– Mary Ann Radmacher
It’s challenging times at the moment…
Drought… Widespread bushfires within prime wildlife habitat… High temperatures…
As wildlife carers we may feel alone and despondent, and at times like this we need our connections with each other more than ever. A simple conversation can support, nourish and acknowledge the joy and despair of opening ourselves up to caring for wildlife and their habitat.
Two Green Threads wanted to share this email exchange between two wildlife carers currently living through and within areas with the major bushfires. The words written to each other may express what you too feel. It’s a reminder we are stronger when we stand together.
Names have been changed to maintain anonymity of the carers.
I am not sure I can keep all the balls in the air at present, and it’s hard not to be dispirited when everything around us is dying because of the drought – then with the fires on top of it, it’s remorseless. Birds are dying because insects have been decimated and they can’t get worms from the dry soil. The damn smoke never stops!
We’ll get through, but it will take a long time for the vegetation to recover if / when we get rain.
Sorry to drop all this on you but I have so valued you checking up on us up here.
First how beautifully brave and self-aware of you to drop me a line. No need at all to apologise. It’s the least I can do – read (listen), reach out, offer an outlet. The overwhelm you are feeling is understandable. God, all of this is massive. I hope you don’t judge yourself for those feelings.
I don’t want to ever presume I can understand what you are seeing and feeling. So my words are just an attempt to help prompt a voice to yours. It’s really important to keep talking. I heard a phrase the other day ‘emotions are energy in motion’. This helped to remind me that sometimes we need to let that emotion through.
I am not sure whether writing like this is the right thing to do, as I don’t pretend to be a psychologist or a counsellor. I am just a woman standing next to you who wants to help. I’ve learnt in some really difficult personal moments in the last few years that it is important to try and be with, and for, people who are experiencing tough and bad times. Our society and personal instinct is to withdraw, and we forget to just be with someone, offering, if they were in a frame to do so, to talk, to express, to feel.
So maybe my words will help bring forth yours, and give you the space and place to feel and talk. I don’t want to sound preachy, but maybe my thoughts might help, so I am going to write to you as if you are sitting next to me on the couch with a cup of tea…
I have also been through big bushfires, a number of times now. If I recall how I felt, then this initial aftermath, when the reality of what you are seeing is starting to dawn, is a full body and heart hit. It is a whack that is almost like you need to sit down. It’s as if there was a Hollywood movie set in your mind, as you picture what you know was there before, and the set screen has just been removed. Now it is just black, monochrome, and devoid of anything that once gave life and living to the landscape. It’s the smell, the smoke, it’s the silence, it’s the lack of comfort so normally provided from viewing a canvas of our bush, soil and trees. Although we lost the comfort of gurgling water a while ago, our native bush and surrounds keeps us connected with nature, providing us with unconscious feedback to our heart and mind. Following fire the bush has gone, and it is startling how much our senses miss that connection.
All of these thoughts and feeling are without even going near what our minds and hearts do as we picture our wildlife. As the imagery of what it must have been like for the wildlife we care about, I have a different strip of film in my mind for each species. We see the bodies, the distressed animals, and the sadness reaches a new low – but we then do our job as a rescuer and carry the hefty weight of deciding life, or ease of pain. The sadness brush gets to wipe itself again across our now black canvas.
It’s that combined burden and joy we carry as a wildlife carer, where we juggle the connection to the wildlife and the specialness of their lives, with the confronting moments of death. It is a confusing see-saw of hope to despair. Hope is drawn from people saying words, offering help, money and supporting you to continue. There is the see-saw of hope with wildlife too. A rescue of one that might survive, or a tiny pocket of green that gives hope for survivors to return their bush homes. I still remember the moment, a few weeks after the 2017 fires, I saw a eucalyptus tree doing its post fire epicormic sprout. Little leaves peeping out from a black trunk. I admit I shed some tears. A little moment of hope where nature was healing. Like you say, it will do so … eventually.
These see-saws between a bit of hope and quite a bit of despair is exhausting and reaches layers internally where one didn’t realise one could feel so deeply. We are grieving. We are overwhelmed with the constant heights of feeling, and the constant drive for action and activity. A level of productiveness to quieten the churn of our hearts.
