hidden but festering heart - a sore wound suddenly exposed from under it's protective cover of near clean bandaged facade. You try not to retch and hold your nose tight.

The roads that have been closed seem to be the worst. The houses furthest away from the city the worst and the hearts furthest away from God too.

"Oh God give us chance to tell of your love. To tell their muddled minds that it is not your fault. That you stick closer than a good helping brother; that nothing can take us away from the love of God."

 *Roads going uphill tell the secrets of the seeping, weeping ground. The steady ground too heavy, too saturated to hold any more in, allows the water to ooze... spilling it tears down the broken road to drain away eventually to the emptying rivers. Crying for the people too sore, too tired to cry themselves.

* People left with nothing but what is left in the bank and a  few handouts (or maybe some are lucky enough to get insurance payouts if they had the right type of flood cover). But with virtually nothing they still buy buy themselves flags to make ready for Australia Day next week.

There they have just been hung on upright, wooden electricity poles, which stood tall and strong against the rivers' forces. Besides them piles of rubbish lie in mounds much higher that the fences that prop them up. Decaying heaps decorated by crumbling Gibb like some sick joke to make it look snowy and  christmassy. Children's Christmas toys lie smelly, muddied and broken. Unrecognisable, their pleasure destroyed in a few days of  torturous waiting to see what the river would do. The sweltering heat makes sickly smells waft up to the proud and perfect flags. They do not care .... they are celebrating the triumph of human beings in this country, where people will fight and conqueror with strength and dignity - fellow countrymen do! ( no photographs, for by now I am crying, and think these people deserve their own space and privacy - how does a journalists cope?)

* A week after the highest flooding and a mud encrusted miniature rose bud pushes open it's perfectly mud free red flower. No mud inside but surrounded by mud drying and cracking on it's tiny baby rose leaves.  The wind vigorously battles to help the little flower rid itself of mud. But the mud stealthily clings to it's haunting power; laughing at the deluded photographer who sees the wind as enemy.

* Shipping containers are strewn about like matchboxes. Caravans are  heaped up in the corner the river chose to send them.  While a car stands perfectly well where it was left outside it's house,  wedged between the Bremmer and Brisbane Rivers - where they bullied each other for territory and only they thought they had won. Muddy silt tints the windows brown. Its body is dusty red. Later in the week it is gone, forever bar in memory lane.

* The white car gleams on the outside now. The inside too is clean - how did they get the mud out you wonder? The windows so misted up, as the heat makes it work up a sweat, that no demister will ever change. The owner tinkers with the engine....has he put  new one in? Or has he given up and is now taking out salvageable bits to sell for spare parts? You wish you could do something to make such desperation better.

* Brand new driveway, black and sticky and that they can get in to begin the work of cleaning up without wading into slush from swollen door to new rubbish dump about to start beneath their mail box, upon their pavement.

*I wonder what they think...our unaffected kids - whose house is reasonably  tidy and has no mud to clean? We set up a cleaning station at their friends house. They have cleaned some stinky mud off Someone Else's treasures; using gloves in buckets full of HOSPITAL GRADE DISINFECTANT.  Some have donned winter jeans and gum boots as a little extra protection, and after sweltering all day thus clad in 33 degrees plus, they burst with the rainclouds as they dance and run in the rain. Then they fill up the rather hopeless thin gloves to make giant water bombs to get each other as if life is just the same as ever.

They have baked and written letters, smiled and given them out to strangers - little blondies traipsing through the mud like angels... mostly bringing smiles to weary faces. We had one cookie refusal by a fed up man - ready to break; too tied to eat or care about eating.

We focus on the happy ones and their helpers too, who take encouragement from little girls who want to help a bit. I wonder what they think...our unaffected kids - whose house is reasonably  tidy and has no mud to clean?

* We get home exhausted, ready to go to bed. But first we must clean ourselves up, and eat a  delicious meal generously prepared by babysitter and babysat. The little ones are hurried into bed, with guilty kisses and extra hugs that come with being apart all day. But wait, the shopping list can't wait another day, tomorrow is a birthday and late night shopping offers treats above the pressies hiding in the mud free cupboard.

Our suburb is unaffected  and the shops are full like Christmas time - visitors from neighbouring areas have come in to get things that their shelves nor their supermarket's shelves stock. Some just escape to pretend for a while that everything is normal, that nothing really happened, but they leave a trail of dried mud through the shops.

Most teens seem unaffected, they laugh and look at things that don't really matter in life. Wearily we push the trolley up the travelator to get to our car above. Too tired to talk we stare ahead in comfortable silence, my helping child and I. As we reach the middle I see three teens sitting on a bench above. Normally they would ignore a friendly 'old lady' like me. Two do. One is on the phone. Another texting fast. The middle bloke just staring...his cheeks are wet with tears. As I reach the top, our eyes fix for a long few moments...I give a feeble smile, to replace the hug I want to give him. He understands and is grateful that someone cared a little - but no wry smile can reach his lips.

"Dear God be with that kid - why didn't I talk to him? What private hell has he been through this week? Does he have someone to talk to? Lord may he talk to you!"

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