Today I am tired. I don’t feel like strewing. I don’t feel like discussing or watching or listening. I don’t feel excited or enthusiastic. My children feel the same way. We’ve been living with an out-of-control fire on our door step for the last 5 days, and yes, we are all tired.
Normally, I have loads of learning experiences to record in my dreaded records book at the end of each day, despite our unstructured relaxed life style. The girls are eager to learn. They find plenty to get involved with. I share with them. They share with me. But today I am sure we will have no learning experiences whatsoever to record. Today’s record page will remain blank.
“Just write ‘school closed due to bushfire’,” suggests my daughter Imogen. The local village school has been closed today. We smile. Our ‘school’ never closes. But the education department doesn’t know that. Today our ‘school’ is closed too. That sounds good for the official records.
Our ‘school’ never closes? We learn from life and life never stops. The girls like to say that the only way anyone can prevent themselves from learning is to sit inside a cardboard box. And even then, they’ll learn that it’s very boring sitting there doing nothing.
“There’s loads you can write in your records book, Mum,” says Charlotte. “We’ve learnt heaps recently. We know all about bushfires, and how to fight them.”
“And how to prepare a house for a fire,” adds Sophie.
“We know about winds and hot temperatures and evacuation,” says Gemma-Rose.
“We’ve seen fire trucks and watched a water bombing helicopter being filled with water, and then seen them in action,” says Imogen.
“Fire fighters visit schools to talk to the kids about bushfire safety,” says Charlotte. “We’ve talked to fire fighters on our own street lots of times in the past few days. You could write down we’ve had visiting fire fighters come to talk to us.”
I think of all the tired fire fighters who are working a stone’s throw away from our house. There’s one person on continual duty at a water tanker which we can see from our house. He refills the truck water tanks as they reappear out of the bush. While he’s waiting for another truck to arrive, he is quite happy to talk to us about the bushfire fighting operation.
“We’ve seen big earth moving equipment too.” The girls haven’t yet finished. “So we all know about making fire breaks. Oh yes, back burning as well.”
“And what about those fire fighters who are dropped by parachute into the thick of the bush, armed with a shovel so they can make fire breaks by hand?” These RAFT fighters seem so remarkable to us.
“We’ve looked at maps and watched reports…” My list of learning experiences is getting longer and longer.
Last Friday we evacuated our house for a few hours when conditions seemed very poor. We packed the three cats into their carriers, and placed the guinea pig into a box. We loaded the van with a few things we want to save if our house does burn down, and then we headed to town where it is safe. We spent the afternoon in a park by the lake.
“Do you think we could describe our evacuation to town as a field trip?” I ask.
“We gave verbal reports of the fire to other people. We discussed past fires. We talked about how fires start, and what we can do to minimise the possibility of them starting.”
I scribble fast. My page is overflowing. Life has certainly taught us a lot this week. And not all of it is concerned with facts. We've also learnt about courage and community spirit and the extraordinary generosity of family and friends.
But today, we are tired.
"I think it would be quite okay if we all sat and did absolutely nothing for the whole of today," I announce.
Later, I notice someone at a computer, and some else putting together a jigsaw. One of my daughters is in the middle of a complicated game and another is reading. I suspect that even while they’re doing ‘absolutely nothing’, they are still doing a whole heap of learning.
Image: I took this photo from our driveway yesterday. It's a water bombing helicopter returning with another full load.