from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Dusty and Dry and a Yellow-tailed Black cockatoo

January 8, 2021

Struggling eucalyptus tree-seedling

It’s been hot and dry and rain-less for weeks. Not ultra-hot – which is defined as a series of days over 40C but oscillating around 30 degrees C. The soil is hard and even if you dig a foot down, there is no moisture. We are watering daily: sprinklers and drippers in a series of timings around the house. When I go out, I fill six 2litre old milk bottles with water and take them in my car to water the smaller trees along our driveway.

Note the liklihood of rain: On Tuesday, 5% chance of less than 1 mm … so it goes.

We fill our bird baths twice a day for the bees that gather around the edges and for the birds that congregate early and late. No koalas have yet come down to drink in the daytime this summer.

La Niña is indeed bringing cooler weather and rain, but not to us in South Australia. It is raining almost everywhere else. The map of Australia is no longer filled with emergency red coloured areas of desperation. Drought remains only in isolated unlucky spots.

The presence of La Niña increases the chance of widespread flooding. Of the 18 La Niña events since 1900 (including multi-year events ) 12 have resulted in floodsfor some parts of Australia, with the east coast experiencing twice as many severe floods during La Niña years than El Niño years. Typically, some areas of northern Australia will experience flooding during La Niña because of the increase in tropical cyclone numbers. The relationship between La Niña strength and rainfall is closely linked.’

Sadly, this rainfall is not reaching us, but at least we have not had the fiercest of summers, nor a winter without rain. However, we are all very conscious of water availability and usage. Metered water is not cheap in Adelaide.

Yellow-tailed black cockatoo (male has the pink around the eye)

All evening, a single yellow-tailed black cockatoo has been flying around our house and the valley calling and wailing. It sounds desperate. These cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) are monogamous and mate for life. For sure this cockatoo had lost its mate. We often see flocks of them in summer. They are most elegant flyers with a taste for the nuts inside the cones of radiata pines. In the past, fishermen used to shoot these magnificent birds to get the grubs from their gizzards – grubs that the birds had extracted from eucalypts. Our bird cried mournfully. I hope the mate has not met some misadventure.

A Painting of the Outback

Yesterday, I went to the cinema to see a film called ‘The Dry’ based on the eponymous book by Jane Harper. It is a murder mystery set during drought times in a small town in the desolate wheatlands of NW Victoria –  the Mallee Wimmera. For anyone who has no concept of how drought affects Australian farming communities, watch this film and you will get an idea of this country of extreme weather.

There is no problem with going to the cinema at the moment. We all checked in at the cinema entrance with our phones against the QR code reader, we sanitised our hands and we were allocated seats according to some social distancing formula.  No one was wearing a mask.

This all might change. This long weekend, greater Brisbane is in total lockdown. 2 million people. It’s all because one worker, a cleaner in a medi-hotel, contracted the new UK strain of the virus from a quarantined UK traveller. During the time before the cleaner become ill and was tested, she wandered around and they say up to 800 people might have been in contact. So, everyone is holding thumbs.

How can we seal our borders to this virulent mutated virus (501 and 117)? We are told sad stories of Australian families desperate to return home. Yet already we are in catchup with the virus escaping in NSW from an international traveller and the same happened in South Australia 2 months ago.

Today PM, Scott Morrison announced measures that they hope will reduce the odds of this happening. Masks on international and domestic flights are now mandatory (that does not seem to be much help for an 8-12 hr flight). Flight numbers will be reduced; testing pre- and post-flight are required. Pre-boarding rapid tests will be required for UK travellers to Australia. Surely this will make it harder for the virus to find its way in.
Once more, I am not hopeful!

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: Looking at the View …

April 14. Today, I’m going to do something new, I’m going to look at the view. The big coincidence following my grandson’s exhortation is the day’s Tao guideline: observe. “The ancients first began accumulating wisdom when they came upon the idea that one could be the observer”.
My grandson’s words echo those of the ancients. Out of the mouths of babes. Maybe we need to listen to the children more.
But today is not about listening.
The first stop was the pool. I check it every day, but today I saw just how sparkling it was in the early morning sunlight. It looked like crystal. I admit I gave myself a round of applause at how good my pool maintenance is.
I saw the butterflies on the miniature camellia bushes with their delicate pink flowers.  On closer examination and more astute observation, I came to the unhappy conclusion that they were cabbage moths that actually wreak havoc in the garden.
My next stop was at the fruit bowl put out to attract the lorikeets. I saw five mynahs having a feast, but no sign of lorikeets. Another time, perhaps. Perseverance.
Next, with Holly in tow, I set off for a walk, with focus again only on observing. And it brought to mind the words sung by Louis Armstrong:
I see trees of green
And red roses too…
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue
And clouds of white…
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

And this is how I felt this morning. The sky was blue and clear, the leaves of the poinciana and the frangipani were beautiful shades of green. There are few roses in Brisbane, but I observed the red flowers of the geranium and hibiscus, the blue of the plumbago and the orange of the exora. Spectacular mixes of colour.
Appreciation of the beauty of the world we live in may bring the wisdom to know how to look after it. We may also take it one step further and observe our own behaviour towards the world and those in it.

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: Feedback Day, April 6

Today is feedback day on various items raised in earlier posts.
The first is feedback on the algebra challenge set by my grandson for the Brisbane extended family (20 people). He has created a group chat page and, in the video he makes, sets challenges and other tasks to keep us busy in this time of coronavirus
and staying at home.
The results were posted and I came in the bottom 30%. I immediately used my Granny privileges and phoned him for an explanation. I wanted feedback! How did I get that result? What had I done wrong?  He was quite blunt with me:
Granny, your answer was correct but you were penalized for your (very) late submission.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had to set aside my time management for that day to complete the challenge, so you can imagine how miserable I felt with this outcome. I found myself using some of the excuses my students used on me when they submitted their assignments late. I noticed the same whining tone in my voice. I practiced every sympathy-rousing technique I could think of. To no avail. My poor performance will go down in history.
I submitted my answer to the next challenge (Maths) in record time.

Next up is the time management. I am definitely getting better. First of all, I don’t set an unrealistic number of tasks to do in a day. Small steps. This isolation is here for a while. Tomorrow is another day. And so is the next. And the next. And the next. And the…
Get a grip!
Stay focused!
Bearing the above in mind, I now prefer to design my day rather than manage/plan my time. Design is creative and interesting, requires imagination  and brings pleasure.  My design includes one big housework task a day : polish the furniture. Yay! I tell myself . I designed that for today and I love seeing the furniture glow in the rays of sunlight that filter through the clean blinds, the cleaning of which was yesterday’s fun thing to do…
And so it goes.

Something I read:

During difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by bit.
Don’t think about the future, not even what might happen tomorrow. Wash the dishes.
Take off the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow bigger and bigger.
And time will come when you can think about the future without crying. Good morning

(Elena Mikhalkova, “The Room of Ancient Keys”)