… of drought and flooding rains (Part 3)

This is something of a coda to my earlier couple of posts with the same title.

Last night I read My Country during the Road to Recovery concert held in a paddock at the tiny township of Murphy’s Creek, outside Toowoomba. This was one of the settlements devastated during the flood on January 10, 2011.

The family day and community concert was organised by locals and the Red Cross. I was asked to contribute to the concert by a friend who works for the Red Cross. He pitched, I caught. The trick was to find the right poem or reading appropriate for a reflection. It didn’t take long to come up with the work that had its way with me some months back, Mackellar’s anthem to love of a country that is extreme – both wilful and lavish as she puts it, and one that is terrible and beautiful by turn.

As I drove on dusk down the bush road to Murphy’s Creek I noticed bunches of balloons tied on fence posts and trees. Hand lettered signs read ‘Road to Recovery.’ It had the festive feel of a birthday party and a reminder that things are not over yet for the people who live here. It also felt good, I have to say. One of the reasons I took the gig was, in part, a healing for myself.

People came with their kids and friends. Barbecues and a roped off bar area (‘No kids’ as the MC kept reminding parents) did a roaring trade. The carnival rides were up and in full swing on the floodlit paddock perimeter, and a magician, country music artists and roving mimes – members of Brisbane’s Zen Zen Zo – amused and, I think, probably bemused a lot of the audience. The faery-goth look hardly blended in with the big hats and boots that dominated, but the cameras flashed and the kids stared in wonder. Faces painted, little kids raced around with lit ‘Jedi swords’ and dashed through bubble machines. They had a great time.

Those affected lost pretty much everything back in January and the sobering reminder of the ongoing cost was plain to see. There was a ute loaded with shoes beside a tent with a sign ‘Jumble Sale’ which said it all – that, and the small groups of families who sat quietly on plastic chairs around tables with their drinks and steaks. It wasn’t a boisterous affair but a peaceful one – I suspect the right kind.

Last night was also Earth Hour from 8.30-9.30. The concert paused at this point, candles were lit and a minute’s silence was observed for those who had lost their lives and livelihood to the flood waters. It was a time for reflection and for emerging from the dark. The fireworks that followed marked the light and determined spirit of the future.  Recovery is going to take a long time, but it has begun.