On Friday afternoon we were about to hit ‘send’ to release this issue, when a thick smoke invaded our office like a ghost. We ran outside to see the wetland beyond our wall go up in flames – fanned by a strong wind blowing in our direction.
Ironically we were just focusing on the importance of wetlands as central to healthy ecosystems and here they are destroyed again. This happens every second or third summer, probably due to homeless folk who live there and make little fires to cook their food. Here we see the link again between socio-economic problems and the environment. If we don’t look after our vulnerable people, our environment will suffer and vice versa. Humans can never be separated from the environmental cause.
Whilst my son and I tried to hose down our neighbour’s house, which was closest to the fire at that stage, my neighbour from the other side stood with his arms folded in front of his chest, mocking me about my big trees and what a fire hazard they are. “Should I fetch my chainsaw and take them down?” he joked, laughing amidst the crisis. This is an old issue between us. He hates green stuff – calls it ‘dirty’ and to me the wilder, the better. It goes beyond my understanding how some people can hate nature and still today don’t understand the value of trees.
“Mom, I think we should prepare to leave,” my son Lucas broke through my need to help next door, so amidst choking smoke and burning eyes I ran around my home and office shouting “What’s important?” What a sobering experience. I had just learnt during the past week that our computers were not ensured, so I said “grab all the computers and the cats.” If you can’t see and you can’t breathe, it’s hard to focus on essentials, but you suddenly realise that survival is what counts in the end.
We were looking after the neighbours little girl, who sat with my daughter and all the cats in my car. “I’m allergic to cats,” she said. “ Nevermind, you’ll survive,” I said. Thank God by that time the fire engines had arrived and the smoke was going down. With the children safely in the car parked further down the road, Lucas and I sat at our fence to make sure the fire doesn’t jump into our garden. By grace it was stopped ten meters form our fence.
Now I have to tell you that I had invited some friends to join me in clearing my house on Friday evening, as my life partner had left our home permanently the day before. Nobody could make it that evening, but Nature obliged herself, quite unexpectedly and in her own and powerful way. As they say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Cleaning out the soot this weekend, I realised again that there’s gold in all traumatic events.
Personally I had been through a fire the past 3 months, and letting go is heart wrenching. But this is indeed the year of letting go of all things that stunt our growth. Everything that’s still hidden in our subconscious minds is coming up to the light. There is no hiding. It is a year of clearing and renewal.
Looking across the fence at the black wetland I mourn the loss of the essential biodiversity breeding ground and the filtration system, which worked so hard to filter out the ecoli and other impurities from the dam above. Now the Lourensford river and False Bay will carry even more pollution and in the end this all comes back to us.