It’s been raining here all week, the very opposite of this time last year. Last January we had ‘unprecedented’ bushfires in Australia which destroyed 3,094 homes, 2,439 of those were here in NSW. 33 people died, 9 of whom were firefighters. 6.7% of the state of NSW was burnt, the total area possibly the largest ever in a single recorded fire season for eastern Australia. 48% of the land on Kangaroo Island off the South Australian coast was burnt also. A large number of major fires burnt for months and air quality was terrible during this time. Estimates based on NSW and Victoria alone put the loss of mammals, birds and reptiles at over one billion, and that doesn’t take into account those that died from injuries, lack of food or predators later on. This figure also doesn’t include the loss of perhaps hundreds of billions of insects. *More details here.
While all this was going on, my five sisters and I had the ‘unprecedented’ loss of our mother at the end of January. Unprecedented, not because we weren’t expecting her to die at some stage. She was eighty-one and had survived a couple of heart attacks in her fifties as well as the loss of her only son (one boy in the middle of six girls) from a brain haemorrhage. He was 46 and we didn’t expect her to live through that devastation, but she did. Our Dad died a year before our brother so we weren’t strangers to this sort of thing. In some respects I was closer to my brother and my Dad than I was to Mum and perhaps that was why her loss was so difficult. I grieved for all that had not been.
I left home just before I turned seventeen and lived on the opposite side of the country to the rest of my family for years before most of them moved over this way. Before Mum died I visited her in hospital just after she had surgery to relieve her pain and she said to me, ‘We haven’t had much time together, have we, Carol?’ During January she began to show signs of vascular dementia to the extent that one day she didn’t recognise me. Unprecedented – I never expected to feel the extreme sense of loss that I did. And we certainly didn’t expect her to die from an aggressive tumour when most of her life it was her heart that troubled her.
I started this post with the sad, now here’s some good and beautiful. My daughter sent me this splendid bouquet on Christmas Eve for my birthday which is on Christmas Day – hence my name.
My husband had been working from home one day a week for about a year before the COVID situation and then in March work at home became fulltime. He has loved not commuting to work but he was doing his work at the kitchen table – conference calls etc. Very inconvenient for everyone else, but when one of our sons decided to move in with his brother who had left home about 18 months previously, we acquired a spare room. This was turned into a study and peace reigned once more.
In the early part of our COVID restrictions my husband and I got into the habit of going for bush walks regularly. We decided to support a local café to help keep them in business during lockdown so we’d go walking and get a coffee at the same time. Our regular activities such as swimming, orchestra, youth music practice and some other things, stopped for a few months so Hails and I decided to make a quilt for her brother. He turned 21 at the end of November and we hoped to have it finished by then. That didn’t happen, partly because I needed some material for the backing and I wanted to be able to see the fabric for myself before I bought it, but it was finished by Christmas so he got it then.
Hails also had more time to spend on her art and I added her to my Instagram account so she could post what she was doing. This is her little spot.
My reading time increased significantly this year but my writing didn’t keep pace. An area I focused on was nutrition and health, subjects I’ve had a long-term interest in. A friend of mine pointed me to Dr Michael Greger’s website (thanks Betty!) and I found out he did podcasts so I listen to them fairly regularly. I also have enjoyed the podcasts from the Physician’s Committee that discuss the benefits of a plant based whole food diet and the latest news on medical issues. I’m interested from a health point of view because I don’t have a great family history when it comes to heart disease and I am so frustrated by the conflicting advice on diet – eggs are bad, no, now they are good, etc. Low Fat, Keto, Low Carb. There is much misinformation, especially on the Internet, where anybody with a high profile and good physique can promote their own version of healthy nutrition.
The China Study by .T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D and Thomas M. Campbell, Ph.D – I have to say I didn’t really engage with this book although parts of it were interesting. I didn’t like the defensive tone of the writing and there were a lot of statistics that weren’t really helpful to the average layperson. As with some of the other books I’ve read on the Whole Food, Plant Based way of eating, it looks at the health issues that occur when people move away from their traditional diets and start eating a Western diet.
How Not to Diet by Dr Michael Greger – I like this author’s writing. It is engaging, humorous and full of puns. I wanted to read another of his books, How not to Die, but I found this book at the library and read it first. I plan on reading How Not to Die this year. How Not to Diet looks at the latest medical and nutritional research regarding health, disease, weight loss and premature death. He explains how nutrition and lifestyle changes can prevent certain diseases or reverse them and how some foods may be more efficacious than medication. This isn’t some lifestyle guru dispensing his own ideas. 176 pages of reference notes, an introduction that outlines the inspiration behind his decision to study medicine and the long and winding road that brought him to where he is now. Excellent book.
Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright – I listened to this via an audiobook over about 6 months after my eldest son recommended it. I’ve listened to the author on the Ask NT Wright Anything (podbean.com) podcast and respect his intellectual prowess coupled with his humility. This biography of the Apostle Paul was inspiring and presents him in a way that brings him and his times to life for the modern reader. There is a very good review of the book here.
I\’m starting the year with a book a friend gave me for Christmas, Beholding and Becoming, the Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons. It is an exquisitely lovely book illustrated by the author.
In the Steps of the Master by H.V. Morton is a book I thought I’d schedule for Hails this year either as a devotional and/or for geography. I have enjoyed it so much and am about halfway through its 375 pages. It is set in Palestine, written in 1934, and is so wonderfully evocative of Biblical times. It’s a great book for an older teen and a good companion while reading through the Gospels.
‘It was the habit in ancient times to treat any stranger as if he might be a wandering Christ, and this beautiful courtesy still exists in out-of-the-way parts of the earth. We have lost it, and with it something fine and beautiful has gone from our lives.’