The fire this time

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  • Published 20090901
  • ISBN: 9781921520761
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

THE BUSHFIRE DEBRIS descends from the night sky with a strangely graceful motion, as if swimming. Leaves and twigs settle softly on the grass, on the flowering plants, on the divided planks of the veranda. A strip of bark a metre long describes a slow spiral around the extended limbs of a weeping spruce before drifting down to the lawn. More charred debris arrives, appearing out of a haze the colour of Coke. I stand enchanted in the suffocating heat of the evening.

There’s fire in the mountains and it’s coming this way. If the fire reaches our town Anni and I may die. We have gambled on a predicted wind change, absurdly determined to remain loyal to the trees that surround our house. We’re not sentimental about trees – we don’t believe that they’re home to dryads or earth spirits, or that they benefit from being embraced – but it seems wrong to run away while the trees remain staked by their roots. The oldest tree, the weeping spruce, is in its nineties and will burn like a torch if an ember touches it. What do we hope to achieve? If the wind stops the fire on the mountain slopes, the trees will survive without us. If the fire keeps coming, nothing we can do will save the trees, and nothing will save us.

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