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An Australian Tale

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Melbourne, January 14, 2020

I’ve always wanted to go to Australia. It’s just one of those places that has sat there on my bucket list that wasn’t getting checked off. Fortunately for me, one of my dearest friends in the world married an Aussie and moved here 20 years ago. I’ve been threatening to visit ever since. When I was communicating with her about timing, I asked if two weeks was too long. She said I should come for three. This is the kind of friend I have in Kim. Time passes, we don’t see each other for eons, then we pick up right where we left off when we finally do get together, drinking up the presence of the other, getting our fill, charging that friendship with renewed commitment. I’m fortunate that I have the time and ability to be able to be here for an extended time, to really get to see the country, get a sense of the people and how they live, and to be with Kim. It’s a real gift.

The road signs here strike me as incredibly funny, and Kim has indulged me time and time again with slowing down, or even going back so I can take a picture of the sign. You don’t yield, you “give way”, there are no passing lanes, there are “overtaking lanes”, a grocery cart is a “trolley”. None of the labels in the grocery store look familiar, I can’t find what I want in the “American” section, which is tiny. None of this is upsetting, it’s just different, and so far, different has been good.

There are many different languages being spoken in the places I have been visiting, not to mention the sometimes difficult to understand Australia accents and dialects. But there are things I have noticed here that are universal, even though I’m about as far away from home as I can get. Toddlers run away from their parents, people stand in the most inconvenient places when trying to take pictures of animals or scenery, oblivious to the people they are blocking or hindering. But even though the road signs and the languages are different, it is so clear to me just how similar we all are. We are all in this together, no matter how much distance may separate us.

I’m also struck by the outpouring of love and support Australia is getting because of the bush fires. They are unprecedented in scope and decimating the country. There was a story written by a local firefighter who has been dealing with bush fires for decades who says he has never seen anything like this. Skeptics of climate change can scoff from afar, saying that the fires aren’t being controlled properly, or it doesn’t have anything to do with the weather. I will listen to those that are on the front lines of dealing with the damage to our planet, the ones that see up close and personal just what these fires mean, what the dying sections of the Great Barrier Reef means.

What’s happening to our planet was referred to as “global warming” for decades, then we moved to the more accurate term of “Climate change”, because it’s more than just temperatures rising a little. It’s time we start calling the current situation by its most accurate term: Climate crisis. I wonder what it will take for the climate change deniers to see what is right in front of them.

For most people, if we don’t see the effects of something ourselves, with our own two eyes, it’s hard to bring it into our hearts as truth. If we still have water running out of our taps, we don’t get the significance of a water shortage. It’s not until the source runs dry, we turn on the tap and nothing happens, when we feel the impact ourselves that we decide it’s time to take action. It’s human nature I suppose. We want to see the good stuff, not the bad. We ignore the rattle in the engine because we can’t afford to pay for the repair, or would rather save that money we will have to spend on the vacation we are planning, so we pretend that there is nothing wrong. If we take the car in and find out exactly what’s going on, we will likely have to cough up a lot of money to fix it. we might even lose the car, have to start walking or taking the bus and that is soooooooo time consuming. Better to just ignore that rattle until you can’t anymore. Willful ignorance.

We want to believe that our child is just a bit high strung, not suffering from an anxiety disorder. We want to believe that the beautiful tree in the back yard is just late in blooming, not sick or dying. We don’t want to see the truth when the truth means we have to do something differently, that the truth makes things harder. We are all working do damn hard just to get through a day, we really don’t want to add anything to our plate. I get it. But our optimism will be our downfall. Can we really afford not to see the truth?

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