Weathering the storm

As some of you may be aware, a few weeks ago we had a tumultuous time at the Tweed Valley and beyond. On Thursday 30th March the tail end of cyclone Debbie hit us, and within a few hours all hell broke loose. The heavens opened at around 2am, waking up most of the camping guests and volunteers. By 6am the bridge out to the main road was already submerged by centimeters of water, and the torrential downpour showed no signs of stopping. After making our way up the hill to the temple for breakfast at 8.15am, by the time we came to return at 9am the water had risen significantly. We all piled into a truck and ploughed through the stream back to the camping area, where things had escalated dramatically.

Those moments when you are glad to have a 4WD

Those moments when you are glad to have a 4WD

Evacuation

On reaching my tent on the outskirts of the now submerged garden, I found it almost completely under water and was unable to get in. Luckily most of my belongings were safe in a backpack in one of the dorms and I abandoned the tent to go help others, trying to rescue their most precious belongings as the water continued to rise, now over knee deep. The campsite was completely bogged, air mattresses becoming boats and tents starting to float with the current downstream.

What a sight...

What a sight...

... but somehow we managed to keep a positive attitude.

... but somehow we managed to keep a positive attitude.

The rain had been pouring for about eight hours and with no signs of stopping and it was clear that action had to be taken - the whole Village community was told to gather their belongings and wait in safety at the yoga hall to be evacuated. A short while later and everyone piled into the truck, making our way across the stream once more and up the hill to the primary school on the premises, where we congregated in the school hall.

Sunshine On A Rainy Day

The mood was one of solidarity and support, with every move being communicated through the staff, who swiftly took charge of the situation. Yoga teacher trainer Mal reminded us among other things to “be kind and help one another”. In the school hall, we laid out yoga mats and blankets, settling in for the afternoon as the rain continued relentlessly. Around 1pm, food from the temple arrived and together with some of the food prepared by the Village kitchen, we ate a simple but plentiful lunch, so grateful to be able to eat so well even in such dire circumstances.

Nothing as soothing as a meal cooked with love and shared with people you care about

Nothing as soothing as a meal cooked with love and shared with people you care about

We nested in for the next few hours, sitting and chatting, making jewellery and music, practicing yoga, laughing and talking. Despite some uncertainty and the shock, everyone remained positive, with a delicious dinner of dahl, sabji and rice arriving from the amazing temple team around 6pm. After filling our stomachs, we then filled our hearts with one of the most beautiful kirtan sessions I have ever participated in. Mal played the guitar, our philosophy teacher Michael was on the harmonium, Surat on the drum and Mark playing the bells as we collectively sung the Maha mantra, the wind wailing along in the background. As the tempo began to rise so did our spirits, and the singing evolved into dancing joyfully under the verandah and out in the rain, our cosy community of 50 united in the most beautiful, heartfelt way. In spite of the rain and the darkness we still had our good health and each other - and what more is there to ask for, really?

Picking Up The Pieces

After the singing died down, we had the option to watch a movie in an adjoining school room or go to sleep when the lights were turned off at 9pm. Who would have thought that sleeping in a gym with 50 other people would be so comfortable - everyone slept soundly until morning, the rain now a drizzle. We were told that most of the water had receded from the Krishna Village, and following breakfast as normal up at the temple we were to meet outside the reception at 9.15am. It was with some trepidation that we squelched our way through the mud back down the hill to our humble home, not sure what to expect. We were greeted with a chaotic scene of destruction, inches of mud covering the floor and most surfaces - walls, tents, plants and all.

Taking the idea of 'mud brick style' to a whole new level...

Taking the idea of 'mud brick style' to a whole new level...

Half of the camp site had literally been washed away, whole tents and gas bottles from the bathrooms swept away by the current. The garden was a muddy mess, the toilets trashed and the yoga hall in disarray. A group meeting/pep talk from Damodar ensued and the clean up process began with all hands on deck, everyone trying to salvage their mud encrusted belongings before coming together to work on cleaning the communal areas like the bathrooms, kitchen and reading room.

It took about 5 rounds of cleaning and mopping to get the yoga hall back in shape

It took about 5 rounds of cleaning and mopping to get the yoga hall back in shape

Community Spirit

As I helped hose down the kitchen with a group of others we set to work making coffee and distributing biscuits, keeping the mood up in true Krishna Village style with snacks and smudging. Next, we helped the ever cheerful Denis and the rest of the cleaning team tackle the wreckage of guest house rooms, moving furniture (most of which started to disintegrate in our hands) and scrubbing the walls and floors to remove the mud. Before we knew it, it was lunch time, and everyone went up to the temple for a special lunch cooked by the amazing chef Kaitoa. Damodar made a heartfelt announcement, telling us we had achieved in a few hours what he was expecting us to complete in a few days. Although we hadn’t made it out of the woods, the trees had been significantly cleared.

Look who we found washed up in the bathrooms

Look who we found washed up in the bathrooms

An Attitude of Gratitude

With the Sacred Sound retreat, the biggest event of the year on the Krishna Farm, due to start on 14 April, we had two weeks to build back up. Somehow – with many helping hands and plenty of Krishna’s mercy - we made it. Cleaned up the mess, de-cluttered the camping area, re-furnished 17 rooms, and got the yoga hall back in shape. Our awesome yoga teacher trainers even led a group of teacher trainees to certification in the process.

Fast forward six weeks and the gardens are looking splendid, being re-planted and nourished back to their former glory. This week, the camellias are flowering and the Krishna Village looks as beautiful and pristine as ever. We have finally installed a 200sqm rain proof shade sail over the community kitchen area (which we had been waiting for since December) and Damodar and his team are building raised camping platforms so in the future tents will remain safe and dry.

Camellias in full bloom - life goes on, more beautiful than ever...

Camellias in full bloom - life goes on, more beautiful than ever...

After experiencing the storm there is a distinct pervasive feeling of gratitude - for this amazing, unique, liberating space, for the ongoing help so readily exchanged by the volunteers, staff, temple and everyone around us, and also for the chance to start again easily compared to many people in similar situations here in the Tweed Shire and across the world. Even during the turbulent winds of disaster and uncertainty the undeniable community spirit of Krishna Village shone through, and will continue to do so, whatever the circumstances.