Australia, Streams, Creeks & Rivers
Comments 20

A Lake in the Living Room

Let’s live where the indoors and the outdoors meet ~ Silver Jews, Like Like the the the Death

This is the part where my love affair with Mud is put to the test…

A post was meant to surface here on TGTW four days ago, one I’d written before bailing for Moreton Island on Monday and arranging to publish in my absence via the magic of Schedule.

Let me explain with an extract from “The Post That Never Was”:

Hey, folks.

Thanks to the miracle of the Schedule button on my blog dashboard, you should be reading this on Wednesday my time while I am trudging in a very sensible clockwise direction, far from any wifi signal or power outlet, round the world’s third-largest sand island:

Moreton Island (Wikipedia, public domain)

Moreton Island (Wikipedia, public domain)

Well, the Schedule function at WordPress has one potentially negative characteristic: It doesn’t always work. (Just Google and see). As I now know.

There I was over there in my sandy paradise, two days after setting out — clockwise, exactly according to plan — thinking with no little satisfaction, “Yup, she oughtta be publishin’ right ’bout now. Where’s me pipe and flask? Time fer a little celebration.”

(I always talk like a Zeke or an Ebenezer in the wilds.)

And increasingly look like one as well:

mmm

Wednesday night, my last of three on the island, at my lonesome camp at the base of the Big Sandhills. My pant legs were annoyingly unruly in the worsening weather.

I went on to explain, before jumping to the riveting conclusion of my Mangrove Odyssey…

I need a dose of Moreton right now; these are not the best of times for me. I’ll spare you the details, but I’m a little nervous about being stuck in my head for three and a half days. Once the adventure kicks in, though, and I realise how fortunate and free I am again, Walker Mode should take over and the endorphins will douse some of the pain.

This will be my fourth 60-mile circuit of Moreton via the beaches (hope I didn’t just jinx myself there); my first time was clockwise, then I did two the other way and found I preferred it, but I’m going clockwise again for the purpose of perambulatory symmetry. Cowboy- or tarp-camping, and taking all the pictures battery life permits…

Well, it was a wonderful trip, despite moments each day of terrible pain and self-knowledge, and the camera batteries permitted, with judicious rationing, over 1,000 images, which I’ve whittled down to 500 so far.

But Wednesday night saw my second batch of rain — luckily my tarp was set immaculately, and I woke dry, but to a day looking increasingly dark and wet.

Over my last five or six miles I drank up my final gulps of wild beauty — and considerable amounts of rainwater, making photography precarious:

mmm

One of my final shots before battery death & arrival at the ferry stop: through a rain-splattered fish-eye attachment, a small piece of Moreton driftwood & The Wrecks.

By the time I reached the boat, it was bucketing down.

“Mate, you’re getting off just in time,” said the friendly guy manning the ferry shop. “A low-pressure system’s moving in, 200ml of rain coming between here and New South Wales.”

I didn’t worry about it as I sat there dripping onto the carpet all the way across the Bay while the weather closed in over the boat and the island quickly vanished to the rear. Didn’t worry in the cab, or on the 90-minute train ride home, dripping all the way, everything I had damp — including, worryingly, the cameras.

The cameras survived. He was wrong about the volume, though. Thursday night at home was fine but the rain on the mainland started in earnest the following day.

My father recorded over 300ml on Friday. That evening I was sitting on my crappy couch downstairs, readying for a Clint Eastwood movie, when I saw something move near my feet.

I flinched, thinking it was a spider — but it was water. A puddle of coffee-coloured water snaking past at alarming speed. At last it registered as a threat, I stood there flapping my arms and spinning around, open-mouthed, for a few seconds, before running upstairs to warn the folks.

“There’s water coming in down there!”

“What?”

“WATER!”

We live near the end of a dead-end street with Cabbage Tree Creek hooking around on both sides. It’s crept over the road and into the yard from both sides on rare occasions — but usually on extremely high (“king”) tides.

The high tides lately have been moderate, and high wasn’t for a couple of hours. But the rain delivered by this rare super-storm was so heavy, with the bulk of it pummelling down in a short burst to the emphatic accompaniment of very close lightning strikes and apocalyptic thunder (though little wind), that after quickly topping the creek, it decided to head cross-country in search of the elusive lower ground.

To get there, it had to pass through my apartment:

mmm

My room, with muddy water rising to claim my bed-island where I was frantically throwing things. This photo was rejected for the Bonds Underwear Autumn Campaign.

It was surging in via three or four doors and rapidly rising to knee height. My parents and I ran around trying to save things, but the water outside was soon washing anything unsecured into the back yard and then the creek as it swept across the road and raced back into itself near the backyard jetty.

