Last night the family grapevine was working hard and when the news finally came it was not as terrible as it might have been, but way more terrible than we had hoped.
My cousin and his wife live in Toodyay. From there he runs his amazing design business and is building an awesome, innovative, sustainable house. They have been living in a big shed while they are building, along with all their personal possessions, all Mike's tools and an enviable collection of native timber that he has collected over the years to age and use in the future for his design work.
He was at home when the fire came on Tuesday. He didn't see it coming, he was heading out for a swim when the fireballs started to rain down. With his much loved dog and his laptop and his bathers he got out and I can't tell you how happy I am about that. His wife was at work in town so we knew she was safe too but not even they knew what state their temporary home was in, nor the partially built house they had slaved over.
At first light on Wednesday he snuck in to check on his land and found the shed they call home was gone. Everything they called theirs gone with it, including Mike's car. A fallen tree lay smouldering on the build and if he hadn't gone there so early and managed to get help to remove it, the new place would have gone up too.
When I managed to talk to him last night he was astonishingly upbeat. He's totally confident about their ability to rebuild despite how impossible that seems to me, and doesn't care so much about his possessions. He's all too aware of how much worse it could have been and he's very thankful.
But I know his positive attitude won't be enough to keep him going as the reality of having nothing at all really starts to bite. It's one thing to feel unattached to your possessions, it's quite another to try and get building with no tools or materials, or to face a winter with no warm clothes, no books to read and nothing to cook with.
I can't sew them a whole new world, but there are a few things I can make for them to get them started and keep them from feeling like the bare essentials is all they get. A quilt is the very first thing - a safe and soothing place to sleep is something everyone should have. The shawl on my needles I think is destined for them too, and knowing how cold their winters are I'll be working up some hats and scarves as soon as we get back to Melbourne and I can unearth my heavy wool stash.
I'm not running a major appeal for them or anything, I'm sure they wouldn't want that but I do encourage anyone to give to the Toodyay bushfire appeal that has been launched by the Bendigo and Adelaide Banks' philanthropic arm, Community Enterprise Foundation and the Salvation Army. Donated money would be used to fund a recovery day and allow local volunteers to speak with counsellors and support one another in the wake of the fires. Donate money to the Toodyay Fire Appeal at any Bendigo Bank branch or visit www.bendigobank.com.au/foundation/toodyay to donate online via credit card.
I am sure there will be some local organisation who can handle other kinds of donations and if you are a making kind of person I hope you will consider doing a spot of making as well as a cash donation. I am sure some practical and useful things like quilts, warm hats and scarves, tote bags and storage solutions will be helpful to people living in temporary housing, as would books to read.