…from the window of my writing room, you can see across the treetops to The Hill on the other side of The Valley. It’s a gentle view, filled with subtle greens, punctuated with the soft grey of slender, reaching trunks, and topped off with a blue sky, often dotted with clouds as they drift across the horizon.
Not today. Today, The Hill is shrouded in mist, the tree trunks are almost ghostly, everything is still. For a moment it seems an unearthly quiet, then a magpie carols its presence in a distant tree, something moves in the bush and the crack of twigs resounds across the hillside, all the sounds amplified and echoing in the cool, damp air.
It is a truly beautiful, serene morning.
I am up late. The unbelievable happened. I woke at my usual time, glanced through the window at the silvery morning outside, rolled over with a contented sigh and went back to sleep.
I woke up a couple of hours later when Will trotted into the bedroom asking questions about the colour of a hare’s tail, and ways that you could tell the difference between them and a rabbit. I was answering before I was fully awake, and he happily trotted off again, returning to tell me that he was unpacking the car.
Now, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but deep down I knew that this was no altruistic desire to be helpful. His computer was in the boot, and Star Trek, or possibly Middle Earth, was calling.
“By the way,” he said. “It’s raining.”
It was. I could see the damp vine leaves outside my window, dripping gently.
“It’s kinda like my spray thing for the air plant, but it’s coming down.”
I go on about rain. I’m a bit of a rain-a-phile. There’s probably an actual scientific name for it (note to self – find out) – and I think it is rubbing off on Will.
However, today I think we actually have a good cause to be happy to see the rain.
And it also explains why Will’s computer was in the boot.
For instance, this time yesterday it was already about 34o C. A gusty wind was tossing the treetops around in erratic circles, and we were living on the border of two different zones, one proclaiming severe fire weather and the other extreme. Across NSW there were (still are) hundreds of fires, some of which have been burning for weeks and have consumed thousands of hectares. Images from the Tasmanian fires and stories of people fleeing as the fire front raced towards them are everywhere in the media. Only the week before we had been officially warned that there were to be catastrophic conditions and the time to leave was now or never (we left).
Now, Seventy Seven Acres is many things. It is a beautiful property of regenerated bush, high in the hills up a long dirt track. It is peaceful. It is serene. It is imbued with an almost spiritual sense of being. Here is a place you can just sit and feel the presence of something greater.
But it is also a place where the power of nature, sublime in its magnificence, can also become awesome, and I mean that in the old sense of the word. Like in ‘awesome wonder’. Surrounded by trees and tall native grasses, our home lies along a ridge where a fire coming across from the south east will run like a mob of brumbies fanning out across the hills. We live in a high fire danger area.
We knew and accepted that right from the start.
We fought the fires in Canberra in 2003.
We saw Armageddon come over the brow of Mount Arawang and, not so much bear down on us, but sweep us up in its path.
So yesterday, after only a small amount of procrastination, Will and I packed up those things that we deem most essential in our lives, put the evil ruler of the universe into his cat basket, whereupon he complained mightily, and went to spend the day with Nan.
We got home around 10pm.
Apparently during the course of the day it had reached almost 42o C. Matt had kept our world damped down, and, no, there had been nothing to worry about… but I’d rather jump at shadows.
We have put things into place to improve the fire safety of Seventy Seven Acres, and have plans simply awaiting the availability of funds, but for now… well, let’s just say I know my limitations.
So, cool rain, mist shrouded mountains, and a pleasant 17o C…
… what a beautiful day.
Oh, and a sincere call out to the hundreds of amazing fire fighters who go out there, putting their lives on the line. Heroes, every one.
And to those people whose lives have been changed forever as fire has ravaged their homes and lives… we feel for you.
May a soft and gentle rain calm your spirit with your own silvery morning.
(On a more practical note – if there is anyone out there who is in a position to offer support to Save the Children, they are in there on the ground already, setting up Child Friendly Spaces and offering practical help to families – just one of several worthy causes).