Slowing Down

Smile Within Words PHOTO BOOK_Page_022

During the fourth post-cyclone week I slowed down, appreciated the air conditioning and wrote a children’s picture book text – a cyclone story! Joe kept organising and doing farm recovery work but was sleeping after lunch when possible.

Following that our lives seemed fairly normal superficially (unless repair work was going on in the house) but our emotions remain closer to the surface and we need more sleep. Work on the house was completed late September but Joe worked the cane season without one decent farm shed. Foundations for two new sheds are being poured today.

Watching nature cover her scars with green leaves and bright flowers is solace for us.

We try not to show it but we both have more ups and downs than is usual. I know we require a little more recovery time. We need to be gentle and tolerant with each other and with our traumatised community.

                                                                   By Pam Galeano

A video about Pam and Joe, who are pictured above.

Chainsaw Optimism

Smile Within Words PHOTO BOOK_Page_016

After the Cyclone we felt a strong need to drive and check up on people we knew in the Cassowary Coast, so we headed around to several people’s houses in Tully and Feluga.  One home was that of the Hardy’s.

Mr Hardy was already out in his garden cleaning up with his chainsaw.  I don’t know what made me take this picture, something about his Chainsaw Optimism.   Mr Hardy says he doesn’t remember me taking it, although I did ask his permission before clicking away.  He was happy for this image to be shared with others.

When we went to collect the consent form he was hard at work fixing up his house – it has a new kitchen, and is much improved since the cyclone.

He had returned from a weekend with his boys taking them biking  and was in high spirits.

June Perkins

The Journey

Smile Within Words PHOTO BOOK_Page_006

The Smile Within

“ … I remember locking up.  I remember driving away.   I remember tears.  Sadness.  Fear.   I remember what seemed like reality.  I remember holding hope in my heart. …”

These are words taken from a blog post I wrote about our Cyclone Yasi experience.    Less than a month prior to writing this, we had lost our home, our idyllic beachside lifestyle and our sense of feeling settled and grounded for our then 7 and 9 year old boys in that horrific storm which surfed through our neighbourhood.

Living that idyllic lifestyle amongst the beautiful neighbourhood before Cyclone Yasi, our smiles came from within.

Being a mum, a wife, a teacher and a close friend to the many around me, I truly felt the need to stay strong.   I watched other mums .. my friends .. go through the everyday drudgery of trying to piece their lives .. their children’s lives .. their family’s lives back together and drew strength from their everyday smiles, their everyday gratitude, their words and well wishes for people around them.

At this trying time, their smiles came from within.

During the months after Cyclone Yasi, when it was time to start the process of rebuilding our lives, I worked alongside an organization called ‘Operation Angel’.   This organization shipped much needed supplies to our small and still idyllic .. yet somehow not so aesthetically pleasing neighbourhood.    Together, we set up a centre where lost souls could visit and reflect while they filled their shopping cartons with new household supplies and collectable items for a cost of a smile.

Not for the free goods they had received but more that fact that someone cared, together we witnessed … their smiles from within.

When trauma hits, I truly believe, it’s a natural process to reflect and to sometimes feel like you’ve lost your way.   For me, there are moments like this in everyday life and they certainly surfaced with great force when we lost our family home from a whopping big wave.   We still shake our heads when we think of our feelings of despair in the days and even weeks following Cyclone Yasi.   In that brief time, it felt like there was no smile from within.

It was at this point; we realized we needed to surround ourselves with friends and family.  With every challenging task that followed, with each difficult decision we made, we were fortunate to have loved ones right be our sides … holding our hands … comforting our hearts and making us laugh.

And from that point on, together we all smiled from within.

In the months after Cyclone Yasi, we kept ourselves busy … sometimes to the point of exhaustion;  all the time, sharing moments with old friends and family.    Before we knew it, we had built a new life, in a new place, making new friends and sharing new experiences.   Our network had grown. Our friendships were now stronger … our family was more resilient … our lives were richer and filled with gratitude.

This worked for us; we’ll always smile from within.

Now that life has settled with new jobs and new pathways, new houses and new family routines, the day to day living for this family of four continues.  We laugh, we smile, we cry, we have tantrums.   We stress, we share and we focus and from time to time we even feel like we’re losing our way.  Life seems back to normal.  The outlook is different, the opportunities diverse but there’s one thing the same.

Our smile comes from within.


Carolyn Bofinger