Learning from Life

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.

The girls are right. There is just no way to prevent learning. It happens. Just like life.

Image: I took this photo from our driveway yesterday. It’s a water bombing helicopter returning with another full load.

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  1. Reply

    Hi Sue…I'm so sorry this is still dragging on, but grateful that you continue to be spared. May God keep it so!
    We don't have bush fires where I live, but sometimes we have horrible hurricanes which knock out power for a week or more and toss trees around like sticks, etc. During those times, one of the things I learn is how very nice it is to have an ordinary day with chores to do and meals to prepare and laundry to fold, etc. I long for those things during the storms, but how soon I forget again how "special" a plain old ordinary day really is. I DO SO HOPE you will soon be back to your routine days. Hugs to all of you. Be safe! xoxo

    1. Reply


      The fire is dragging on. It's day 6 but feels like day 66! We are doing okay but I do feel sorry we remain at the centre of attention, needing prayers and causing worry. A quiet life is sounding very good at the moment!

      You are quite right about the pleasures of ordinary days. I was thinking this morning about how nice it would be to brush my teeth without first unpacking my toothbrush! When this is over, I'll still probably head to my bags looking for things when they are actually back in the cupboards!

      We don't experience hurricanes though we get storms with strong winds that knock down the power lines and cause us to be without electricity for a time. I think I mentioned that strong winds caused this fire by bringing down a powerline in our neighbouring village. Wind is such a strong force. At least we have electricity and therefore the Internet and computers during this crisis. It has been so good to stay in contact with everyone and share. I wonder if you feel very isolated during your hurricanes. Do you have emergency workers come out to assist you?

      Hugs to you too!

    • Erin
    • October 21, 2013

    Praying for you{{{}}}

    1. Reply


      It is kind of you to stop by and say hello. We appreciate your prayers. Thank you! Today things are looking better with the fire 'being contained'. I hope the weather remains calm and cool.

      God bless you!

  2. Reply

    Sue, it's a good idea to simply rest up for a while. It's amazing how emotional upheaval and upset, can weary one's body. This is not a normal time or situation with that threat hanging over you. Take care and sending emotional support and love to you and your family.

    (Read this morning the Kiwi fire fighters are now on alert to come over and give you a hand "if" needed. Sounds more like when though.)

    1. Reply


      Thank you for your kind words and suggestions. I think I needed to hear them. We can feel guilty complaining about being tired and stressed because we know it's far worse for those fighting the fires. We are so grateful for the firefighters! They are arriving from all over Australia, and now you tell me your firefighters are on stand-by too! Don't you just love how we all pull together in a crisis?

      I appreciate your emotional support and love. Actually I can feel it coming over the water! Thank you so much.

      I am praying for you too. God bless!

  3. Reply

    How clever and correct your kids are! leave it to them to show how much learning is going on even in the midst of anxiety.

    I cannot believe this is still going on! But what do I know….never saw or had this experience…..it must be very scary for you all.

    Love and prayers coming from No America, friend.

    1. Reply


      When life is extraordinary with lots going on, I don't think we have to do much to help our children learn. They are already living in a rich environment. Maybe our environment is a little too rich at the moment though. Longing for some quiet days where we can read together and do ordinary things without getting distracted by fire updates. It will happen! So many people fighting the fires and praying. They will come under control eventually. Just hope everyone remains safe and losses are minimal. There have been a lot of homes burnt down in the Blue Mountains fire which is so very traumatic for those involved.

      Thank you for your prayers and thank you for keeping in touch with what's going on here.

      God bless!

  4. Reply

    I just saw the news about the wildfires on CNN and logged on to ask if the fires were near you! I am so sorry, we are praying for you. God bless the fire fighters!

    1. Reply


      The fire started in the next village 6 or 7 kms up the road last Thursday. We heard dozens of sirens as emergency vehicles swept through our village to the fire. Later we heard the fire started when a power line fell down in the gusty winds. The winds blew the fire into action and now it is over 14 000 hectares in size. It was classified as 'out of control' until late last night when it was described as 'being controlled'. This is the best news we've had all week. The fire is burning literally on our doorstep and we have been on alert ready to evacuate for days now. But today (day 6) is looking better. It isn't windy or hot yet and maybe the fire fighters will be able to get more in control of the fire. We hope so!

      Of course there are lots of other fires burning around the state other than ours. It really is a crisis situation.

      God bless the fire fighters…yes! Thank you for your prayers.

      God bless you too.

  5. I've been praying for you, and everyone else affected by the bushfires, Sue. I hope you all recover from the stress soon. It sounds like your children have had a wonderfully constructive attitude throughout. I hope the cats are okay too!

    1. Reply


      Everyone is so kind and caring. We are overwhelmed by the number of people who are praying for us and others affected and our fire fighters. It is truly amazing. Thank you for your prayers!

      It was good the girls reminded me of how the best learning comes from living life. We could read about bushfires from a book, but experiencing it is so much more real and will never be forgotten… not that I would ask for a fire just so we could learn about one! But life is full of experiences and sometimes we don't need to arrange anything to encourage learning.

      The cats were very unhappy when we tried to evacuate them. They hate travelling in their carriers in the van. You should hear their pitiful meows! The cats are our biggest concern if we have to leave home. They are inside cats. A friend has offered to take them if we evacuate but I worry about them taking over someone else's house. We have had so many offers of shelter if we need it from family and friends. Sophie said, "Why would anyone want all of us to stay?" She was bemused because she doesn't think we'd make good house guests being a big family with animals. "Because we have such loving people around us who care."

      God bless you!

  6. Reply

    Dear Sue,

    Wishing you and your family blessings and safety! Your post was touching and could not have come at a better time. Thank you.

    All the best to you and yours!!!


    1. Reply


      I hope you're not experiencing a crisis too at the moment.

      It's good to know kids learn even when we haven't got the time or energy to help them. Our difficult times are actually good learning opportunities, not only for factual knowledge but for the more important lessons of life which involve love and care for each other.

      Thank you so much for your blessings. I'm so grateful you stopped. Hoping everything is well with you.

      God bless!

  7. Reply

    Oh dear! I will add you to my daily Rosary intentions immediately! I just saw your updates on fb and now here and I've been so out of the loup, I didn't have a clue what was going on. How stressful and frightening. You are in our daily prayers starting today!!

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for your concern and prayers! The fire came under control today. It's been burning for 9 days and it will probably be some time before it is put out completely. But I think we are out of danger now. It feels so good not having to worry about evacuating or having to face the possibility our house will burn down. Life can get back to normal!

      I hope all is well with you and your family. I enjoyed your recent fall photos! It looks so beautiful where you live.

      God bless!

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