How to use Silly to Cope with a Natural Disaster

jedda'sblog

Today I flew in to Jedda Bradley’s facebook space for a chat.

It was bucket loads of fun – the full interview mentions reality tv, chocolate, guinea pigs, chainsaws, and Hamish and Andy.  

To read why visit  Jedda Bradley’s Artist Page.  Here is a short extract.

Chatting with Jedda

Ten BIG, medium and tiny Questions for June….who lived through the terrifying nail-biting cyclone Yasi that hit the Cassowary Coast of North Queensland and then she had to clean the s*** up. Really not fair! I mean, it’s bad enough going to a scary movie and having to remember to take my popcorn box and my coke container to the bin but this kind of clean up you can’t even get the hoover out and just let it suck everything up.

So June….

1) What implement is most effective in cleaning up after a cyclone?

If you have one, or can borrow one, a chainsaw!

2) What clothes are best for cleaning up after a cyclone? And if you had to create a brand of unique clothes just for cleaning up after a cyclone what would you call it?

Anything you’d paint your house in and don’t care about, because it can get messy and sweaty. Hat and protective gloves, and reasonable boots would be helpful.

I have no idea what I’d call a clothing brand that was made for cyclone clean ups. I do know I would like such a brand to be non-profit, designed by comedians, and given out by Council, Red Cross and charities.

It would be great to have a funny, inspirational and educational clean up tshirt with reminders on the back like ‘take care with power lines, drink plenty of fluid, don’t do too much, help a friend, be kind to the SES, etc’ and a space for people to write on the tshirt their own personal saying or slogan with a fabric pen.

I wonder what Hamish and Andy would call a clothing brand.

3) Who was with you during the cyclone? Did you get ring crunch because you had forgotten to take off your wedding ring and were holding David’s hand too tightly?

My hubby, our three kids, four pet guinea pigs, our lovable but crazy bird Peep (who took off to bring other birds to our house for shelter), and two pet quails.

For the entire interview visit  the delightful Jedda Bradley’s Artist Page

If you want to be eligible for a free ebook or free photo print visit Jedda’s facebook space and leave a comment just like Melissa has.

jeddaspage2

We are at the half way point of the blog tour. I look forward to the next stop at Carol Campbell’s poetry blog.

Better get busy making sure the final launch activities are ready.  Thanks so much to everyone supporting the tour.

Dragonflies

 

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After Larry
Butterflies were everywhere
Tully hospital and
Home gardens were their home.

After Yasi
So many trees gone in Tully and everywhere
Uprooted, turned inside out
With their skeleton roots starkly exposed

But,
Flights of dragonflies everywhere
Clustering and descending
To adorn rocks by
Swimming pools in need of a clean

Skimming on the water
Approaching and fleeing
Varied in kaleidoscopic patterns
Attracted to handle of red net

My son is holding
Their wings – small but aerodynamically efficient
Lead me to imagine myself
One with them

But, yesterday
I saw a Cairns Bird Wing butterfly
Dancing in the garden
Remembered how plentiful they were in Feluga

They became the slip stream
To all that has been lost.

(c) June Perkins

If Glass Could Talk

Collecting together some of my cyclone recovery poetry. This one especially for Jacque.

Ripple Poetry

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for Jacque

If only all the tiny shards of glass
bottle brown
wine green
yellow and purple orchid swirls
could talk

What would they say
if fragments realigned
knit themselves back
like broken bones entwined in casts
and heroes walked?

What if the paralysed
could miracle embrace
pain and grief
trauma and loss
till they walked with stars?

I breathe out Vincent’s starry night
from living room wall
to outside door
then coffee table book on my floor

I wonder – would he obsess about lost socks
from cyclone’s past?

(c) June Perkins

I wrote a series of poems tackling the responses and recovery to a cyclone, but they could be relevant to any form of recovery from trauma.

