In the first week of December Gai and I visited Hannah in the forest. On the way down the hill we picked rich deep red frangipani blossoms. Very Hannah we agreed. A little further on we met Hutcho and Jeremy and the bulldozer driver Jeff. They asked where we were going. ‘We’re visiting Hannah.’

‘And this is water for the budawang,’ Gai said. She’d just filled up a couple of buckets.

‘That’s nice,’ said Jeremy. And they went on with their smoko.

It was already blazing hot, and it was good to step into the cool of the forest. We passed the rock marker that stands at the start of the cemetery area and walked down. First we checked in on Peter Hamilton. The marker on his rock says ‘Yours for a sane and sustainable future.’

Loss, love and acceptance

The red markers placed during Hannah’s 10th year anniversary in August were still bright. We cleared away fallen sticks and branches, then scattered our flowers round the budawang. These are palms that grow in the Mt Nardi area, an ancient species – they’ve been around since Gondwana. We did some chanting.

I reflected on Gai’s expressions of love and acceptance, and felt so glad to be there with her. How amazing to be able to visit her daughter’s gravesite down the hill in the forest. To nurture a palm that has its ancestry way way back in time and grows out of her girl’s belly. To hear Gai call out to Hannah that she still has a mighty fine auntie in AnnieB.

Loss marked with frangipani flowers

Forest floor and frangipani

By the time we emerged from the trees the dozer was scraping and squeaking through the lantana below the hillside houses, cutting a track and containment line on the prevailing wind side of the valley. Hutcho was guiding, making sure of the road’s course, creating a safeguard for the community.

Hutcho’s Captain of the Channon Rural Fire Service. Ten days earlier he was first of all leading operations around the Terania Creek Basin and later working with the Nimbin Rural Fire Service to contain a fire in the Tuntable area that would certainly have ripped through the community without the combined work of RFS and Defenders. You may have seen coverage on the 7.30 report. There have been significant losses in the Nightcap National Park.

Most people’s daily lives are busy and full. This is amplified when there is so much work to do in communities that have been hot and dry for too long, or suffered fire. For communities decision-making takes commitment and time. Yet as Gai notes in a recent ABC online feature, it is a thoughtful and reflective way to live collectively. For example it has enabled a collective commitment to natural burial.

Climate impact loss

In December 2019 in NSW and Qld I had many conversations about the reality of fierce climate impacts, little knowing what would follow for other parts of NSW and Victoria. Over coffee with an old friend he confided that though he doesn’t speak this way with his wife, he’s of the view that extinction acceptance is important alongside the vital creative action of extinction rebellion and the service of Fireys and Defenders. This was a new expression for me, and I found it valuable to consider as I travelled around in dry and smoke. I am broken hearted and angry and I want to insist that more is not lost. For the sake of the children we will prevail.

At the same time I’m holding in mind what it takes to find love and acceptance of vastly changed conditions, and myriad losses – fertiliser for my life right now. In February 2020 look out for a ‘Death Cafe for all beings’ which will provide a forum to share experiences and feelings of this time.