Moving mountains

I would like to introduce everyone to my new home surroundings, and to my new mountain, which will be featured often in my blogs. It is Dooragan, or North Brother, near Laurieton. I am near both river and sea and two national parks, so I look forward to exploring and sharing sunrises, sunsets and clouds, and plants and creatures of sea, sand and rocks, mangroves, swamps and mountain forests.

Why am I here? Partly by force of nature.

It seems like an eternity, but is about six weeks since I woke up about 6.30 a.m., swung my feet over to stand on the carpet… and found that my bed was standing in water.


Was I actually awake?! How could this be  real?

In water to my knees, I grabbed the torch I kept on my bedside table, and shone it about. The water certainly felt real; it looked real. 

Yet I was incredulous.

This was not supposed to happen; I had been unable to get flood insurance due to the zoning, but I had not worried as my neighbouring ‘constructed wetland’ forest had been a ’90s flood mitigation measure that had worked ever since.

Wading out into the hall, my torch showed two yellow discs bobbing about in. The halved skins of a passionfruit, they’d have been in my compost bin in the kitchen… I passed a large container of corn chips that would have been in a cupboard down there…

This was real all right.

Over the night of March 19 the flooded creek/river had silently far exceeded its expected reach, snuck up the hill on which my house sat, and into my house.

At 8.30 that night I’d checked and there was water only in the lowest bottom corner of my large yard, a not unusual occurrence.

I slept soundly. There was no sound, no SMS alert or warning, no knock on the door.

While up to mattress height in the bedroom part of my house, in the lower part (two steps down) it was up to kitchen bench height, and my fridge and furniture … and compost bin contents… were floating about.

My garage, further downhill, was flooded far higher; it was full of tools and camping gear, and most precious of all, the carefully stored boxes of my own books, taped with chalk inside to absorb any moisture, placed on pallets to avoid any dampness… !! They were now just a pile of mush. 

Irreplaceable. Heartbreaking.

As the SES boat took me and my few hastily grabbed possessions out, I only managed to take the above two photos.

My car in the carport even lower down was under many metres of water, and next day as the water receded, it was clear it would be a write-off… as it was.

When I was allowed back in, SES volunteers helped me take out heavy items like sodden mattresses. Once family could get through other flooded roads, days later, we frantically threw out ruined items large and small, and broke apart lower swollen cupboards and furniture to get the stinking clothes and books and albums out before worse mould set in. 

Fixed carpets were ripped up, large mats removed with hope they could be washed and salvaged. 

My grandkids dried and separated pages and peeled off photos in the oldest family albums… again, irreplaceable.

Several mountains of dumped belongings formed out the front, to be picked up by a Council excavator and loaded into trucks. Things like the fridge and washing machine looked OK, but were irretrievably ruined.

It took weeks to empty the place, but the cleaning began apace.  Friends and family were wonderful; some washed many loads of linen and clothes, others washed down walls with vinegar; others washed cupboard contents deemed OK to use again, like crockery and pans; I mopped the timber floors… five moppings so far!

Many of you know of this disaster that befell me because my friend David ran a fundraiser, and while I did not look at that until weeks later, a truly humbling number of people donated to help me out. I would not have managed without those funds and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone, whether they gave $10 or much more. Knowing that such kindness and emotional support was out there helped me greatly.

I have since had to pay to have done, and do myself, certain flood-damage remedial work on the house, but being mostly built of timber and timber-lined, it has come up well. Only one added-on room was plasterboard… a costly mess. 

Once the underfloor foamboard insulation I’d installed was removed, the old floorboards slowly dried and uncupped. Amazing.

Chipboard does not cope with inundation well either… but the new vanity looks nice.

I’d been planning to sell and move to this smaller place on the coast. Folk had been booked to look at my lovely furnished and decorated house on the very Monday after the flood; in preparation I’d de-cluttered and put things in lower cupboards and moved much to the garage. A double punch to the guts for me; now what did I have to show or sell?

But a few weeks later, they still wanted to look at the empty and cleaned house, despite my being in process of touching up and fixing.

They made an offer; I accepted, and in a few weeks it will be theirs. Only one more trip for me back to finish painting… and say goodbye.

So now I live here. It’s small, but I write this first blog post here looking into the tops of a paperbark forest, I hear lorikeets in blossom-feeding frenzy, a goanna waddled through the carport the other day… and I have but to turn my head to see the river and that Mountain.

Silver linings indeed…

I am tired, exhausted really, but I can see they will be a comfort once I get past the shock, which has not quite hit as I have been so very busy. 

Again, thanks to everyone for your support and good wishes. 

15 thoughts on “Moving mountains”

  1. So lovely to hear you have found a beautiful spot to live….your next adventure is beginning. Much love from John and me xx

  2. Thanks for your good wishes, Cathy, and congratulations on the memoir. I wrote about my fires in The Woman on the Mountain, but they were loud and noisy and scary; that this was so silent was the scariest part…

  3. Oh Sharyn, I feel for you, having been through the Black Saturday bush fires myself. You will heal and recover your strength in time, and please do write a book: I have just published my memoir, with a considerable portion about the fire. Very therapeutic, even after all these years. All the best, and your new place looks amazing!

  4. Wow Sharyn. I had no idea you had been through this. You give such a vivid description. It reminded me of my friend who woke up in her loft with her hand dangling in the still rising Wollombi Brook during the Pasha Bulker storm. She left via the window and swam 500m to the pub in pitch black and amid all the debris. I hope your new adventures are fruitful and inspiring and that you stay strong through all the processing.

  5. Thanks to all you wonderfully supportive and empathic folk. At this stage I don’t feel resilient but I suppose I must be, having just kept working away to do what needed to be done. And yes, as always, Nature will be my saviour here. A book from it all? Maybe.

  6. Where you are now is magic. I am sure the sacredness of the land, water mountains there will uplift your spirit. You have been through so much. Now its time to rest with beauty around you.

  7. You are such an inspiration and beautiful person Sharyn – much love to you and I look forward to visiting you in your amazing new nest ???????

  8. Wow Sharyn, you are re-creating another chapter (or book) of your amazing life, and I am thankful for your inspiring resilience yet again. Sending very best wishes from Queensland, Adele Coombs

  9. Wishing you a mountain load of happiness in your new home and surrounds Sharyn.
    Much love,
    Arwen & Lil xx

  10. Thanks Cecile for your good wishes. Have had association with this area since the 195Os, and then via the Watermark Nature Writers’ Muster. Can’t wait to learn more about its varied nature. I count on Nature to save me…

  11. All the very best to you, Sharyn. Your good and courageous heart is an inspiration. I know the area where you’re now living quite well. I hope it will be very kind to you.
    Warmest wishes

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