October 29, 2016
Last week I lit my first fire of the season in my home in Stroud; it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in. At the same time I’m seeing pictures appear on social media, from back in Australia, of family and friends at the beach taking their first swims of the season, as the weather down under gets warmer and the days longer.
The changing of seasons is undeniably a very beautiful time of the year on both sides of the world; but with the hotter weather arriving in Australia, it is also a time when precautionary measures must be taken in preparation for what has now become the inevitable summer bushfires. People are clearing their drain pipes, removing clutter from underneath their houses, maintaining the firebreaks around their properties, cutting overhanging limbs from trees, checking reticulation systems, and doing what they can to reduce fire hazards.
I have one particularly vivid memory from when I was about twenty. I was driving down to Bridgetown from Perth, listening to ABC Radio on the car stereo, when the news bulletins started to come in: bushfires were sweeping through the pine forests just outside Bridgetown, where I grew up. As the reports continued, more details emerged – the area all around my home had been evacuated as the emergency services worked to contain the raging fire. My mind raced to my parents and the sudden fear for their safety. I stopped the car so I could call them, but couldn’t get through. I started calling friends in the area to try to find out what was happening, but nobody had heard anything from my mum and dad. I got back on the road towards Bridgetown, nerves jangling.
Finally I found them. They’d left the house, having done everything they could to brace it against the flames that were fast approaching, and had gone to the safety of friends in town. I headed there to meet them and we all sat on the verandah looking towards the direction of where our house stood; or perhaps not. I remember the sky looking incredible, glowing in reds and pinks and oranges as though it was an extension of the fire; everything was shrouded in smoke. It was strangely beautiful.
We all sat and watched and waited – and realised that no matter what happened, we were all safe; we had everything we needed in each other.
Many years later, on a visit home to see my family one summer, I wrote Bring the Car Round. Bushfires were again out of control and raging across the whole of the south west region. It was an incredibly frightening time. Everyone was busy with all the precautionary procedures in order to protect their properties from destruction. What always moves me though is peoples’ attitudes to their homes and worldly possessions: when the hope of fighting the fire and saving their belongings is gone, they drive away and leave it all to the flames, knowing that the most important thing is that their loved ones are safe, and they are grateful for that.
I recorded the song with Amy Speace and Amber Rubarth for the Applewood Road album, with Josh Day on drums and Telisha Williams on double bass. Here we are in the wonderful Welcome To 1979 studio in Nashville, filmed by the equally wonderful Stacie Huckeba…