Last year in September the authorities in South-east Queensland, where I live, told us to prepare for water restrictions, as previous wet seasons had failed and the dam levels were getting low (under 50% for our largest dam). Two months later, the Bureau of Meteorology predicted a wet summer and Australia recorded its wettest November since records began. Over summer we had cooler than average temperatures, which no one minded, and wetter than average rainfall, which some people did mind. In my family we love rainy days, but at some point in late February it became difficult even for us to find pleasure in so many of them. The east coast of Australia was being hit by what would come to be known colloquially as a “rain bomb”. Referred to by meteorologists as an “atmospheric river”, it seemed to move down the coast in slow-motion, suspended for days over cities and towns, apparently carrying with it enough water to fill Sydney Harbour sixteen times – which is a rather unfathomable amount since Sydney Harbour counts itself among the larger and deeper natural harbours in the world. To put it in more comprehendible terms, the largest dam for south-east Queensland was sitting below 60% on the 24th of February, 2022; three days later it reached 180%. It’s safe to say plans for water restrictions were shelved.
At my house we were ok, suffering only a minor leak in the roof. But just down the hill people were bring their cars up and parking them outside our house as the creek broke its banks and went for a wander. Bridges went under, as some are inclined to do during heavy rain, but also roads that have never been under water were violently washed away; school was cancelled across many council areas, and shopping centres had to be closed as their carparks became lakes and roofs sagged from the weight of so much water. Other members of my family and some close friends were less lucky, but thankfully none of us was harmed and nothing is insurmountable.
Elsewhere the hurt and damage is much harder to fix. Natural disasters never happen without consequences and so many people lost something. Some houses will never be rebuilt, some business won’t recover, some loved ones won’t be coming home. I hurt for them.
The rain is no longer constant, but intermittent downpours mean more evacuations for some areas and renewed fears of further damage – as if there was anything else to damage. People are on edge, mourning, fearful and traumatised on the east coast of Australia.
Actually, the world is on edge.
There isn’t a lot to love about 2022 so far – volcanoes, floods, polar heat waves and other wild weather, the continuing pandemic, the rising cost of living, and of course the heartbreaking events and images we’re hearing about/seeing from Ukraine, which threaten to upend the world entirely.
Given the state of things, it’s sometimes hard to find inspiration or motivation to produce art, much less feel good about carrying on with it. These are scary times and it seems a trivial activity to do while others struggle just getting through the night.
Humans are creative even – sometimes especially – in troubling times. As others have said before, art is not a luxury. So I fall back on some simple and soothing art – for meditation, for clarity, to find a way to think about all the big events we’re witnessing and experiencing now, and sometimes for distraction. It’s art that doesn’t have conscious meaning, at least none that I can discern. It’s just me, in quiet conversation with a pen and some cheap paper.