A strict lock-down ended on Saturday night at midnight, or at 1 minute past, early on Sunday morning. Not sure which, I was in bed, attempting to sleep. On Sunday, it was warm, windy and very rainy. I was invited to go for a drive and went. South Australia is stunningly beautiful in the rain at this time of year, where parts of the state are still a lush verdant green and other parts have already lost their green, moving from a pale sun-bleached beige to a harsh ochre.

Going from the city, through the Adelaide Hills, to the Riverland, the landscape arched from lush to sun-bleached and back again. We may have seen three or four vehicles in the whole hour, until we reached Mannum. Of those the majority were large trucks, transporting livestock. As the rain stopped and the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, the fire ravaged eucalyptus trees stood out from the untouched and regenerated trees and fields.

A quick walk along the river and a covid-safe meal at the pub, and we drove back, heading into a stunning sunset for nearly the whole drive back. A snapshot of this is above. We were both relaxed and drinking nature’s beauty in, refreshing connection to whenua/country and truly knowing how lucky we were to be alive and in a place where physical safety is so easy to come by.

The rain returned and the hues in the sky moved to a vivid array of yellows, oranges and reds. My friend pulled over to let a couple of cars past who had been driving closer and closer, their young adult drivers pushing to either get past or make us speed up. I could see six or more cars getting closer and closer in the rear view mirror. Not even two minutes later we rounded a bend and one of the cars who had sped past us was centimeters from a caved in sign marking a tight bend, the front drivers side of the car showing the power of the rocks behind. The other car was parked in the middle of the narrow road, hazards not on. We slowed down to check no-one was injured and marveled that the driver was walking around. The other driver, not even bothering to get out of their car, perhaps not wanting to get wet.

As the sun finally fully set, we came across a car, hazards on, under the cliff face of another narrow windy road. We stopped to find a couple, one on the phone crying loudly and the other standing in front of the staved in bonnet. They had hit a kangaroo and couldn’t open the bonnet. I asked it we could help, do anything. They said no, they were fine thanks. I rechecked and then we drove on, seeing two further kangaroo that had come off worse in their encounters with cars.

Did the young adult speeding in the rain value his life or the lives of others more or less than the couple who hit the kangaroo, with the distress of the one on the phone not just audible but palpable. I used to cry at every animal or bird that I saw, killed on the side of the road. Now, I have become so used to the sight on long road trips, that even though it still distresses me, the tears do not flow freely for these animals whose lives have ended too soon.

How cheap is life that we will risk our own or others through a need to speed or a need to connect. Masks worn or not worn being seen by some as a political statement, rather than a consideration of the health and life of self and others. We can still connect through a mask, across cyber space, we do not need to embrace to show we care.

Although, and this is an interesting one for me. As an autistic who have never really liked to hug people I am not very close with, I now appreciate and enjoy both the gentle embraces of friends or family and the strong, almost rib crushing hugs of other people lost in their personal journeys of pain and hope. I feel the connection and the sharing of both the pain, which then lessens and the hope, which then grows. I think those embraces and hugs feel like not just joy to connect, but also kindness and caring. Covid, and my personal grief this year, have taught me the absolute power of kindness and caring. I always thought this, but now I feel it to my core.

In the coming week, if you have a chance, authentically show others kindness and where possible caring. It may truly change their life for the better. Not just in that moment, but perhaps more profoundly than you can ever know. I do this through Reddit regularly, responding to strangers reaching out across cyberspace to try and connect in ways that are not currently available to them in ‘real life’. Their messages or comments back, continually surprising me, with genuine gratitude that someone, somewhere cares enough to reach back with kindness.