My Mullumbimby Flood Experience
There was a lot of rain coming down on the Sunday (and the days before) as we were preparing our dinner.
I remember sitting on my bed with candle light, doing some work on my laptop, listening to the sound of the rain, thinking it being so cosy. Nothing unusual. We all went to bed that night. I put my phone and laptop down on the floor away from my bed.
I woke up at 5.30am to some faint siren sound and heard some banging. I thought it was the dogs wanting to get out so I got up and stepped into knee deep water in my bedroom. My brain could not grasp what happened it in that moment. I couldn’t believe it. It took a few breaths to move from total confusion to realising what was happening. I waded through the house to my friends daughter’s room and her friend waking them up. We all were speechless. The entire house each single room was filled with flood water a little under knee deep. I then looked for my electronic devices I put on the floor the night before and surely they were gone by then. Two years of work (not backed up) big lesson learned. We gathered in the living room grabbed the dogs and did not know what to do. It was pouring down with heavy rain and by then a fast moving stream of water about one meter high to each side of the house had piled up so we did not want to open the doors. We did not know if we should turn the power off either or if it was safe to stay in the house or if we should move on to the roof somehow. My phone was dead so I could not call anyone. We tried to call the SES however due to ‘high demand’, the automated voice asked us to try again later. I thought after that it would be very helpful to update that automated message with something more useful like how to stay safe in flood water or maybe some latest news or that some help is on the way. Just something other than ‘try again later’. We then each packed a bag with necessary things, I noticed how my brain was very scattered. I couldn’t find things and waded from one room to the next forgetting what I was looking for. After about an hour the water started to ebb and we saw how much mud there was in the house everywhere. It was devastating. We could finally open the doors and walked out and saw the entire street, including cars under water. Our brains still did not seem to grasps it- it felt like being in a movie all day. Neighbours all were standing outside. Within 30 min the second flash flood came back. The house filled back up with water again. My friends little dog Tilla disappeared and we were so worried she got swept away in it all.
The currents outside were very strong. Luckily one of the neighbours found her. Another neighbour later knocked on our door looking for her cat. It was very sad. A lot of animals got lost on that morning. The flash floods came back in total three times. The highest was the second one. It was very fast within 10 minutes the water was back up in the house. For the first time I understand how people can get stuck in their cars. Thinking it is safe to go for a drive or check out a different site however the water comes back sooo quickly. Staying home, if it’s safe, was our best option at that point. The SES arrived later that afternoon.
We were so relieved to see them as up until then, we were not able to speak to anyone, who could have shared some valuable advice. By then the power was out, water cut off and there was no phone reception either. The SES guy came in checked the house for us and said we are safe to stay and wait it out. There was no reason to evacuate (as different to Lismore, this part of Mullumbimby town was flooded only knee height..). After he left, we felt much safer and started to settle in our wet and very dirty-muddy Mullum home for the night.
The two most useful things to have during those 48 hours were my gum boots (they literally saved me from having to wade barefoot/in wet shoes in 24/7 in muddy flood water) and the gas oven! Even the power was off, we were able to make tea (which was soo good as it started to get so damp) and dinner because the gas was working. We lid candles and fairy lights (of course) and practiced gratitude and appreciated being together. We shared stories as we ate our dinner, no phone, no reception, no distraction. Just presence and being there for each other. I realised that night how precious that moment was. Literally back to the basics or maybe back to how it was 100 years ago. Appreciating a warm meal with candle light and good company nothing else but the present moment. I remember at one part of the day I was sitting there looking out seeing the entire street and cars under water, thinking to myself- nothing matters now, what car we drive, what career we have, what computers or phones we have. It does not matter. It is not worth anything in these moments. What matters is the company, the food, and having a warm and dry place. After dinner we all went back to our bedrooms. The beds more or less stayed dry. However the air in the house was so damp and it started to become smelly that neither of us slept very well. The next morning the floods and water was gone. We took a drive into town to check on our friends and also Seeker and Kind, the yoga studio I was working at. It was devastating.
Literally the entire town got flooded every single shop and business was affected.
The IGA Supermarket in town was incredible, they had someone coming in over night to clean the supermarket so it was ready open for people to come and buy food and supplies. Overall we were so lucky, as many in the community particular in Main Arm, Wilsons Creek and other more remote areas were hit so badly. The power was off for more than a day. Same with the water system. We did not have any phone reception or internet for the entire week. There was no help from the government, I did not see one police car or any one official checking on their people. It was the people and the community who came. Everyone together helped each other, offered free food, places to stay, volunteered to clean up, organising rescues, fuel and food drops and so much more..
What I saw so clearly and reflect on, is the incredible quality of compassion and kindness that is innate within and amongst us. For me it really reinforced one thing- Whilst this is a devastating time for so many, the extraordinary way the community comes together to support each others in times of need is what matters most. Now more so than every we have to unite as compassionate, caring and kind members of our community. Looking after each other and taking care of each other. So perhaps even now maybe there is an elderly neighbour next door to you who may need some help, or a small business that needs some support or kind word. Maybe someone unwell or sick, you can help with or reach out to to bring some home cooked meal or do the shopping for. These small and kind, caring gestures mean a lot and help to unite us as community. Plus it gives also a sense of purpose and belonging for us.
So…I did encounter my fair share of stress during this experience and the good news is that I did have a mindfulness practice I could lean on. What I found is that Mindfulness is really what helped to anchor and ground me to face the flood challenge I was dealing with in a way that helped me to move through it well and with success. There is no doubt in my mind that sharing the benefits of compassion, mindfulness and mind body practices are incredibly helpful for us to get through for what’s to come in the best way possible. This flood experience reinforced my passion to bring mindfulness and healing practices to the people and community. That is my way of giving back and I feel honoured to be here and to continue to offer these amazing practices to more people. Mindfulness can be anything, any hobby you have that puts you in the moment. If you are in the moment than there is so much you can notice. Everyone of your senses.
So I think that’s all I have to share for now..
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it was helpful. Please reach out anytime if you have any questions. I will write up my key lessons learned or top flood tips in the next day or two as well.