A few weeks ago, a couple of American readers emailed me and said they hoped I hadn’t been affected by the tragic bushfires in Australia – which were so bad they made worldwide headlines. A couple of hundred people were killed in what have become known as “mega-fires”.
Actually, the fires were in Victoria, on the east coast, and I am in Perth, all the way over on the other side of Australia. This is like the distance between New York and Los Angles, or Madrid and Moscow. A long, long way.
But, the climate and vegetation is basically similar, and we have the same risks. Everyone is terrified of bushfires. And only a few weeks before the Victorian fires, we did have a pretty big scare here in Perth with a bushfire, right in the middle of the city. Next to the Perth CBD is a huge area called Kings Park, a spectacular combination of war memorial, cultivated botanic gardens and natural bushland. It’s a fantastic asset for a city to have. But the natural bushland component, like all Australian bush, is very volatile in summer.
In January, a huge fire burnt out a large section of the park where we sometimes go for an evening walk and to admire the views of the Swan River. It seems the fire was deliberately lit. Fortunately, Kings Park’s famous features – the Botanical Gardens and War Memorial Lookout – were saved, and nobody was hurt.
So a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went back to see what Kings Park looked like after a bushfire.
At first, it was pretty depressing. Everything was black, grey and brown. The ground was carpeted with ash, and every tree and shrub was blackened. The metal name plaques for the plants were melted.
But then I started to see little sprigs of green. Just poking out of the ash, or bursting determinedly from the side of a seemingly charred, broken stump.
I recalled from school lessons that fire is an inevitable and natural part of the cycle of life in Australia, and that some species of plant seeds will never even germinate without the smoke that comes from a fire.
And it was great to see that, however bad the fire was, life is still there, waiting for it’s chance to bloom.