I just bought a flight back to Ireland. Fortress Australia is opening its borders at last. Since I last visited my native land, bushfires have come close to our doorstep. My partner has been through a serious illness. And a little germ has brought turmoil to us all. My parents have grown visibly older, but are both alive and well.
For the past 10 years or so life has been spent in a pretty little village in the mountains close to Byron Bay. We are surrounded by Unesco world-heritage rainforest. There are lyrebirds, huge green tree frogs, luminous fungi, secret creeks with water so pure you can drink it. I work for a pair of inventors, a father and son who created a new type of beehive. They launched it via crowdfunding a few years ago and broke all sorts of records.
My job is strategy. Of late a lot of focus has been on finding more and better ways for the business to have a positive impact. We support pollinator conservation projects around the globe and are planting a million trees for habitat restoration and carbon drawdown.
A lot of people may not realise this, but saving the bees is not really all about the stripy yellow-and-black ones that give us honey. There are roughly 20,000 species of bee worldwide, in a dazzling array of shapes, colours and sizes. They’ve co-evolved with flowering plants over millions of years and are crucial to the health of the ecosystems that sustain all life on this planet. Habitat loss, pesticides and monocultural farming are driving many of them towards extinction.
Having spent much of my life searching for something to do that felt genuinely worthwhile, I feel very lucky to have found it here and am part of a team of amazing people, doing exciting stuff. We can even see humpback whales breaching from the office verandah. There’s a cost, though: separation from my family and friends, from home. Although I feel too privileged to have the right to complain about it much, I’ll say that it is not an easy thing. Recently, with the borders shut, things have felt odd.
How’s this for a first-world problem? My dreams of being able to set up a life that involves spending time on both sides of the globe every year is in jeopardy. It used to be that, although Ireland is very far away, if you needed to get there it just took 24 hours on a plan. Now it has changed and is still changing.
Uncertainty about what the future will look like continues to grow. Everybody knows that the climate is going to get much worse
Uncertainty about what the future will look like continues to grow. Everybody knows that the climate is going to get much worse. We are hoping for a proper wet season here. It always feels a bit strange to be wishing for rain, having grown up doing the opposite. We experienced serious flooding a couple of years back. It is not as bad as fires though, believe me.
I'm a citizen of this vast ancient land now. The place has been very good to me. Many dear and inspiring friends have been made. Life opened up in ways I never thought possible. The thought of getting back to Ireland for Christmas is electric. I cannot wait to see them all. To walk in the door of the house. To go up the Slieve Bloom. The warmth, the wit. Seeing my little nephew as more than a face on a phone screen.
So where does my heart lie now, between these two ends of the earth? Although I was never one who could fit in to its society, Ireland will always be home. Whether I'm there or not.
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