An appetite for action

This year has certainly been unlike any other year like I have never experienced before, for a number of reasons that affected so many people. Starting late 2019, was the heat and the bushfires that much of Australia experienced. I remember packing up and leaving the beach house in a hurry just before New Year’s, once the power shut off and our dog struggled in the heat. On the drive back to Melbourne we listened to the news on the radio, with warnings for Melbournians to evacuate if they were in close proximity to a fire, and to take care and watch with caution if they were in a surrounding area.

I will never forget heading to work in the CBD in early January to a city I had never experienced, with a haze of smoke and dusty skies. It was a constant reminder of what was happening all around us, as Australia truly begun to understand the impacts of climate change.

But part of me wonders, do we actually know? Do we really understand the causes, the problems, and the lasting effects? Spending time at my Dad’s property in February definitely got me thinking about our relationship with nature, and how important every aspect of our ecosystem is in cultivating growth and change around us.

The COVID situation

After a quick trip to Tasmania in February to enjoy all the region has to offer (quite literally) and attend a friend’s wedding, we were back in Melbourne with a trip to New Zealand planned for early March. As we heard the news of ‘coronavirus’ breaking out in countries far away, we were unaware of the significant threat it posed, or that we would soon be experiencing one of the harshest lockdowns in history.

We made it to New Zealand without a hiccup and stayed informed of the news as we travelled around the North island for ten days. We had a wonderful holiday; packed with rainforest walks/runs, waterfalls, sailing the Bay of Islands and indulging in some incredible food and wine. We visited the town of Taupo, where we were amazed at the size of the lake; we had never seen one so big, only on American TV shows. We experienced the stench of Rotorua and marvelled at the sulphuric springs as they boiled away, letting off steam.

We heard coronavirus warnings on the radio as we drove from town to town and were impressed with the speed at which the country was informing the public. We doubted that Australia would have such precautions in place this early on. We had just finished a tour of the Waitomo glow worm caves, one of the most incredible things I had ever seen, when things really started spiralling out of control around the world. It was our second last night in New Zealand, and while we were having an amazing time away, we were looking forward to getting back to a familiar place, as chaos unfolded around us.

We made it back within a few days of the mandatory quarantine being enforced for people who had been out of the country. Not that we went anywhere or did anything when we returned anyway; we found ourselves working from home and not leaving for many other reasons at all, other than to shop for food and to exercise.

The state of being

I have shared my thoughts and feelings throughout the year, and some of my posts may have been slightly repetitive, which only emphasises the state of being for 2020.

While I write of cities, of the bush, of time spent travelling earlier this year, I reflect on these major events and wonder what the next year, even the next 10-20 years will bring. It seems that this way of living has already become ‘business as usual’.

Here in Victoria, Australia, we have been doing so well at keeping cases down, but as we begin to let international travellers back in, I can only wonder what will happen after the last debacle, and with what’s going on in New South Wales at the moment, who knows. Of course, I am hoping for the best, for a level of control, for strong leadership and guidelines that will mean that we don’t find ourselves to a similar situation that we were in earlier this year in 2021, for both the pandemic and the environment, although things are not looking great.

But there are signs of respite, such as this beautiful story of a thought to be extinct pygmy possum being recently found on Kangaroo Island after bushfires destroyed much of the island last summer.

As America comes to terms with the idea of a new president in Biden, someone that has climate change well and truly on his agenda, we can only hope too that Australia has a plan, because if things keep going the way they are, it doesn’t seem that we will be able to enjoy our country for much longer. Every summer will be the same; fires, loss of and significant damage to wildlife and an enormous volunteer effort to manage the situation. As David Attenborough would say, this is just not a sustainable way of living; we need to drastically change our approach before it is too late.

This year has shown that when given strong leadership, we as a community can do it, we can get out of almost anything, or at least turn things around. So, let’s make 2021 a year of learning, reflection and action on anything that is within our control.

Have a safe and happy Christmas break everyone and see you next year!

Redefining liveability in 2020

In 2018 I wrote a blog post about the top 10 most liveable cities in the world according to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EUI) and reasons that I found this list questionable. I referred to the lack of separation between developed and developing cities, and that it seems somewhat biased that one is expected to compete against the other.

The 2019 list fared similar results to the year prior, with the same cities ranked as number 1 and 2 (Austria, Melbourne) according to factors including stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, which I agree are all very important factors.

But I do wonder how the 2020 list will play out, if it is ever released?

With COVID-19 having affected and still affecting most of the world, should our cities’ responsiveness to deal with a global pandemic also be considered?

The 2020 list

It could be argued that the entire purpose of a city and its liveability should be redefined.

