Bookfeast and Dust

Last Wednesday morning we opened our eyes to a world completely transformed: eerie and spooky beyond words. Everything outside was orange, and distance had vanished. Rare conditions of dry inland after decades of drought plus low pressure system plus high pressure system had combined to whip up winds which would vacuum tonnes of silt-like topsoil from the red centre of Australia, fan it eastwards in a cloud almost two thousand kilometres long, then blow it onwards to New Zealand.

Inner city as the dust started to clear

During the night I had begun to smell and feel the dust as wind began to buffet the house. The mildly choking sensation didn’t stop after I closed my window; fine particles leaked easily between floorboards and through cracks who knows where else. A red fog of silt lit by the struggling sunrise created a Martian landscape. Unlike a normal sunrise, red light wasn’t just illuminating everything from the east; it was all AROUND everything.

When light changes here, it usually means bushfires are about, and smoke is toying with the sun. Once the world turned green. That time a cyclone cut a swathe through the city snapping the top third off massive gum trees. When the light changes, one starts to feel a bit edgy.

I was heading into the city that morning with a wheeled suitcase full of books. By 10 am when I was on the move, the dust had tamed to a sickly yellowish fog on a boisterous wind such that the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanned a solid nothingness in a very disconcerting manner. Dust is just that degree more committed than water when it comes to pea soupers.

My mission was to do a double-act presentation with Duncan Ball at an event called Bookfeast where teachers bring kids from schools all over the city to sit with authors and chat over paper plates of lunch. I have to say, Haberfield Public School which hosted it makes GREAT chocolate cake!!!!

Duncan was on a small stage, and I leapt back and forth over it between two whiteboards positioned on either side drawing frantically while he read three short poems from “My Sister Has a Big Black Beard”. It was fun building up a drawing bit by bit while the tale unfolded. I must confess that by the third poem I wandered off topic a bit and drew Duncan in a tutu. Suited him, I thought.

By the time we left in the early afternoon the sky was blue again and the main sign that anything had happened was every car looking like it had “gone bush”, spending a giddy few days on dirt roads.

A milder dust cloud hit on Saturday; some people hadn’t waited until after this predicted second romp to wash their car. Me? I won’t be washing mine for a good while yet. Possibly years. Just in case.

(I have been making postcards today - check them out On The Drawing Table )