I was briefly frozen with fear of electrocution before getting all the electronics out of harm’s way…

mmm

Water rising in the living room. Club Mountaingoat is rapidly inundated by muddy creek-water.

..and then hurling whatever was down low onto higher ground, inside the apartment and out.

We lost a lot of small stuff outside: potted plants, footwear, anything loose, and there were some harrowing scenes as Dad moved his truck through water lapping at the doors to a drier spot down the road. Their 20-year-old back-up workhorse was stranded here and paid the price.

And there was Dad’s shed, with countless expensive tools within. The water blew a fuse, the roller doors were looked tight, but not tight enough. Meanwhile, we knew the tide would continue rising for another hour or more…

We waded down the road through a surreal waist-deep torrent, passing shell-shocked neighbours in the new river, to my sister’s place, collected my nephew, got him back here, and Dad broke a window, lifted him in, and Joel got the door open — too late sadly, for a lot of expensive stuff that was down too low.

High tide came and went, the flood level stabilised. Well, it was a shitty night; I slept upstairs where things were dry and un-muddied. We knew yesterday, Saturday, would be tough.

It was:

mmm

Welcome! My doorway…

mmm

My room. Note the water level on the door, and the sodden carpet. Saved the mattress and the base as well, after some work.

mmm

Living room. So many scavenged treasures swamped. Fortunately most of my belongings are not here or they’d have gone under the brown tide.

On the road, which smelled somewhat muddy, neighbours’ cars were sodden and splayed, doors and hoods open. Piles of newly discardable household items were piled along the footpath. Residents swapped tales of mud, local history and Olympian mopping.

The clean-up in my place seemed impossible, and involved much hosing:

mmm

Memories to treasure.

mmm

A charming bathroom scene.

mmm

We got my little fridge out of harm’s way. My frozen kale though: doomed. DOOMED, I tells ya!

mmm

At least we got it before it dried.

With some help from my uncle, we ripped up all my carpet (never liked it anyway) and got the bed out:

mmm

Joel in the Bedroom Lake.

mmm

Outside: not pretty. But the sun was shining.

mmm

A garden gnome, freshly mulched.

Soon a vast collection of brown-stained, sodden household items spread across the concrete. Sadly a bunch of expensively framed posters I’d forgotten were on the cupboard floor were to join it:

mmm

Hundreds of bucks worth of wall art (believe it or not), badly water-damaged. All my dreams of amassing a fortune in rare investment artworks quashed.

The 20-year-old Bluebird still goes but there’s a vast aquifer of foul rainwater beneath the flooring. We spent ages trying to soak it up with sponges but finally Dad decided life was too short and we left it to the sun:

mmm

We scavenged the cane chair today from a 94-year-old neighbour who tossed it out, flood-damaged, a nice temporary replacement for my couch. Creek in distance.

The scenes in the shed were not nice. Lots of expensive tools damaged or worse:

mmm

It was grim, but in a weird way it was kinda therapeutic, and good honest work, and something new, and nice to work on something with my parents and have time to talk (plus some excellent food).

The mud-slopping, hosing, drying, sweeping etc continued all day today. We had some company for lunch on the verandah…

mmm

One of our magpies…

mmm

..and one of three butcher birds which pestered us for food as we ate, rewarding us with stunning aerial acrobatics whenever we tossed ’em some scraps.

There’s still a fair bit of work ahead. I’ve lost or had damaged my crappy old couch, bedroom carpet, perhaps a rug, one of my good shoes, both Crocs (the hiker’s friends), several blinds, a few cupboard doors, many framed artworks, some plants, my grandparents’ old silky-oak cabinet.

My parents’ losses were more substantial — their pool, for example, is now positively Amazonian (see also the header shot)…

mmm

Feel the Brownness.

..and the pumps for it and the rainwater tanks were submerged and exterminated.

Some of those expensive tools the waters killed were borrowed from friends or family. But a lot of people in S.E. Queensland were hit worse, five died, and events in Nepal put things in some perspective.

Out the back, the creek is still a murky brown torrent, littered with debris:

mmm

A kayaker on the newer, browner Cabbage Tree.

It’s out there now — I can feel its power tonight, its couch-consuming, possession-fouling menace, as it seethes, waiting…

mmm

Our jetty & flood-stained creek.

..till the time is right for its next act of cold-hearted bastardry…

End of the mangrove story next post, and then some cool Moreton stuff!

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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20 Comments

  1. Well, I’m a bit torn. I don’t want to “like” the post because it was a traumatic experience for you and your family and neighbours, however I do like the way you wrote about it. You made the best of a difficult situation and injected humour into what was a stressful event.