After ranking as number 2 for two consecutive years, how will Melbourne, Australia fare in future lists? No longer the epicentre for work, dining and entertainment with harsh restrictions in place on and off throughout 2020, the city of Melbourne has reportedly been a much quieter place.

Will the 2020 be the year that the prerequisites are adjusted in light of the pandemic?

We are in such a strange time, so many people’s lives have been turned upside down (whether though loss or major disruption) or affected in some other way (weddings cancelled, travel postponed).

Of course, the liveability index won’t take the percentage of people affected by these inconveniences into account, this is well outside of their ranking factors. But it seems that Melbourne is no longer the place that everyone wants to be.

Life in Melbourne

During the past 6 months, it has become clear to most Melburnians that we are most comfortable when we live in close proximity to:

  • Nature, parklands or walking tracks
  • A supermarket
  • Healthcare

This year we have finally been pushed to realise the full potential of having many services available to us online. It has been said that the world has jumped forward 10 years so that we can cope with the pandemic and luckily, we can get the majority of what we need this way relatively quickly and easily.

What next?

Whether the aftermath or 2020 means packing up and leaving the state, moving back in or away from parents or staying put when the end of the pandemic is in sight, we will have to wait and see.

There has been a lot of chatter about getting out of Victoria, escaping to a place with the supposed luxury of ‘being free.’

It might seem like a good idea right now, but isn’t the appeal of a big city what drew many of us here in the first place? But now it seems that ever since we started working from home, many of us have re-evaluated our lives and what is important, realising that we can work like this from anywhere.

I have mentioned before that I hope that businesses learn from this, put employees first and find a way for their staff to continue working from home if that is what they want.

So should the 2020 (or 2021) list include cities that have demonstrated a resilience and a capacity to bounce back?

I think so. And will this list include Melbourne? Probably not.

I will be very interested to see if the list is released at some point this year, a year of all kinds of firsts for many of us.

Through my dog’s eyes

I often find myself wondering what a day in the life of my dog would be like.

Pre-pandemic, he would spend his time outside in the backyard or curled up on his bed just outside the door but since we have started working from home, he has been inside a lot more. He is great company and having him so close by gives us an excuse to get up from time to time to give him a scratch behind the ears or a rub on his belly. Each night when we go to bed, he will quite happily trot off to the laundry which is where he sleeps. He is now used to sleeping inside, which we are pleased about because it was either that or being woken up at 5am each morning with him barking frantically as the resident possums ran back across our fence.

For a few weeks in June and July, restrictions eased somewhat in Victoria (although cases were still on the rise, they were manageable), and we found ourselves venturing out from time to time. If we went to visit a friend or pick up something from the shops our dog would play up and bark on and off until we returned home. He has a loud, deep bark and he gets more anxious/energised/excited at night-time so it will take him a while to get used to the way things were prior to the pandemic.

This virus moves quickly and now Melbourne is back in lockdown. As the daily rise in cases tipped out of control, the risk of widespread trauma as seen in other countries across the world was too real.

So, we continue the routine of our three times daily walks and long naps inside.

The other morning, I heard him scramble hurriedly off the raised platform he sits on under the deck, and I went outside to see what had caught his attention. He was bounding across the grass, barking playfully, looking up. I saw the flapping of white and realised that he had been observing some cockatoos that had made themselves at home on our roof and had since moved over to our pear tree. They were perched high up in the branches and were quite happily maneuvering themselves down the twigs using only their beaks and claws, as they tumbled downwards. My dog and I watched, entertained.

I could hear more squawks around me so looked up and saw at least 5 others perched in the bigger tree just outside of our fence line. We had been listening to them since earlier in the morning, lying awake in bed so it was nice to put a face to the commotion. I knew that cockatoos could somehow sense when rain was coming, and my weather app told me that rain was indeed on its way. We watched them fly away as a group, moving on to another house to let them know the rain was coming before heading inside to make breakfast. Upon further research I learned that this belief was an old farmers tale when they were hopeful of rainfall, and that this was only the case for black cockatoos.

So there you go.

As we enter the second week of a 6 week lockdown (at least), I know I have more mornings like this to look forward to, and more time to appreciate the many wonders of nature through my dog’s eyes and my own.

Purple clouds in a dark sky

I have been fascinated by the moon lately. It is winter here in Australia, and the beginning of the eclipse season, which I haven’t paid much attention to in the past. There have been some chilly, but beautiful clear nights over the past few weeks but I have gotten into a habit before I go to bed each night, of stepping outside in my dressing gown and Ugg boots to look up to the sky. For a few nights the other week I could see a full moon, glowing in all its splendour through a fine mist of clouds. And one night the moon was setting off a luminescent ring which surrounded it, which I had never seen before. It was majestic. Other nights it is just purple clouds in a dark sky.

