I had planned to write a post on procrastination this week… but that all changed. Extreme weather and unpredictable gale force winds combined to create the perfect firestorm. A fire lit on a total fire ban day, was all that was needed. (A police Investigation is still ongoing)
We woke to the smell of smoke, the news that there was a raging fire in the Adelaide hills reaching to only ten kilometres away. A state of emergency had been declared. Roads were blocked. Friends were evacuated. Relatives (on prepare to evacuate warnings) were preparing to stay and fight the fire. We were on watch and act. The smoke was too close for comfort.
Smoke blanketed the suburbs (including ours) on Saturday. I suffer from upper respiratory problems with dust – and now smoke, which was making it hard to breathe. We packed our evacuation bags and made arrangements to visit friends, if the smoke thickened.
Adelaidians still talk of Ash Wednesday; it is always on our minds. Each summer we scan the skyline for smoke, hoping the firebugs don’t return. The emergency box was packed years ago (after a minor earthquake) – battery operated radio, torches, spade, those silvery survival blankets etc.
I had always thought I would agonise over the decision of what to take in case of fire evacuation. We have a large library of DVDS – favourite tv shows (some very hard to find), over thirteen bookshelves of books, including out-of-print reference books and a room of various costumes I have spent hours making. I would hate to lose them. I thought, when the time came, I would panic at the indecision of what to save.
I grabbed my handwritten manuscript (the major drawback of not exclusively using the computer to write and backup my work). We packed legal documents, wedding photos, three days clothing, our computers and backups. We rang around to see who could look after our cat.
I scanned the bookshelves and DVD library – my Doctor Who, my copy of out of print, expensive reference books, my steampunk accessories. There was no more room in the car for everything I would like to take. But did I really need them? Would I despair if they were consumed in fire? Instead of anxiety, there was calm; they are but things, possessions. They remained, resplendent on the shelves.
The smoke thinned. I consulted my doctor, due to my breathing issues: pharyngitis, sore throat and ears but my lungs and chest were clear; my anxiety had crept back over the past five days, with worry about family and friends.
On Tuesday we heard the devastating news: our friends house had been gutted. They had lost everything but they were safe. Despite their loss, they were more concerned I not worry about them.
Today we have life-giving rain. It has brought respite to the heat, moisture to the air and the land, and washed away anxiety. After a week, the fires are now under control. The worst is over. Though property and wildlife were lost, human lives were spared. Our friends and family are safe.
The most important things in life – the things we need to hang onto, hold close and fight for – are those things we cannot replace – our family, our health, our friends, our passions.
I have my family (and cat). I have my friends. I have my health. I have my writing. Everything else is just decoration.