A message from the rains

After a jam packed Christmas break (newly engaged = the summer of champagne), we flew back to Broome on the eve of big rains in the Kimberley. Rain and storms in the west Kimberley are not a common occurrence, and my partner and I didn’t want to miss out!

We arrived in Broome late afternoon and got dropped off at a friend’s place where our car was waiting. Reconnected the car battery, checked the breaks and clutch (recently fixed) were all good, and headed to the shops for groceries (scavenging through the meager and depressed looking vegetables on  Coles shelves). My partner wanted to drive straight back home, a 3 hour night drive with unclear weather and dirt road conditions ahead. We’d get home to a house full of gecko droppings and a flooded loungeroom, thanks to a large crack in the roof somewhere and rain that had fallen over the last few days. That certainly sounded like the end of a holiday.

Insisting on hanging to my holiday feeling for one more night, we stayed with a friend in Broome. Over night rain began to fall, with a lot of rain forecast for the next 2 days. We had to leave early to avoid our travel becoming completely flooded out. Secretly though, we were both excited to hit the muddy road and slip and slide our way back home.

And we weren’t disappointed. The road back to our community is about 200kms, 90kms of which is dirt. Constant rain meant puddles galore, boggy sections and at least one good stretch of road dam. We still made it home in good time. Later that morning the road became so boggy the Broome Shire closed it for a few days.

The road home

The road home

20150107_064840Two glorious days of heavy rain followed.

I am reading David Abram’s Becoming Animal: an earthly cosmology, which seems to time impeccably with being in the Kimberley monsoon. Abram describes our society’s preoccupation with human intellect and language, through which we represent rather than directly experience the world. This way of communicating separates us from the other-than-human world, he argues. Instead, Abram implores us to consider that the world, its animals, plants, soil, wind, does express meaningful speech. Abram describes in detail urban and natural landscapes in the northern hemisphere and what they are communicating to him about the world and his place in it.

Back at home in the west Kimberley and my surroundings are alive. Flying ants have hatched and create mini insect cyclones under night lights. Big colourful butterflies have appeared and feed on blooming native trees. Birds and lizards abound all day, chasing insects and butterflies. My chili plants have died, the tomatoes are brown. Only pawpaws and sweet potatoes are thriving. Some local friends have feasted on Madorr, a bush fruit high in Vitamin C. At night an orchestra of frogs can be heard from a temporary wetland half a kilometer down the road. Huge stupid beetles crash into our verandah lights. The sun is bright and angry from the time it wakes up, only calming down in the evening. The nights are still but noisy.

I think about how European Aussies struggle in the tropical heat. The tourist season closes for summer, people head south for extended holidays in cooler climates. The air con is switched on. We shelter. European fruits and vegetables wane, brown off, die. Yet native trees bloom and appear green and healthy. Native animal populations boom and food chains amplify.

These messages from my backyard raise questions about our Australian lifestyle in the north. What food should we grow? What we should eat and when? When should I sleep and wake? When should I exercise? How should I organise my day? Can my life flex to these temporary abundant resources and how?

Luckily, for now, clouds keep the day cool and make office work manageable, with birds and cicadas (and faint construction work) my company. Time to transcribe some interviews from 2014 and begin to look forward to 2015!

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