Images of fire

For years now, until he died, my father and I burnt off patches of bush at his and Mum’s bush block in Margaret River. Every summer, we would anxiously watch the weather, wondering if this year the fire would come.

This year, the fire came. I care not to blame any one person or department or decision; if it wasn’t DEC it might have been a motorist with a cigarette butt, or a piece of glass, or an arsonist. The fire came, and it burnt the lot.

Here is the old railway carriage that we first lived in, back in 1975. I did it up a few years ago: restored the floors and walls, pulled out the old fittings, painted it. It was a lovely studio space.

And here below, is the view of the beach right in front of the land. It is a view that I have never tired of. When the brown dust of Afghanistan gets to me, I remember this place.

Here is what remains of that railway carriage.

And here is the view down to the sea. Few patches of the fragile coastal heath remain.

My sister used to work in a bookstore while she was at med. school. She collected antique books, first editions. Of the hundreds of books stored there, this was all I could find.

Some years back, we built a shed for the tractor, the vehicles, the tools and equipment necessary for caring for 160 acres of bush. The shed is now a wreck: the roo-bars melted off the ute; the windscreen draped over the steering wheel like silk, 8m ladders reduced to pools of metal on the floor. The diesel exploded, blowing off the roof.

I have often described Afghanistan as being brown and blue: brown land and blue sky. Margaret River has new colours for me: white and black.

The tractor we pulled out and left to rest under some trees. I will later sandblast and repaint it. It is good to hold onto to some of the destroyed things, they are a way to grieve and go on.

After four days of solid work cleaning, repairing the water and the electricity, salvaging items, talking to a crowd of officials and inspectors, we went down to Gnarabup beach and swam.

That night I went down to pull the old padlock of the incinerated back gate, and I saw that a bare week after the fire, the bush is coming back.

We’ll fly back to Kabul on Sunday. ‘We’ is Nathan and I. Nathan and Bronwyn and their kids are friends of ours in Kabul. When they heard about the fire, Nathan said he would come with me. I shook my head. But he just went ahead and paid $2500USD for a ticket, and with his wife’s blessing, he came and worked along side me, all week, through all the destruction.

Thankyou Nathan.

Earlier in the week, without being asked, another friend, Dave, had driven down to Margaret River, evading police blocks and closed roads, and walked in through the still-burning bush to conduct the first reconnaissance of our place, and give us some picture of what was ahead of us.

Thankyou Dave.

8 thoughts on “Images of fire

  1. Hi Phil,
    This looks like a bad time. Nature can be a lovely thing but also sometimes distructive. It looks like a great spot for a home. I hope that you can rebuild.

  2. Phil,

    Most of your recent posts have been simply and beautifully written, sharing an experience or emotion. Sadly most of the recent posts have been of sorrow and loss. I have often wanted to comment but have not found the words to say. Can I simply say I’m really sorry to hear of the loss of your Father and the damage the fires have inflicted. It’s wonderful that in the midst of such a difficult environment as Afghanistan, you have found such remarkable friends such as Nathan and Bronwyn


  3. so sorry – so different to see the news and then to hear and see personal stories and pics. Bryan and I are praying and thinking of your family as once again the storms come on you,

  4. Phil, I like Geoff read your articles and admire your stunning photos. I have never replied before but today I shed a tear, and continue to pray for you and your family

  5. stark. Harsh realities… much like life.
    May we somehow have the tenacity to dare to grow back after the fiercest of fires…

  6. Again I have a tear as I read your words. Short, to the point and factual, yet chockers with emotion. I too recognise a repeating theme of loss and grief with brief flashes of joy and light. i hope and pray that the joy outweighs the sadness.

    I am blessed by your posts; they draw me towards my creator in ways that my material and social comfort can not.


  7. Hi Phil
    In no way do I wish to diminish the horror of the fire and its effects, but somehow there is so much beauty in the images too. Once again your skill as a photographer shines through. Our thoughts and prayers with you guys, as always.

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