Malaise

I’m feeling low.

I know I’m not alone in this right now, and in many ways it feels self-indulgent to continue wallowing in the misery when so many people have lost properties and lives. I’m safe; my family is safe; my home is safe: for now, at least.

But everywhere I look there’s more loss, more denial, more inaction, more despair. I wonder how First Nations people are feeling, seeing their lands ravaged by this destruction. There’s this heavy, hard ball of grief in my guts that won’t go away no matter how hard I try to hang onto hope. It feels as if everything has changed forever, and it’s not just the fires, or the relentless, choking smoke in major cities, or the spectre of all of this only becoming worse. 

It’s the little things that hurt the most. It’s the Facebook group of my town’s locals that is normally friendly and positive but has recently degenerated into name-calling and derision at those who dare to mention climate change. It’s the people who are looking away, acting as if nothing at all is happening. It’s watching my children playing and thinking, what have I done, bringing them into a world like this? It’s getting that little clench of fear every time my husband’s CFS pager goes off, wondering how close the fire is this time, crossing my fingers that he’ll come home to us safely.

I’m questioning everything now in a way I never have before. Even making social plans in summer is tentative because we never know when we might have to evacuate our house.

I know I need to switch off for a while, stop reading so much bad news, stop reading the bloody comments. I should start writing again – it’s in times of crisis that the world needs art the most – but even that now seems at best frivolous, at worst selfish. 

But there have been little pockets of brightness, too. Watching people come together to support people and wildlife affected by the bushfires. #AuthorsForFireys on Twitter has raised tens of thousands of dollars for various charities – two people donated $350 between them for signed copies of my books.

Some women who live in my town announced they were collecting medical supplies for wildlife on Kangaroo Island, and every day for a couple of weeks locals turned up at the oval with so many donations that they had at least three carloads each day.

My publishers, Pantera Press, not only donated $10,000 for bushfire relief but are also matching author and staff donations.

One thing, at least, that is unanimous is the appreciation for volunteer firefighters, who go out there again and again, exhausted, afraid, with no thought or expectation of compensation. Who come home to their families, dead on their feet and with bushfire smoke deep inside their pores, to snatch as much sleep as they can before they go out to do it all over again.

So I’m feeling pretty low.

My new book, The Girl She Was, is out in two and a half months, but I’m having trouble mustering up excitement about it. I have a new story in my head, but I’m no longer sure if I want to write it … or anything. It all seems so pointless.

In another couple of months the main danger of the bushfire season will be over. The smoke will roll away and things will start to feel normal again.

But that’s also what I’m afraid of … that this sense of urgency will dissipate along with the smoke and we’ll go another year without changing anything.

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