As I sit here, gazing out my window at a gray, rainy day I am reminded of what this Saturday was like a year ago. Admittedly I was in a different city then, but I awoke to a scorcher of a day. As the morning progressed my children and I watched the sky change from blue to a strange yellowy brown colour, a colour I hope to never see in the sky again.
To step outside was like walking into an oven, with something burning in there. The smell of smoke in the air gradually become stronger as the day wore on. Finally, in an effort to calm myself and to ease the children's concern, I took them for a drive to prove that the fire was no where near us, but a long way to the north, as the news was telling us. Unfortunately, the further I drove, the greater my concern became. This fire was close. It looked as though Yarra Glen was burning, and that was a mere ten minutes from our house. As we saw the plume of smoke rising, we discovered a blockaded highway, and we turned back towards home. My heart was heavy all afternoon, as I prayed for safety and protection for those in the line of the fire. A further concern was the news that the Hume Highway had been closed and Simon may not be able to return from his weekend at Puckapunyal.
By the next day the news was worse than anyone could have ever imagined. So many people dead or missing, so many towns decimated. Beautiful Marysville was completely burnt to the ground. Our own relatives had made it out alive as the fire came over the hill, but all they owned was gone.
Simon managed to get home, only to be called out again immediately to assist with property searches, and so he left for a week of searching burnt out houses for bodies. So we remained at home alone, as fires still raged and smoke still saturated the air. At night I could see the glow of the fire on the hills across our valley, and daily we heard of people who had not survived or who had lost everything they owned except the clothes they were wearing.
It's strange the way we can be affected at a time like this. Most of the names and faces of the dead didn't bother me. I didn't know them. They had no impact on my life. Then one day I saw the list of dead in Marysville and I discovered the name of the chainsaw carver we had spoken to a few months earlier. I didn't "know" him really, but I had met him and had intended to return to his property and see how his carving of a bear and wolves had turned out. Now he was dead, along with his wife, and all his beautiful carvings were destroyed. The bear, the wolves, the beautifully detailed frog I had wished I could buy. All of it was gone, and it began to dawn on me that a very small part of my life had been destroyed also. How much worse it must have been for those who were directly affected by the loss of family members, homes and livelihoods.
Today is cool and rainy. Black Saturday feels like a lifetime ago to me, but I suspect for many people it will always be too close. I pray they find joy and blessing beyond their pain and loss.