While the rest of the world awed and dropped their jaws at the extravagance erupting from high-rise buildings, the fireworks prancing across the skies, and as the earth slowly wound its way towards midnight and crossed over, Australia was burning.
As waves of flame and smoke toppled over farms, bushland, helpless cattle, homes, cars, light poles, and traffic signals, the world’s tallest building, the Burg Khalifa in Dubai, was plastered across people’s social media feeds, it’s slender figure lighting up, plush, colourful streaks chasing their way to the top. It was the new year. It only made sense for everyone to celebrate the birth of a new decade.
Why even the Opera House in Sydney burst with bubbling joy and glory. To keep up with the tradition and the expectations, organisers had spent months mulling over creative ideas together, contemplating, creating, testing, and synthesising to put together a 15-minute show that the entire world would speak of for weeks.
However, amidst all of this hoopla, many Australians had to witness a lifetime’s worth of possessions and passions slip away through the cracks of nature’s devilish dance.
Since early August, bushfires have ravaged throughout New South Wales, and yesterday, with temperatures going up to 49-degree celsius, many small towns across Victoria were engulfed in the fires as well. Ghastly winds didn’t help, feeding the flames, testing volunteer firefighters, killing residents, and melting road signs. Major highways were closed. Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries turned to social media to recruit volunteers to host animals temporarily, and some of the wildlife we’ll never know the predicament of.
When new year’s eve came to a close, I was home watching and inhaling the smoke riding into Canberra on the wind. Overnight, many fire alarms in establishments in the city went off just from the smoke. The sun rose reluctantly, puffy and swollen with redness, searing through the orange cloud cover that’s now become the new normal. The air quality recorded this morning was 16 times more than the hazardous. As the day progressed, it grew to over 23 times more than safe breathing conditions.
About two years ago, before relocating, as I researched lifestyle here, my heart skipped every time I read an article or a Reddit thread broadcasting Canberra’s envious blue skies and expense of light. And now, I walk outside and feel my heart sink deep into the haze that clings to the peeling gumtrees, envelops the croaking cockatoos, and shatters dreams.
It’s a new year. I hope it’s not too horrible.
Photo credit: Twitter account of the City of Sydney.