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From Exhibition to Book – The Smile Within

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On Sunday December 1st, After Yasi Finding the Smile Within, a full colour photo book with accompanying true and practical stories about how you can regain your joy through creativity after a cyclone, was launched at the Bingil Bay cafe in the Cassowary Coast.

It was partly born out of my community reporter work for the community recovery project, blogging in the aftermath project for ABC Open and an exhibition Smile Within put on a year ago at the Mission Beach Arts community centre.   All of these projects were motivated by the role of the stories and the arts in the healing process for people who have experienced a natural disaster.

Last weekend was a true smile within and without occasion when several of the community contributors, family, friends from as far away as Tasmania, local community, fellow workshoppers from Song Trails,  local Red Cross community cultural development officer, and members of Mission arts and Licuala WINQ Writers all came together to welcome the book into existence and to pick up their copies.

We listened to the powerful words of Christine Jenkins, one of the contributors, who movingly told us more than the anchor story included in the book to put that story into context; perhaps one day when she is ready she will write her own book on the recovery process.

Music was a big part of the launch, with my children playing some, and also receiving mentoring from some of the songwriters in attendance.  We shared stories about our lives and celebrated our community in an informal and creative environment.

Two other locals featured in the book, Sally Moroney and Pam Galeano gave farewell speeches, as our family is about to move to Brisbane and the launch also became an opportunity to say goodbye.

These two special human beings have made our time in the Cassowary Coast truly blessed, with their welcome and support for my wish to combine the arts with healing and peace.  A part of our family’s heart beats will always remain beating in the cane, rainforest and beaches of North Queensland.

When the book was close to completion, Red Cross happened to be putting on an exhibition at Mission Arts of community books.  Cate Richmond ran workshops encouraging and skilling locals to make memory books and use print on demand facilities to make beautiful books of these memories, especially because so many people had lost things in the cyclone.  They invited the After Yasi  Finding the Smile Within book to be included as it fitted so well with their project goals.

Cate  took The Smile within book to a work related gathering in Brisbane, and interestingly one of my fellow bloggers in the aftermath project, Heidi Den Ronden saw it and was able to flip through it.

Full colour books are not cheap to produce and so the initial challenge after all the photographs and stories were collected was how to bring it to the public.

A traditional publisher did not seem the way to go for a specialist history/recovery book which would mean a lot to the Cassowary Coast or to others going through a natural disaster recovery process but perhaps not much to others.

Colour books are very expensive to sell unless you produce large numbers and so there was a quandary I had to solve as I didn’t have a lot in reserve, we were still replacing cyclone damaged goods for a good year and half later.

After mulling over this and looking at and finding how this project didn’t fit several grants on offer, I chose to self -publish using a print on demand printer that has a choice of high quality printing papers, an accompanying layout program and is relatively user friendly and options for hard cover and soft cover books

I did the layout, research and editing work (with some help from kind proof readers at various points) and made the decision to make the book as beautiful as I could to honour the many contributors.   I felt it had to be a coffee table type book which would be compelling readers to follow the story through images with a few words to support this.

I was able to do a bulk book order that reduced the cost for locals and several showed their support by pre-ordering the book. The local Cassowary Coastal library has bought the book for both loan and for their historical and reference sections at the library.

The goal of making this book was to capture and preserve the story of how Cassowary Coasters used creativity in their recovery.  Another goal has emerged though, which is to encourage people from other communities to do this as well and so I will be promoting the book to libraries so more people can access it.

I am presently working on an ebook version for release next year to make the content of the book widely and more inexpensively available and everyone is more than welcome to purchase a copy of any version if they wish.

Smile Within is a project blog which has charted the progress of the book, you can follow the books continuing journey out into the world of readers and send in responses to the stories from contributors and to my photographs.

The journey of this book, and its content, show that arts rather than being something people should put aside as a luxury can be a rich source of recovery.

I was delighted to hear that one of my friends is about to take her guitar and go to the Philipines under the auspices of an NGO charity for a month to assist in the rebuilding and recovery process there.

