Eyes to See Chris and geoff new year 2021

Dear friends and family—Can you see the bird above? It’s a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet nicely camouflaged.

For us in Canberra, 2020 started with our whole city hard to see for sadder reasons—it was cloaked in smoke. This is the panoramic view from Mt Ainslie of mountains, lake and tree-lined streets. It became a metaphor for 2020. We did not see what was coming. As the fires and the heat abated, hail, flooding and COVID-19 followed. Geoff’s refrain became, ‘I have never seen anything like this before!’

As the smoke cleared, we started walking in the local bush again and saw something new and delightful. This Regent Honeyeater, an endangered species, posed for us very cooperatively, face-on and in profile, not far from home. It used to be a very common bird in colonial days. No more.

In early March, house-sitter friends were looking for a place to stay as they’d had a fortnight’s booking cancelled at short notice. We grabbed the opportunity to relocate to our caravan near Bungendore.

Suddenly, Australia was locked down. Our friends in our house had nowhere on the chess board to move to as a whole series of their bookings collapsed. We agreed that the best thing to do was for all of us to stay put. Chris got on with completing her book (more about that later) and made forays to supermarkets. It turned out to be a good way for Geoff to self-isolate except for visits to the dentist for root canal therapy before the clinic closed. We Zoomed to church and on Maundy Thursday we followed a liturgy, caravan-style, for an agape meal.

Our local Anglican parish sought ways to adapt and respond to the times. The pews were removed to liberate a more flexible space. The Tuckerbox food-bank ministry found ways to continue as new blood stepped in to cover for house-bound older volunteers. There was even a COVID-19-safe ‘sustainability festival’ to remind the community of the abiding need to care for our planet and its climate. The Church of Christ’s op-shop reopened as soon as it could, much to the delight of many.

By autumn, the rain arrived with La Niña. Celebration! The parched dams on our local Mt Majura daily walk were transformed and creeks and rivulets flowed. By spring, the wildflowers were magnificent. (The weeds were prolific too.)

Chris’s book got to the proofreading stage. Much scribble paper was generated and then shuffled in the process. Twin great-nieces were entertained trying to put the pages back in order. Finally, the book was actually finished, launched and is being well received. Geoff brought his long years of editing, layout, indexing and publishing experience to make all this possible. If you’d like to read it (hardcover, paperback or e-book), go to www.geoffandchris.com/gandc.

2020 also saw closure of Australia’s borders to all but essential air travel and the retirement of the Qantas jumbo jet. From Mt Ainslie, we witnessed the last 747’s farewell flight from Canberra airport. Now we often think of friends around the world suffering from the pandemic in much harder circumstances than ours. We feel the distance and separation.

By November, travel between some states reopened to some extent. We flew to Queensland to spend a few days in a large old house in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with Chris’s siblings and their spouses. On the first day that we were all together we celebrated with lunch out at Montville. That afternoon on a walk to explore the lovely grounds around the house Chris’s sister Alison slipped on loose stones and broke her leg and ankle in three places.

The family rallied around, helping this way and that. Chris extended her stay from three to eight weeks until Alison could be vertical again. Geoff went back to Canberra as planned and brushed off his bachelor skills. Chris experienced a rare deep immersion into extended family happenings and dynamics. Over the Christmas period, she met eighteen great-nieces and -nephews, two of them brand new.

A few days before Chris was due to fly back to Canberra, she video-phoned Geoff to say good morning and found him sitting in a hospital bed. An ambulance had delivered him there a few hours before with a heart attack. Chris rushed back from Brisbane to Canberra. The next morning Geoff had a stent inserted to clear a blocked artery. On her way to visit him, Chris heard that Brisbane was locked down and that she had to go into mandatory home quarantine. Geoff was discharged three days later. Within an hour of his walking in the front door, the quarantine was lifted. Chris emerged from the other end of the house and gave him a birthday hug. The day was topped off by a visit from nephew Tom, Nell and family from Melbourne—their first excursion after a long lockdown.

Thank you for listening to our personal dramas. We are keenly aware that these are but jigsaw pieces in the big picture of climate change, the accumulation of deaths around the world, and the trauma of entrenched racism and political upheaval. There is much weariness around the world.

But there are signs of hope and flashes of joy too. May we have eyes to see them.

Love to you all—Chris and Geoff