I've just come home from a wonderful craft camp.
I had an excellent time, made some great stuff, laughed, ate, talked and learned. I even swam in the ocean without needing to keep an eye on children or their tired dad. I am blessed.
But after the hottest day on record, my drought stricken state has burnt up in an apocalyptic blaze. I'm old enough to remember all too well the ash wednesday/black friday fires of 1983. People close to me lost things close to their hearts and were filled with fear.
I remember visiting the very coast line I've just returned from mere weeks after ash wednesday. The beaches were black with soot and even after the clean up was long gone, the sadness clung to everything. My friend and I walked from Aireys to Fairhaven almost speechless the entire way.
I was a teenager and I just couldn't comprehend.
Well now I'm an old bag and I still can't comprehend.
My neighbours, good friends and firm fixtures in our lives were swimming in a dam in Kinglake on Saturday. Their son (who is a class mate and play dater of Amy's) was with his folks visiting his grandparents when the fires 40km away suddenly made a dash. He and his mum were evaced up to the CFA headquarters while his dad tried to do something constructive at the farm, but instead of being able to save anything he was very nearly lost himself.
He said in seconds the sun was swallowed by pitch black and the flames were 30 meters above the trees as they raced up the hill to engulf the farm. He and the rest of the family managed to escape, but only just. Their cars were burnt out, the farmhouse gone. He said there wasn't a splinter of wood that wasn't turned to ash. He said it looked like the surface of the moon.
And I could hear in his voice how shaken he was, how he knows his son so nearly grew up without a dad, how very nearly he hadn't made it, and still how hard it was to be grateful that he had when everything else has been lost for people so close to him.
How it is hard to see the bright side when your confidence in the world around you has been so jarred loose.
How fast a refreshing swim on a really hot day can become a fight for life, and the life you had could so quickly be forever changed.
It's easier for me to look on the bright side. To be incredibly grateful that tomorrow when Amy goes off the school J will most likely be there too, and if not tomorrow then soon enough. That J and his folks are still around to share a beer and a pub meal, to come over for a barbie, to be in our lives. The loss of all the stuff is awful, terrible, but nothing compared to the possibility of losing them.
There are people all over Victoria feeling like I feel tonight. People who have family or friends who lost something or even everything, but who kept their lives and tonight I am sure they are feeling grateful like me.
There are also a lot of people living in my state who have friends or family they can't find, for whom they fear the worst or about whom they have learnt the worst possible news. I can't even begin to say or even imagine what it is like for them.