A big thankyou to all the people who contributed stories to go with the photographs as without you this book would not have had the same power.

So thanks especially to Christine Jenkins, Emma Gardiner, Lillian Galipo, Jennifer Giufridda, Lydia Valeriano,  Dina Milone, Nicole McClymont, Jenny Ottone, Moala Sitapa, Kerstin Pilz, Carolyn Bofinger, Danielle Stephens, Danielle Wilson, Sal Badcock, Donna Jones, Pam Galeano, Julie Headlam, Brendan Porter, David Perkins, Jean Vallianos,  Jennifer Morton, and Renee Schluenz,  the song trail song writers, and the many people featured in the photographs for their inspiration.

GUINEA PIG, CHOOK HOUSES & DRAGON FLIES

The Guinea Pig Mansion

‘Calico likes to eat his way out of everything,’ my daughter is giggling her story out to a fellow guinea pig lover.  The girls haven’t seen each other for a few months.  We haven’t been venturing too far since the cyclone and not necessarily visiting too many people.  However it’s about time we caught up with these friends.  They live up the road just outside of Innisfail, which was in the path of the cyclone and was for a time where the media thought it was definitely going to hit.  Although Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach were more severely physically hit that is not to say other areas haven’t felt the impact of the cyclone in other ways.

My daughter’s friend’s Mum and I are discussing what we did with the guinea pigs during the cyclone.  They used cardboard boxes and a washing basket to bring them inside.  We bought ours inside as well.  Ours had straw lined orange plastic crates that were very cheap.  They were very comfy.  I still can’t believe they slept through the cyclone, even with the tree falling on the house.  They only needed an occasional pat when they became just slightly distressed about the whole thing.  Their little squeaks were barely a whimper.

Prior to the cyclone we’d been a bit worried about them as someone told us her guinea pigs all died of heart attacks during cyclone Larry.  The kids knew this and were very watchful of their little ones.

A few weeks before the cyclone was apparent, and made its journey to us, the kids had bought two guinea pigs.  They began with Chocolate and Misty, and the new ones to join the brood were Calico and Soot.  It took a while to introduce them to each other.  When a new set of guinea pigs meet they must have time to adjust to each other.  My eldest explained the psychology of it to me in great detail, as he tends to google all things guinea pig.  They were not getting along yet, but had been getting used to being near each other with pens alongside each other.  The first few meetings a pecking order was being established.  Calico definitely wanted to be boss, but none of the others were having it – especially Misty, who can be rather stand offish, and was not giving over any power.  Sometimes however they were delighted with each other, and purred even.  But then a plane of something would fly over the garden and they’d all be fighting each other.  ‘Guinea pig wars can be slowed down by a towel being thrown over them,’ our googling guinea pig expert told us, demonstrating by dampening the fight with one of our towels.

The days went on in the lead up to the cyclone with quite slow progress to friendship occurring.  Each day the guinea pigs spent some time with each other.  The kids bought them inside for separate cuddle time still though as they were a bit weary of breaking up fights.

Then along came Yasi.    It was very stressful leaving our pet guinea pigs behind in the eye of the storm.  I just had too much to carry with scared kids, cyclone kits, and the worry about how long we really had to take it all to the car and get going.  My eldest son and his Dad were off clearing a path for the car to make it out of the drive way and I couldn’t see them in the dark.  I called out to them- and as I did so dropped some parts of the cyclone kit.  I couldn’t grab four guinea pigs, and two birds to add to the refugees from the home.

Although we lost Peep, we have gained some new friends, like this tree frog.

My youngest son was very distressed about this.  ‘We leave them in the hands of God.’ This was all I could say to comfort him. ‘If they die they died to save you – and allowed us to make it to the car and out of her before the eye of storm ends.’

So we left them.  I thought of them all night, prayed that they were safe in the bathroom were we had nearly stayed.  I really hoped that they were well.  It was such a relief when we saw them and of course Peep – still alive at that stage and Buddy our little quail was also fine.

