As Cyclone Yasi rampaged towards the Far North Queensland coastline and thousands evacuated their homes, my phone lit up with a call from Mr P to tell me he was on his way to Townsville to be there, on the ground when Yasi hit.
Strangely, I was filled with a deep and unshakable calm. This is what he'd trained for, yet that night as I lay in bed, my mind did back flips after watching media reports. I was concerned for my sister and her family living close to the esplanade when the talk turned to how big the storm surge might be. My cousin and his family also lived in Cairns.
The next day as residents along the Far North Queensland coastline prepared for Yasi's arrival and left their homes and Mr Practical boarded a plane heading right into Yasi's path, I got in my car and took a drive to visit an old friend. This friend has been like a spiritual mama to me since I arrived in Australia, sixteen years ago. She's encouraged and supported me as I've raised our children, lost a baby during pregnancy, launched a writing business and witnessed milestones in my life. After a visit with her and her generous, heartfelt prayers, total calm once again flooded my heart and mind.
Cyclone Yasi bombarded the coastline as a Category 5 during the night. Winds rocketed through towns and cities like derailed freight trains. Mr P woke at 11.30pm when a water tank was hurled into the car park of his motel. The power was out. Horizontal rain slashed his window. For hours Yasi assaulted the coastline before moving inland and eventually running out of steam.
In the morning, roads were strewn with debris from trees and the rain continued. Further north in Cairns, my sister, partner and three year old son had evacuated to a friends' house further away from the sea. Tucked into the side of a hill, they were largely sheltered from the north side of Yasi. Still, with the power out and winds whipping the trees around the house, sleep escaped them. Their home and their business near the esplanade were untouched.
Back home in Brisbane, we were having a heat wave. High humidity and scorching temperatures saw the children in the swimming pool straight after school every day. Neighbourhood kids gravitated to our place at the sound of splashes and squeals coming from our backyard. Chilled slices of watermelon were enjoyed and simple, light dinners were served to combat the heat of the night.
What Lurks Beneath
Towards the end of the week, I noticed our swimming pool looking a little murky. Not happy. I like our pool to be crystal clear and sparkling. People comment on our sparkling pool. It's about thirty years old and to set it in the ground, rock had to be blasted away to make room for it. It's definitely a stayer!
I once remember our pool going green when the weather went weird and super humid. I'm not keen on a cesspool in our backyard! With the current weather conditions and all the use lately, our beloved pool was heading for a whole new shade called 'Kermit Green'! I couldn't let it happen. Not on my watch! Not with Mr P still away. Green was not cool. I had to take immediate action.
Scooping a sample into a jar, I took it along to the pool shop for analysis. "Yep, it's way out of balance," said the pool guy. A queue was quickly forming behind me with people clutching their pool samples. It wasn't just our pool. It was an epidemic!
The pool guy disappeared for a second and returned with three bags of something and a container of something else and rang up the price on the register.
"Hold on," I said with a slight quiver in my voice, "I don't know what to do with this stuff. I don't usually look after the pool - my husband does." I think I heard someone go, Tsk! I refused to look around. I went for the sympathy vote. I needed this guy's help and I didn't need heckling from the back of the room. "My husband has been called up to Townsville with Fire & Rescue to help out after the cyclone." It was like name-dropping to get a table at the best restaurant in town but I was desperate.
"Oh, he's a big guy, yep, I know him." Phew! "Okay, here's what you need to do." I scribbled down every word he said. "If you stuff it up, you'll make the pool worse." Okay, no pressure then!
I raced home and Mr Practical Jnr (aka The Teen) assisted me. The Kreepy Krawley was also out of action but the filter hummed beautifully as we dumped, sprinkled, raked and poured all the "stuff" into the pool. The lengths we go to bathe in a large, yet contained body of water.
The next morning, I opened the curtains to find the pool - sparkling. Hip, hip hooray. I didn't suck at pool maintenance! We had averted a disaster, the pool hadn't gone green and I felt very competent as a homeowner.
After a week, Mr P arrived home to squeals of delight and handstands on the sofa and then the kids greeted him! Mr P with his well-endowed practicalness, extracted some palm fronds from the Kreepy Krawley hose and once again it ticked away, diligently shimmying along the walls and floor of the pool like a little sucker fish.
See, life does go on when your 'normal' changes. Day by day, even hour by hour, you work through those things set before you and when you lay your head on the pillow, you let your mind settle on those pleasant things like mastering pool maintenance and let yourself enjoy that slightly pumped feeling you get as you cast your eye over those sparkling blue waters, knowing in essence, after such a monumental week, with a little help, you both averted a disaster.
Copyright 2011 Philippa Vette