The weekend got a little hairier after my previous post — on Sunday, the prospect of a rainy day sent us downtown to the Gallery of Modern Art, an anchor of Brisbane’s cultural center. They have their triannual Asian Pacific show mounted at the moment, and it’s full of fantastic images, crazy sculptures and more, from India, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere.
A series of elaborate paintings of “the Last Leopard King” replete with birds eviscerating felines and rhinestone sparkles scattered across fields of deer-eating monkeys engrossed me for awhile, as did the dance masks from PNG and photos of people standing before Communist statues in Uzbekhistan, during and after the fall. I was looking forward to a few more hours of looking and thinking, but soon after we arrived, the staff began preparing us to leave.
A storm warning — for cyclones or tornadoes, we were getting mixed messages — meant that the GOMA would close at 3 pm so their staff could go home. We got back to the train in the stiffly pouring rain, and headed to the mall to stock up on more food and wine. Matt set meat to marinating for the BBQ and we settled in for the evening.
And then the leaks started getting a bit worse, to the point that one of our house guests spent some time in the rain on Sunday afternoon trying to devise a drain for the back patio, where a gathering pond was making its way into the back bedroom. Eventually our landlady stopped by (after trying to prevent her basement from flooding and failing). She let us move upstairs into the empty apartment late that afternoon, just in time before the storm really set in — and right before the power went out for the duration.
We had already spent a good part of that afternoon watching the television coverage of the flooding. I came away with the distinct impression that while this storm event was the lesser of the one in 2011, it was triggering big reactions and some emotional turmoil. People who flooded then were likely to flood again, this round.
The disaster porn got a bit extreme at some points, with repeating loops of drowned riverwalks that had just recently been rejuvenated from the last floods, downed trees, and reporters in precarious places. In a way, it was nice to no longer be able to watch once the power went out. Still, I confess that I was rather nervous to be without information and contact with the outside world — despite the fact that my phone still had a satellite connection and I could text and email and web-surf if I needed to do so, there was that coming moment when my battery would run out of juice.
Despite the conditions, we had a lovely candlelit dinner and eventually went to bed; I slept pretty soundly, despite the wind and rain and crashing of the bamboo grove against our bedroom wall. The next morning, I felt exhausted anyway — too much wine, still no power. Monday was a holiday, so Matt’s colleague kindly picked us up to go to her house for hot showers and warm food, and an afternoon of board games.
By the time we headed home later in the day, the power was back — but the grocery was closed, and they were dumping milk by the gallon (held at more than 5 deg C for too long) in the mall dumpsters and running in white streams in the parking lot, Matt said after trying to get more meat to barbecue. We had enough food from the night before for a lovely supper, and another glass of wine, and so we cranked the air conditioner and the ceiling fans, laid our stuff out to dry, and settled in for another evening.
We watched Red Dog: the movie is a shaggy dog story about a mutt in Australia’s western mining district, but really about the people living in a mining town and the folklore of Australian land, personality, walkabout, and personal and public disaster. They come together and help each other, according to the popular mythos. People are calm here in the face of disaster, but I don’t think they expected another flood event so soon on the heels of the last one in Queensland. I wonder: Australians accept that climate change is happening and that humans play a part — and yet they are burning coal like crazy, and I keep marveling at how little solar power I see here on a sea of sun-drenched rooftops. I can’t help but connect the extreme weather events here to climate change. Do Aussies do so as well?
And today, here we are: after a bike ride under sunny skies through pristine neighborhoods and wrecked eucalyptus trees, back at work, listening to people’s weekend experiences, of flood, rain, power outages and more, without too much disaster visited upon us. We’re all here and alive. Some of us just smell moldy.