You don’t always need to keep all the balls in the air. You are a gorgeous feeling individual in a horrible situation. Drop a ball every now and then, and have others help pick them up again. It gives others an outlet of support at the very least. You are grieving for what shouldn’t have happened, and for what was there before. At some stage there needs to be space and acknowledgment of that. A time you get to choose. Your mind will find things to ensure you are busy so that you don’t have to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, but I encourage you at a time to suit to take time for yourself.
I am hopeful that you have a good network of support, love and care that can surround you and offer understanding and patience. Sleep is the bedrock of resilience and needs to be a priority. A time where our constant high edge state can dial down. Are you sleeping ok? What other little steps can you do to help build up your reserves? Do you have enough stuff (equipment and things to help the animals) and people to help. Are you able to give yourself some self-kindness to draw upon?
I hope these thoughts don’t shut you down from talking more. I can only wish that having someone say ‘I understand,’ its crap, and its hard, sad and relentless, is a tiny kernel of support that enables you to take a deeper breath.
Loads of hugs, in warmth and care,
Such wonderful words and thoughts. I’m crying as I read them and that’s good. I find myself crying over the smallest things, and it’s interspersed with absolute sadness for the animals that we’ve already lost, and those that are suffering so much in the combination of drought and fire, smoke and no food.
Our home is a wildlife refuge and today we received a letter from [redacted] checking on how we are …. I thanked him for caring and the kind offer, but said our wonderful refuge is now brown, crisp and with dying trees everywhere, including in our rainforest….. My lovely husband is such a comfort, and we try to comfort each other as we look at 13 years of love and hard work disappearing before our eyes.
I am holding on to the knowledge that whilst it all looks so shocking, this country has been through this before – probably many times – and it will recover as you said. I remind myself that, as described in a beautiful poem, we are a country of floods and droughts in which we see the cattle die, because all the animals are suffering, and I have to believe our wildlife recovers. Whilst koalas have taken a huge hit, they have been around for millions of years and they therefore must be resilient, but I’m not so sure about other species.
I so much appreciate your words and thoughts, and the fact that you do check on whether I and all my wonderful volunteers are ok. And I value your hugs and having a cup of tea with you! ☕️
Thought I’d leave you with a quote you probably know from Bradley Trevor Greive’s book ‘Priceless: the vanishing beauty of a fragile planet’ (2007) which has the most amazing photos of wildlife that I think says it all:
‘For wildlife we are both their greatest enemy and their only hope.
These wonderful creatures will not argue their case.
They will not put up a fight.
They will not beg for reprieve.
They will not say goodbye. They will not cry out.
They will just vanish.
And after they are gone, there will be silence.
And there will be empty places.
And nothing you can say will change this.
Nothing you can do will bring them back.
Their future is entirely in our hands.’
Warm regards and lots of hugs back,
Ruth xxxxxxx 🙂
The very last line of that fabulous quote included from Ruth is the very reason Two Green Threads exist. If their future is in our hands we need to be around to help our wildlife. We can only do that if we look out for each other, and fuel ourselves to be physically and mentally strong.
You may see yourself as either carer in reading these letters, and you most likely have your own threads of conversations not too dissimilar to these. It’s challenging times.
Share, connect or just be with one another. Be bold and courageous in connection and kindness, be strong and steady in supporting others and yourself.
We practise micro-courage to continue the work as a wildlife carer that can sometimes feel overwhelming. We are stronger when we stand together.
AlisonDecember 9, 2019
Thanks so much for sharing!
Vicki CullenDecember 13, 2019
These letters were incredible, they stirred so many feelings in me. I feel so useless that I cannot help all these people who have lost so much and I feel so angry that this nightmare happened. I feel so frustrated that so many people do not seem to care about our wildlife and our forests, let alone understand how much this has impacted people who do care.
DeniseJanuary 11, 2020
Intimate, honest letters such as these allow the reader both to empathise and to recognise their own feelings. In the end, we have no choice but to go on; the animals depend on it. We need each other to keep ourselves strong and resilient.