As I have shared in previous posts, working from home has allowed me to focus on what I would rather be doing with my day; spending time with my husband and dog, exercising, getting things done around the house and writing. There is nothing better than letting the creativity flow, following my fingers with my eyes as they dance around the keyboard, out of inspiration not out of necessity.

I also feel that being at home more has allowed me to be more in tune with the news and what’s going on around me. Sure, it was easy enough to have a quick glance at the morning news and scroll through my Twitter feed, but having time to actually focus has made me realised what a big part of my life the news has been lately; and how easy it is to get caught up in it.

Along with headlines revealing alarming Coronavirus facts and figures on a global scale, and news of riots and protests and upheaval, earlier this month there was some particularly good news in Victoria, Australia. An autistic teenager who had been missing for over two nights in bushland was found. It was so good to hear that he was finally safe and would be returning home. I also thought about the family and everyone involved in the rescue and how thankful everyone was to hear a good news story, especially when there is so much craziness in communities everywhere right now. It also drew some much-needed attention to autism and life on the spectrum. Would William ever share the full story about what happened on those cold nights? This rescue mission has shown us that anything is possible.

In other news, it has been revealed that probiotics may be able to save the Great Barrier Reef. This headline sparked my attention, as the reef is such an incredible ecosystem which as we know, after years of bleaching is being heavily damaged. Apparently, probiotics like those found in yoghurt will be used to restore the reef and help the coral survive when it is prone to stress if the current trial is successful. We can only hope for a breakthrough like this to repair the years of damage brought on by us humans.

One statement I heard the other day has stuck with me… we exist to coexist… an interesting truth in the face of a pandemic. Especially when coexisting is the problem.

Like animals, we humans are linked to a day-night cycle and although our routines may have been majorly disrupted in recent months, we have been forced to adapt and develop new habits.

Right now, I am preparing myself to step outside to look at the moon before I go to bed, when I will allow my mind to refocus and prepare for a new day as my dog and I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Sunsets and reflection

I am one of those people who is enjoying this time in isolation, particularly with regards to working from home. I get to spend more time with my husband and my dog and as soon as I log off each weekday, I am free to go for a run or do whatever I need to do. I don’t have a 40 minute commute ahead of me, crammed in with a bunch of strangers in the same situation, followed by an hour at the gym, again with sweaty individuals who don’t understand the meaning of personal space, only to get home by 7:30pm, walk the dog and then sit down to enjoy dinner by 8:30 or 9pm.

In saying that, I didn’t used to mind the morning commute. I would often get a seat on the train so had time to sit somewhat comfortably and read the day’s news. I did not mind overhearing conversations that weren’t relevant to me or smiling awkwardly at whoever squeezed aside to let me off the train. We were all in the same situation, on our way to the office, where we would spend the day trapped in a same space with many others who we may or may not be able to tolerate, sometimes able to get outside for a walk around the block at lunchtime, depending on our schedules or the weather.

I thought my day to day was pretty good and I had a routine figured out that worked for me most of the time. I never had any trouble getting out of bed in the morning and was able to challenge myself with new projects at work.

But now, having worked from home for close to three months straight, I am loving my new routine. It is a difficult situation that the world is in, but if we begin to consider the positive impact this could have on workplace flexibility and adaptability (as well as the environmental benefits) when we come out of it, we realise that for many of us working from home on a full time basis is not a bad idea at all. If we can thrive in a familiar environment, why take that away? Why force us into a potentially unhealthy routine, where we are much more likely to suffer fatigue, exhaustion or contract a highly contagious virus?

On an evening run last week, I took the time to appreciate where I was and what I noticed around me. The sky was a deep pink colour; it was a gorgeous sunset and I couldn’t help but think ‘red sky at night, sailors delight,’ thinking of the fisher people who may be out on the water the next day and that if the riddle were true, a clear morning would follow. I stopped to take photos which is not something I often do while on a run, but the way that the glow of the sky was soaking into everything that lay beneath it, I couldn’t resist. I had been using a tracker app and surely stopping would not do me any favours in getting a good time, but I was caught up in the moment ‒ something which has not happened at least since the start of lockdown.

It was a good feeling, being so involved in what is going on around me, to not be thinking about anything else, other than how I felt at that time.

This is a dividing time for workforce flexibility, where these new opportunities and emotions are making many of us reconsider our ‘old lives’. Rather than contemplating an eventual return to the office, what organisations should be getting their heads around is the idea of working from home as a continued future practice. If we have adapted well in the current situation, and are better off this way, why should that be taken away?

If you have any thoughts on this topic, please leave a comment below.