Have you ever been broadsided by something? I was, yesterday, when I heard that Marysville had burned to the ground. I had the TV on the background and the headlines "Bushfires rage in southern Australia", hadn't touched me - as an Aussie you get rather complacent about bushfires - but then they mentioned Marysville and the world changed.
Marysville is a village outside Melbourne, in the Dandenong Ranges. The Dandenongs dominated the horizon when I was a child; I grew up on the far side of the Dandenong Valley, which runs all the way to Port Phillip Bay. So Marysville was relatively close, but it was an awkward place to get to, off the main routes, and I don't recall going there until I was 19 or so. My childhood bestfriend moved there as a teenager; I have no idea if Linda's family are still there. I hope to God they are OK.
Marysville didn't stand a chance. Bushfires travel fast. Gum leaves are highly flammable, as is the bark that peels from from the trees. When the Dandenongs burned in 1983, ash and burning leaves landed on our back veranda over 20 miles away. On the outskirts of Melbourne, they must be watching and waiting and hoping the fires won't travel their way. Smart people have their fire plan in place - you can't assume it won't happen to you. In the summer of 2001/02, the fires travelled as far as Frankston reservoir, maybe a 15 minute walk from Big Sis's old home. I was home at the time; our plan was to head down to the beach and wait for the fires to follow.
Across Australia, people are collecting household goods, clothes, money, anything that will help the bushfire victims rebuild their lives. Towns like Kalgoorlie, 1500-odd miles away. Amy over at Live, Learn, Knit has already mentioned the Australian Red Cross bushfire appeal donations website. The site was overwhelmed when I tried to visit it a moment ago. I'll visit it again, soon.