15 May VIRUS 2020

Amid relaxed NSW restrictions … parks, playgrounds, skateparks and beaches re-open in line with a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. Newcastle Herald

Dysfunctional’ mental health system needs boost in wake of pandemic: experts. SMH

While the world looked the other way, corporate giants abandoned coal. The month of April passed with few noticing the huge exit from carbon. SMH

As the virus tears through Russia, medical workers are getting sick and dying at astonishing rates. NY Times

Trump Promises ‘Warp Speed’ Coronavirus Vaccine Effort. NPR

Keep pet cats indoors, say researchers who found they kill 230m native Australian animals each year. Guardian

“It’s quite a macabre sight, seeing the white soldier lying on top of a silver four-wheel-drive”: ABC Mid North Coast[1]

Reading this morning’s news, emotion is slowly coming home, a raised pitch of mood now unforgetting just how many people have died, and how many more are going to die. For the first time in my life I feel shadowed by a bleak future, our natural environment turning upside down. And I feel lucky to have lived when I did, in such ignorance.

A clouded sunrise from the lookout still looking for my first whale of the season – my mark for the start of winter. A Brahminy Kite spirals north over surfers. Following instructions I drive south, stop for a quick look at the river. The water is collecting everything it can, even feint fingers of cloud.

Out of town I turn onto the gravel road and arrive a minute after seven. There’s a handful of people andsome confusion, another group is protesting on the northern end. I chat to Lil the only one I know, then Darren a skinny guy, ex-copper, praising veganism.
I photograph trees and stumps. That’s what I do.
Gradually more demonstrators arrive. I get my clap sticks out and we form a circle, walking (keeping physical distancing). Someone is singing a Gumbaynggirr song. NBN arrive, a reporter and cameraman. Next, a young Gumbaynggirr man, Bumagin bouncing in shouting out, Giinagay trees! It becomes a call and response.
He asks the men to gather firewood. I drag a long branch out, not so thick, try and crack with my boot. You won’t break that brother, says Bumagin. I pull it back into the bush. (Wyn is the pyro in our house).
State Forests arrive, a large man in a plastic safety helmet and a bushy beard. He asks us to leave, says the forest is closed, a fantail is singing. Bumagin tells him to leave. This is Gumbaynggirr land, and he waves a piece of paper saying, you haven’t replied to my demands. It seems to be a stalemate, they argue for fifteen, twenty minutes, then Bumagin disappears driving deeper into the forest looking for those logging his land.
I chat to Sue, a councillor, apologise for resigning from chairing the Koala Action Day C’tee. She appreciates my reasons, says it triggered her to put forward a motion once again about logging to council. Someone says there was a small demo against the back burning, back at Jagun. They are very upset. I said there needs to be careful burning, slow mosaic burns, It’s too dry they said, it’s not that dry and rain is forecast tomorrow. I didn’t want to argue.I don’t like confrontation I realise seeing Bumagin a small, dark, barefoot, passionate guy square up to Tom from State Forests, about six foot six. We obey the State Forest directions and head back to the start of closed forest – I keep going. I thought I should see what was happening on my patch, Georgie asked me to. I later hear the police were called, but no trouble, Sue was interviewed for the news and Bumagin won a stay of execution.

~

From the lookout, exquisite clarity up and down the spine, no sign of smoke north or south, too windy. The breakers are whipping the beach. Surfers are out in force, no Whales.
I head down to the estuary to check out the new bird sign. It is a beautiful piece of work, over engineered and with the ‘No Dogs’ much too small. After two years of agitation I am disappointed. This won’t be enough.
I am alone in this place
that melts my sweetmeats.
Miilba is emptying, changing
tone, blue vertigo,
vertical immensities.
So many layers to reality,
a smooth invisible flow
abruptly lacerated, riffles
crystal-white tears walking
straight into a sand bank,
the bending of water unapparent,
but on the front of the beach,
green curlicues of spin-drift
tear off the edge of sea,
an oceanic blue backdrop
and a paler shade floating,
rhythm-less, leaning up.
A shadow against the light, a bird on the far bank. A Curlew, or Whimbrel or Godwit, here to celebrate their images being erected, a potential for worship – but they have gone, flown away for summer in the far north. It’s a heron that flies across who starts heading my way, hesitating to cross in front of me, I’m a little too close. So I turn my back slowly and walk to the forest edge allowing the heron to pass.

An elegant turn as if on a runway,
unblinking eyes perpetually wide,
the sleek head delicately textured,
Tang brush-strokes white and blue,
Persian cobalt from the Silk Road
built into a powerful weapon.

I photograph the bird as two Pied Oystercatchers fly past piping – you missed us. A car arrives, a woman gets out, two dogs race onto the beach – I think again that the sign won’t have the desired effect. We need a basilisk.

~

I write to the relevant council officers that the sign will have no effect without warnings from the rangers and then fines.

We laugh at Charlie Booker’s antiviral sardonic look at BoJo’s inept response to the pandemic. I am about to send the link to friends, when it vanishes off YouTube.

~

There is growing evidence that the virus causes a far greater array of symptoms than was previously understood. And that its effects can be agonisingly prolonged: in Garner’s case for more than seven weeks. The professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine says his experience of Covid-19 featured a new and disturbing symptom every day, akin to an ‘advent calendar’.

‘The symptoms were weird as hell,’ he says. They included loss of smell, heaviness, malaise, tight chest and racing heart. At one point Garner thought he was about to die. He tried to Google ‘fulminating myocarditis’ but was too unwell to navigate the screen. . . He had a muggy head, upset stomach, tinnitus, pins and needles, breathlessness, dizziness and arthritis in the hands. Each time Garner thought he was getting better the illness roared back. It was a sort of virus snakes and ladders. ‘It’s deeply frustrating. A lot of people start doubting themselves.’ ‘The virus is certainly causing lots of immunological changes in the body, lots of strange pathology that we don’t yet understand. This is a novel disease. And an outrageous one. The textbooks haven’t been written.’[2]

Not to compare, but . . . my virus, Ross River (again a single-strand of RNA) has been with me for 17 months now, pins and needles, malaise and exhaustion, the need for dreams in the middle of the day.

It starts raining after dark, making Wyn happy, she loves our garden.

 

 

[1] Dorrigo residents are shocked to see their historic cenotaph smashed in a car crash overnight.

[2] Luke Harding, Weird as hell’: the Covid-19 patients who have symptoms for months, The Guardian, 15 May