A Bluebird Call by Tanya Hodkinson
It was just a few months ago,
With stifling heat pressing down and rain a forgotten pleasure,
When the incessant shrill of cicadas deafened hazy sunsets
And accompanied festive plans already in full swing.
We were preparing to spend Christmas near Dargo, or maybe Mallacoota,
Yearning for an escape in rambling forest walks and peeping bluebird songs, when
Late one night in December we decided not to go.
The annual pilgrimage to the beach or the bush was off – for us,
The risk deemed too great.
It was a few short months ago
When New Years Eve welcomed in the new decade
With walls of fire closing in on the entire south-east coast.
Raging infernos reduced magnificent mountain gums to dust,
And made refugees or cinders of the critters and creatures of bush folk legend.
Images of exhausted fireys, of stranded families, of incinerated wildlife filled our screens
And stories of sorrow and survival filled our airwaves,
Jarring our summer imaginary into a new reality
With heavied hearts and souls.
It was only a few months ago
When our black summer ravaged a tinder, brittle land barren.
Fragile flesh gashed and gouged leaving smouldering wounds to scar amidst
The gut-curling stench and silence of death.
For weeks fires burned and joined
Creating firestorms and firefronts hundreds of kilometres long.
Unbreathable air an ashen smog circumferenced the globe –
A deathly haze darkening our untouchable summer days.
It was just a few months ago when
School returned for a new year,
And as I dropped my kids at their classrooms on that first day the
Usual squawk of excited children flocking
like seagulls swooping your fish ‘n’ chips on a hot summer’s night
Resonated from the playground.
There was relief in the normalcy of school, the security of friends and the predictability of routine,
For not far below the surface
Lay fault lines of uncertainty,
Traces of trauma, and
Stories of near misses
From a summer seared into our living memory.
It is now,
Only a few short months later
When time has thickened and slowed.
The ash from our black summer settled,
Burnt bodies buried and the smoke from smouldering peat-moss has finally given way to crisp, cool autumn air,
The wounds still raw and the grief still real, but so distant now as another crisis nears.
Now, we find ourselves ordered to wait indefinitely at home.
Yes. We wait.
As a silent killer indiscriminately stalks the globe,
Darkening doors as borders and social liberties close.
Survival, now, a ponderous thing,
For this is far greater than us mortal beings.
In the new found space of emptied days
A tense kind of quiet, an unnerving calm
There are no words. No words for the depth of uncertainty waiting ahead.
Another news report.
The death toll rising.
Ventilators in short supply.
Health workers burdened with
What kind of future can survival hold?
And how can we suture our pasts to a future that might dare to be bold?
I long to wake to the kindred call of bluebirds on a lonely mountain saddle with
Dripping dew on soft hands of golden light.
But the bluebirds no longer call and
The bracken fronds are charred black, and I am uncertain if or when they will return.
There is a melancholy in this silence
And in this waiting.
But as I cast forward into the engulfing darkness beyond
I Pause –
For this is a time of reckoning.
Australia’s story is one of endurance,
It is one of tenacity,
Of violence, of struggle and of fight.
I sense the dormant mongrel spirit stirring,
A spirit made comfortable and complacent in my bed,
Wrapped in the convenience and arrogant easy virtues of modern life.
Now, this mongrel spirit is readying to fight.
To fight for making kin with this troubled and troubling time.
In the dismal midnight din of the waiting months to come,
Beyond winter’s chilling grip and alluring desolate charm
There must be hope of a survival that buds indelibly from ashen ground,
A hope raptured in the trouble it is bound.
Survival defiantly revives that mongrel core,
From where you can hear that sweet bluebird call once more.
Tanya is an English and Outdoor Education teacher and PhD candidate in the final stages of writing up her thesis. Tanya’s work is increasingly interested in the role of education and educators as advocates to help young people ‘make kin’ with the natural world and ‘sit with the trouble’ (Donna Haraway) of the uncertain times we are living.