    Sorry about all the damage to expensive and also sentimental items. I’m glad you never liked the carpet anyway! Nice that you can find the positives. I’m glad you are all safe.

    Looking forward to more mangrovey stuff and your Moreton posts. Sounds like you did a lot of thinking as well as the walking and picture taking on that trip. I’m relieved your cameras survived the weather!

    • Yeah, we need an I Feel for You button. I’ll take it up with WordPress!

      I suppose I’m over halfway through fixing up the Moreton shots, and have reduced them by half, but I needed a break from it all and have reverted to working on old neglected Korean shots instead.

      On the plus side, nice weather we’re having right now!

  2. Adventurous as always, Goat–whether you’re roughing it on Moreton or kicking your feet up to watch some Clint at home!

    (Love the ‘Deliverance’ poster in the background of one the pics by the way!!)

    Just glad you know how to swim, no crocs got into your parents place, and that you are drying out–which speaking of drying out I think you & your folks deserve a beer (maybe a VB, as I recall?)

    By the way in news from The Appalachian Trail: Don’t know if you recall ‘Damascus Dave’ Patrick from his Mt. Rogers Outfitters gear store, and Dave’s Place hostel in Damascus? But an A.T. mainstay on the Southern end, Dave passed away suddenly at his home on White Top Mnt. night before last (just two weeks before Trail Days.) He was 71!

    Best to you, mate,

    Darius

    • Hey Darius,

      Thanks for the great comment! Very sad about Dave, 71 is far too young! I do remember him from replacing some gear in his store on the A.T. in 2004, and yes, my friends and I stayed the night in his hostel as well. I sent you a picture via Twitter, hope you got it and are still hiking strong(-ly).

      The Deliverance poster is a real Japanese theatre lobby poster. I think it’s still useable, and arguably the water stains will only enhance its appeal!

      VB? Yecchhhh! In my rock’n’roll band days, we thought getting a case of that stuff (sometimes that was ALL we got) was heaven. Now I think of it as like drinking Bud when you’re surrounded by fine microbrews! In fact I suspect they actually make it from muddy floodwater…

  3. How would all of us survive the muddy water without music and birds? High water everywhere. Kindest wishes to you and your family and neighbors.

    • Much appreciated, Am. We’re all doing better now. I keep noticing references to floods and water in the songs I listen to. ‘Black Muddy River’ by the Grateful Dead just came on as I was typing the latest post: I will walk alone by the black muddy river/And listen to the ripples as they moan/I will walk alone by the black muddy river/And sing me a song of my own.

  4. Barbara Smith says

    Wow! Amazing… so sorry you were affected by that storm event. I was on a plane winging my way back from LA.. When I arrived 7am Sat. it was clear calm and sunny. I found it hard to imagine when Penny told me about it….. your story makes it so clear. But as you say, brings events like Vanuatu and Nepal into perspective…

    • Think I’d take a dozen floods over one trip to L.A., Barb ;). Yeah, the stuff that was wrecked, most of it was just stuff. Not our very homes and lives. Would’ve cried to lose a camera or the laptop etc, but would’ve found a way to move on as well.

  5. I can definitely feel the “browness”. Yikes! I wish you and your family the very best as you try to rise above this horrible mess and rebuild. Best of luck to you all.

    • Appreciated, Paula. Price of living next to a usually-beautiful and pacific little creek! Anyway, most of the brownness at home has been eradicated — for now…

  6. Hope you and your family are recovering from the onslaught. Shocker of a storm, even down here in Sydney. I love your description of the muddy water waiting out back, biding its time. We often forget the power and violence of the “natural” world in this day and age – it’s been a bit of a reminder, hasn’t it?

    • Sure has been! As a local reminded me yesterday, this whole suburb was built on a swamp. When Dad had the hole dug to put their pool in, the soil was full of old seashells. The lesson from all this is: Don’t keep important stuff down low!

  7. Making the best of a most unfortunate situation can be a skill, and along with compelling writing, I think you’ve captured both.
    Were you flooded in 2011? I hear this storm effected different areas to last time. That’s weather, I suppose.
    Glad you’re all ok.

    • Thanks, Dayna. Nope, not too much trouble in 2011. Yeah, the north side and coastal areas seemed to get it worst this time. Our turn, I guess.

      We can get water in the yard and over the road even in non-stormy conditions when there’s a king tide. But this one was actually low! One of those quirks…

    • Thanks, Andrew, sorry I’ve been quiet. I have read some of your recent posts and will get around to actually commenting soon! Strange pangs of longing for things Japanese have been affecting me lately…

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