After Yasi the guinea pigs were rescued from our NG marked home and placed in a cage in the garden of another friend’s house.  They had to be together, we didn’t have the luxury of a spare cage as their other one was a bit cyclone damaged.  We were watchful and put a couple of them inside a washing basked inside the other cage.  We found next morning they had Houdini like made their way out.  They were all getting along famously.  Not convinced we put two back under the wash basket.  Again they escaped, and still showed they were great mates now.    They all snuggled together, and were not going to be separated by anyone -a new home brought a new attitude.

Of course when we had to move them again to their actual new home, our new home, around twelve days later we were a little concerned things might go backwards.  They didn’t like leaving their comfy surroundings much for the first few days, but it didn’t take long and they loved the new home.  We were happy they did not suddenly drop dead like Peep.  Concerned for Buddy we went and tracked down a female quail at the pet store, and paid for her and bought her home.  Buddy has never been happier and they now have quail eggs, although they aren’t particularly good parents to them.

They now have a deluxe apartment no less on our balcony for wet weather, and a couple of out door hutches whenever it is dry and sunny for them.  They kids have purchased them a pet bed which they can’t wait to try out.  My eldest son thinks first of his pets whenever we go out.  ‘They need something soft’ and what about their food and today he said ‘Now Mum don’t forget their vegetables and check their water.’ Which I do everyday when they are away without being told, but I am sure he just feels that little bit extra protective of his surviving pets.  There have also been bath days.  It’s always a lot of fun to watch as all of them love the water, which is not true for all guinea pigs.  They are then wrapped in towels.  I have special old towels for guinea pigs now and they are kept in a cane basket for the kids to access.  They love snuggling their guinea pigs and watching them sleep, which is one of their favourite occupations after eating, and purring.  Although there are occasions on which they indicate they are watching television.

Now the other amazing story of Yasi, apart of the survival of guinea pigs who have hearts of steel, has to be the survival of chook houses.  You would have thought with all of the torn up sheds that a chook house would have  ended up somewhere on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, but no they made it!! We went to check on some friends after the cyclone.  We drove to lots of people’s houses as we couldn’t ring them as the power was out and that was when we were proudly shown the surviving chook houses.  Some people had taken their chooks indoors and others hadn’t but all of our friends’ chooks had made it through.

Last cyclone I saw lots of butterflies afterwards.  This time I don’t see so many –but our new garden has lots of dragon flies.  They have the most delicate wings, and yet they make their flight so easily.  Other friends have seen butterflies though, and one tells me they surrounded her.  It was simply amazing for her as they settled on her shoulders and in her hair.  I love picturing her as a butterfly woman being healed by the butterflies who say, ‘Don’t worry about silly old Yasi.’  I don’t hear this story until a month after the cyclone. Again we haven’t seen each other mainly because we are so busy moving stuff in a Ute from our sodden house to the new one, and she also is busy sorting out insurance and those practical things that happen after cyclones.   She tells me about how she had hoped to have my family out to the farm to go on the walking trails and river to see the land and the crocodiles where her family live.  Her husband had made all these trails but Yasi has knocked the trees and debris over them.  It will take a long time to build them again.

Butterfly from the old home

A poem for healing……..

Butterfly woman

Touched by the healing wings

Knows that nature sometimes

Takes away precious things

But Nature returns more than suffering

Placing the love of purple orchid flowers in my lap

She whispers the sun and rain

To give the forest a smiling refrain

She sometimes is stormy

All bolt and lights that scare in the night

Then she is depositing a Prince from the skies

It will all heal she says and we know she tells no lies

Because once before her son Larry stormed through this space

And people joked he was looking for his takeaway

But now much lost then is returned

And more will return

Giving peace to the butterfly woman

Touched by the healing wings


(c) June Perkins, All rights reserved words and images.

Second piece written during International Writing Sprint with Anita Heiss, Jacque Duffy, Niloofar Davidson and the rest of the writing gang!