Although this image of charred ground may not look dramatic, you may think differently if you knew what it looked like before.
Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 – DAY TWELVE
The pleasant distractions of last night end when I cough and sputter my way into reality from a solid sleep; the smoke is thick and full. This is no cause for alarm per se – this is par for the course. But a bloody nuisance none-the-less.
The official death toll is at 200, and expected to rise.
A girlfriend is heading into Melbourne today to visit her family, and this is a welcome opportunity to get away myself, given last night’s tirade of emotionally-driven lash outs.
As we drive to Melbourne (taking the long way around due to burnt out – and burning – stretches of road along the direct route), we pass through vast areas of land burnt by the fires last week. We see black upon black upon black. Trees are scorched, and the leaves that remain at the tops have gone golden brown and are dead. If it weren’t for the black tree trunks and ash-covered ground, the golden hue of the leaves would actually remind me of autumn colours in Canada. This is not quite the reminder of home that I am looking for.
We marvel at the houses that remain standing, in the middle of fields of charred grass.
The destruction is wide spread, touching the back fence of heavily populated suburban areas that are hours of driving away from where we live. You can look on a map all you like at the areas affected by the Victorian bush fires…it is not until you actually SEE it that it starts to hit home.
While we drive, I imagine the fire as it raged through a week and a half ago…some people explain it as a tumbling ball of fire; an out-of-control tumbleweed of death and destruction.
We muse on other natural disasters…a tsunami wave crushes then ebbs. Earthquakes are short-lived. Storms last relatively short times before losing strength. But fires: they can last – and have lasted – months. They can even live dormant in root systems only to flare up months after the flames have been extinguished.
In Melbourne, after having some great “girl time” and gaining a new lease on life with a totally different hairdo, we hop back into the car and realize just how smoky it smells. We are immediately reminded of fire, smoke, and ash – all smells that our noses had become accustomed to but that are foreign as far away as the city.
So when we head back inside again, we forget the smoke for a night and enjoy the company of family, friends, and some good old fashioned pampering. It is just what the doctor orders.