Graham Nicholson’s Review

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi was a very destructive and widespread tropical cyclone that made landfall in northern Queensland, Australia on 3 February, 2011.  By this time, the cyclone had intensified to a Category 5 system.  It had moved offshore down the tropical coast and crossed the coast between Innisfail and Cardwell, with gusts estimated at up to 285 km per hour.  The eye crossed at Mission Beach just before midnight *and passed over the mill town of Tully a little inland soon after.

The cyclone continued on its path inland as it slowly lost power, affecting a huge area as far west as Mount Isa as well as areas well to the north and south.   It caused billions of dollars in damage and destruction over a very wide area, making it the costliest tropical cyclone to hit Australia on record.  Many buildings were damaged or destroyed and crops were flattened.  There were some injuries and one death.   While not as destructive as the recent cyclone to hit built up areas in the Philippines, it was a devastating event nevertheless.

Experiencing a severe cyclone is a traumatic event for those directly affected.  One would think that a book about that experience would be full of terrible tales, stories of damage and injuries, of environmental loss, many pictures of devastation, as well as a questioning of why it happened to those affected.  After all, this book records the effect on those people in the region most heavily impacted.   But not this book.  It is not a negative book at all.  There are a few pictures of the damage and some descriptions of what happened.  But the emphasis in the book is on the other end; the recovery, the explosion of spirit and hope that followed, the cooperation that it engendered, the artistic expression that the disaster gave birth to.  And there were amazing visitors to lift the spirits – Prince William, Premier Anna Bligh and others.  Many have contributed to the recovery.

The poetry in the book is tinged with both a sad seriousness and also humour.  For example:

“Who said Cassowaries can’t fly
Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why
I’ll tell you no fibs not even a lie
I tell you my friends Cassowaries can fly.”

And as for the positive side of such severe trials in life, one commentator wrote:

“There is a lot to gain from these experiences – helping and connecting with others; a sense of togetherness, a shared resilience formed and foundations reinforced.”

Another writes:

“..amidst all the destruction and loss at the hands of Yasi, the true story and spirit of Yasi is one of kinship, resilience and the road to recovery.”

Another author adds that after the cyclone, she discovered a different kind of thankfulness.  We are reminded, in reading this book and viewing the excellent pictures, that in the darkest recesses of the events of this material world, when it can be most destructive and depressing, there is the light of real meaning and purpose in life, a realisation that tends to escape observation when things seem to be going fine for us.

Worth the read.   Congratulations to June and all the other contributors.

Graham Nicholson

Hidden Words Bookshop, Kuranda

 

*correction original said noon and should read midnight.