Things We Would Have Left Behind – Remembering the 2013 Blue Mountains Bushfires

I cannot tell you how tired I am tonight, but I meant to do this several days ago, and didn’t.

Last Friday marked the first anniversary of the beginning of the bushfires which hit the Blue Mountains, and specifically devastated Winmalee, where I and my family live. I remember as if it was yesterday standing at the Rural Fire Service State Air Desk, watching on the big screen as someone announced there was a smoke sighting at Linksview Rd Valley Heights. That’s not Valley Heights, I said, it’s Springwood, I have a friend and work colleague who lives there. (Her house was safe in the end.) I remember us all watching as it moved so unbelievably fast. I will never forget the ever rising reports of lost houses, as we raced to send trucks and aircraft. I will never forget being two hours from home and unable to do anything except hope my father had got our pets and himself out alive. I will never forget the minutes I did not hear from him and did not know. I will never forget how lucky we were. There but for a change in wind direction were we – our house stands today, while  193 and more do not.

I am not a documentary photographer, but there are somethings that must be recorded, and the sight of my house, in the unnatural stillness that first midnight, as we walked in the door, with all of our belongings just sitting where they had been left, that was one of those things. I lifted up my camera (one of those items which had remained, afterall it was insured) the next morning, and this is the story of what I saw.

For once I am not giving you beauty or mystery or creativity. For those uncertain hours these were but Schrodinger’s Things – neither here nor gone. When I took these photos, in my eyes they had been transformed utterly.

 

Fire Season.

 

Then I stood a moment

Midnight

In the famine silence of the famished beast

With the darkness all around

 

There between the weatherboard, the fibro and the brick

Is a gaping hole

Where a narrative of people

Used to be.

 

The lights are out – but the tree trunks smolder demon red

To show the way

In a world which is now turned about

 

And I am standing

Waiting

 

In full PPE

With the fire pump hose in the garden

Watching the plumes

 

The smell burns acrid into lungs

And chokes upon itself

While the wind plays games to pass the time

This way first and then the other

Annihilation is the prize.

 

Waiting

 

As the Earth shakes from the whirling rotor blades

And the Skycrane silhouettes a dragon black

Against the brown smoke sky.

 

We are still standing

Though others aren’t.

 

So many others aren’t.

 

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