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Australia burns, hearts break, hope waits

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We have been lucky enough to visit Australia several times and have friends scattered throughout the eastern states. I also left a chunk of my heart there, and it is breaking.

We have wonderful memories of being awakened in the morning by kookaburras, bell birds and raucous cockatoos and seeing the sky turn pink as flocks of galahs pass overhead. We remember driving miles (or rather, kilometers) without seeing cars but sharing the road with kangaroos and emus. We have watched a small wallaby eating breakfast just outside the screened door of our room, seen a platypus swim in a pond near Jenolan Caves, and watched koalas make their slow way from limb to limb in the eucalyptus trees.

We have ridden the ferries in Sydney Harbor and the river taxis in Brisbane, swum off a riverboat in the Murray River, sailed the Brisbane waters, flown over the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier in a small plane, helped round up stray cattle on a farm in Victoria and seen the red supply boats leave Tasmania for the South Pole.

Once we rode through a small bushfire on the Central Coast and saw it jump the road before it went racing off through the bush on the other side. That was awesome, but absolutely nothing compared to what they are experiencing now. As we see picture after picture and hear report after report of the homes and wildlife caught in the path of the raging fires and the people stranded in coastal towns, we want to weep.

It is hard to tell from the reports whether places we have visited are in the path of the blaze and we have sent notes to friends, asking if they are all right. So far, all the replies we have gotten have been mostly good news. One friend in the Adelaide Hills said his son had lost outbuildings, but the house was saved. A report from Sydney is of terrible smoke and awful heat, but no fires nearby. The Brisbane area doesn’t seem to be affected yet and Christmas at the beach went on as usual.

We haven’t heard anything from The Blue Mountains, Tweed Valley, Victoria, or Tasmania.

We can only wait to hear, and hope.

Jean McCamy is a Wake Forest artist.