Saturday, January 08, 2011


The macrocosm

Because the Emergency Services have a boat staging area at the bottom of the street—which, in addition to being a launching platform to carry out their regular safety checks of the flooded plains, they are using as a drop off point for people ferried in from cutoff areas for medical treatment—there is a steady stream of ambulances, police vehicles, Emergency Services transport, taxis being used as personnel carriers since, with the closure of the airport, a major source of their income has—forgive me for saying it—dried up, food being brought in for the workers & supplies being brought in to be boated out to stranded people, going up & down the street. (That just might be the longest sentence I've ever written.)

Add to that a parade of sightseers who, instead of walking to catch the views, have ignored the road closed signs & driven down the street.

Then there is the constant background noise of lawnmowers. The combination of the earlier heavy rain & a week of mainly sunny days means that the grass has been growing at a rate normally shown only by bamboo. We had our lawn done a week ago; already it's shin- heading for knee-high. (& an aside. In Rockhampton, mowing lawns is generally considered to be woman's work. For every man you see cutting their own lawn, you will see at least two women. Sexism on the grass? & you never see children out mowing. What happened to chores for pocket money?)

Plus the helicopters. & the usual bird noise.

But when all that dies away, in the evening, at night, you sit on the front porch & you can hear the noise of what I call the secondary path of the Fitzroy a couple of hundred meters away. It doesn't have the roar of—let's call it—Fitzroy Prime which, as we have heard often in the last couple of weeks, currently has 1000 gigalitres flowing down it each day. Though usually not couched in those terms: the common Australian unit of measurement for such things is so many times the volume of Sydney Harbor, in this case, twice the volume. & the other measuring stick, that of x number of Olympic swimming pools becomes so numerically high that it is incomprehensible.

It also doesn't have the backdrop qualities for TV broadcasts, so you will only see this part of the flood in aerial shots where it looks like a giant lake. It's not causing the photogenic devastation to properties because there aren't that many—the cityside edges of this flow from the river include sand & gravel mining areas, the airport, the golf club, the Botanical Gardens, playing fields, & a couple of parks, with lagoons on their edges—so it only appears in those shots of "the isolated homestead."

But it also doesn't have the natural topographical boundaries of Fitzroy Prime. This is a floodplain, kilometers wide, filled with water. Which means, at this point in time, there's a river, a couple of kilometers wide, within it.

The microcosm

Yesterday afternoon, we walked down to near where the main road through our suburb used to intersect with the main highway.

With everything under water, the roadsigns on the highway assume a new humor. "No entry", "Left Lane Ends—Merge Right"; that sort of thing.

In the shallows where the street meets the water, there's lots of life. Tadpoles galore in a pool created by a slight ridge in the road; small silver fingerlings skittishly making their way upstream via the ripples at the edge as they head for those areas which will return to lagoon status later, & where they will grow into prized barramundi; slightly larger darker fish—catfish?—also heading upstream & having an easier time of it; & a bit further out, in a mini-rapids that resembles one of those artificially-created surf runs, a smallish snake, say 50 centimeters in length, having the time of its life, ignoring the fish as it surfed down & curved back up the small waves, &, every so often, swimming across almost to the road's edge to put its head up out of the water to look at the people in a "hey, see what I can do" kind of way.


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