The Australian fires and grief are still real.
In this article I am interviewing my friend and colleague M. K. Skeel (Margaret Skeel) about her experience, what she has done to process her grief, and how she used creativity to begin healing her heart.
Wendy: The Australian Fires and Grief. Can you tell us what you personally experienced in 2019/2020?
Maggie: My farm burned in November 2019. In the morning, I first heard of the Liberation Trail fire, but it was more than eighty kilometers away. That sounded like a safe distance but I was wrong. By five in the afternoon, the dragon had arrived and my sons were fleeing for their lives across a burning bridge. Hours later, the family home was a smoldering ruin and the forest around it was black.
Wendy: How did this affect you personally?
Maggie: The Australian fires and grief…well..it’s hard to put into words the grief that developed then and over the next month, as the fires raged and spread, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of bushland. Homes were lost, people died and countless plants and animals died with them. It was a tragedy so huge that the mind recoiled from it.
Wendy: Please tell me more if you feel comfortable.
I was in shock for weeks. Tears wouldn’t flow. There was no relief from the smoke, the bad news, the sheer devastation on all fronts. The loss was beyond counting – 90 homes in my small community alone. My rainforest, patiently protected for almost 40 years, barren and blackened. My koalas? My possums? The little sweet critters of the undergrowth: bandicoots and bettongs, marsupial mice and quolls? Some must have survived. The Australian bushfires were random in its destruction–the cottage my parents built survived and there were still patches of green forest amongst the ruins. Surely some of the wildlife survived too.
Wendy: Can you share a little about your emotional journey?
With the Australian fires and grief, by grief turned to anger–at a government who did nothing, who were and are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, who are determined to have business as usual till we all drown. At the charities that collected money and then kept it. At everything really. It wasn’t rational. It was just anger.
Wendy: What did you do to next?
Maggie: I tried the gratitude method. Yes, my sons survived. Yes, my parents house was still home to their great grandchildren. But somehow it just didn’t work. The scope of the disaster was too great. The grief and anger remained and I felt frozen by it.
Christmas came and went. There was no celebrating and most of us ushered in the new year with a feeling of dread instead of hope. What next?
What actually came next was rain and that really is what started the healing process caused by the fires.
Where I currently live was stuck in a three-year-long drought. The place was dead and brown and I think that added to the grief. Green is the color of the heart chakra and there was no green to be seen until the rains came. The rains brought life back to the burned and blackened forests and the drought ravaged tablelands and the new green growth gave my heart its first relief from the unbearable grief at all that had been lost.
Wendy: Maggie how did you use writing as a way to mourn and begin to heal?
Maggie: Then I turned to writing. It’s my creative outlet and when I heard that animals had survived in wombat holes, I turned it into a story of hope. For me that was the turning point. The Australian fires and grief plus my overwhelming sense of loss are still there, but there is hope now too–that Life will go on and that what was lost will be replaced by something different, perhaps, in time, something better. I can’t say I am healed yet, just as the land is not healed yet. But it is a beginning…
Wendy: Thank you Maggie. How can people reach you?
Newest Book: How Wombat Saved Her Friends (about the Australian Fires)