I don’t really celebrate the new year. As I’ve said before, I dislike fireworks; and, contrarian that I am, if everyone else is doing it, I’d really rather not. (Needless to say, I went to bed early last night.)
I don’t see that the Gregorian calendar has much relevance to reality. It’s an abstract system that has been imposed on the natural cycle of the year. It does makes more sense in the northern hemisphere, where the new year comes in the midst of the winter dark, but here in Australia the summer light and brashness of the celebrations grates on my nerves.
My aversion has been heightened this time round by the events of the last few months. Australia is experiencing an ecological crisis with the bushfires on top of a decade-long drought and some of the hottest days on record, with no decent rain in sight. So many people and communities have been affected. Yet what concerns me most is the ecological destruction. Ecologists estimate that around 480 million animals have died (and this doesn’t include trees and plants). Add that number to the millions of fish who died last year in the drying-dying rivers of western NSW, and it doesn’t seem like the right time to celebrate. Too much has been lost. And the fires still rage, and the drought goes on. The numbers will continue to rise. I’m not sure how I am going to come to terms with the grief of this ongoing catastrophe.
Yet this morning I took a detour from my usual walk and went to the lake, and what I saw has given me some hope. Yes, nearby there are charred landscapes which will take years and perhaps even decades to regenerate, the fires in some places having been so fierce. Still, right here is life doing what it does.
An eastern great egret (identified by the prominent kink in the neck) was standing in the shallows, fishing, and seemingly waiting for me. I have never been so close before.
Meanwhile superb fairy wrens were skittering along the shore, and a black cockatoo flew by, calling sadly.
Later I watched as a wren youngster was fed tidbits by her mother. The undergrowth was alive with the musical trills of a large family of these tiny birds.
And when I finally arrived home I was met by the gaze of a curious young rosella.
I have no idea what 2020 will bring. I wish only to work on my health and make more art—both challenges I am very uncertain about. Yet the birds have given me hope. Life will go on living, despite the massive changes that are happening here and everywhere else around the world.
This is a time of so many endings, I’ll grasp what beginnings I can.