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Monday, February 9, 2009

Victoria's bushfires: random reflections on the trivial and the tragic, mostly the tragic

We haven't been affected by these bushfires in the way so many others here in Victoria, Australia, have very tragically been. We experienced a fright on Saturday: our hearts were racing at the thought of a possible evacuation that we were unprepared for, and the adrenalin was rushing as we packed bags, put wet towels under doors, watered down dry grass etc, and, Saturday night was a sleepless one, wondering if the wind changed whether embers would head our way and spark a fire that might burn down my family's house or their neighbours' homes. But we didn't have to evacuate, the fires stopped over a kilometre away, there were no embers, and my aunt and uncle's home, unlike so many others in this state, escaped the devastation of others. We're fine and have returned to our everyday existences: my aunt caring for her huge family of pets, and beautiful garden and house; my uncle, a psychiatrist on a fly-in fly-out arrangement working in Karratha can stop worrying; and Terry and I are back at our desks and busy writing. But no matter how much I try to focus on work, random thoughts keep appearing and I can't help but reflect on events of the last few days. My mind wanders from the trivial to the tragic. From silly things like why I didn't take photos. My mother said to me on the phone from Perth "I expect you've shot lots of photos - they'll be great to see". But no we didn't. When the smell of smoke started to enter the house, helicopters were hovering in the sky nearby, and outside it was even hazier than Mexico City, taking photos was far from my mind. I was too concerned about my aunt, her animals, their house, and our own valuable things. (What if six months of research materials went up in flames? How would we write these books then?!) It wasn't until after, when the air started to clear, that I thought of taking photos, but then it was too late. Sorry, Mum. But then there are the tragic stories I've been listening to on the radio and reading in the papers that I can't get out of my mind: the couple who were running to safety when the woman looked behind her to find her husband gone; a father who put his children in the car, darted into the house to get something, and returned to find his vehicle with the children inside in flames; or the residents of one community, their convoy of cars lined up in the middle of a road, them sheltering inside, the colossal flames sweeping through bushland either side of the road, who must have been wondering if the fire would engulf them... But if my mind keeps returning to the catastrophic events of the last few days, I can't imagine how the poor souls who were in the thick of it - people who lost houses, spouses, parents, neighbours, and children - must feel and how and what they must be thinking. I imagine they can't escape it. My heart goes out to them.

Pictured? A typical country landscape from southern Australia for people wondering how the country could go up in smoke so easily.


Anonymous said...

Its so sad... The bush is so serene most of the time but can then be so frightening.

Jessie V said...

it is so very tragic, we can hardly wrap our minds around it.

previously.bitten said...

And Beijing was on fire today too... Though it was not nearly as devastating.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Wendy - I know! As Terry and I have been driving around Australia, researching these books, we've actually been contemplating a move to the tranquil countryside one day. Eek!

Hello Jessie - it is very hard to comprehend. It's only by reading individual stories and hearing people talk about their tragedies on the radio that I can better comprehend the full impact it's had.

Hi previously-bitten - I hadn't heard about Beijing yet - I'll have to investigate.

Thanks for stopping by everyone.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Thank goodness that you and your family were not affected! Narrow miss at only 1 km away. (and how awful for the families that were. i am thankful for our cement and brick architecture here in the desert).

Thinking of you,

Brett Atkinson said...

Hi Lara - glad to hear that your family's home was OK. Across the ditch in NZ, everyone's thinking of our Aussie cousins...

Brett Atkinson