The Courage to Visit Marysville

TUESDAY, 21 APRIL 2009

sad group of figurines at bruno's.jpg
alpaca shop roof burnt at marysville.jpg

It took me until Easter to visit Marysville. I didn't want to intrude but I have memories there and I needed to revisit some special places. We went up that way on our way to Taggerty and it seemed fitting that rain was pouring down. I could feel the tears welling up inside me to match the water falling from above.

The main focus of my visit was the alpaca shop. For about three weeks before the fires I said it was time I visited it again, but I didn't get there. Jenny has provided me with beautifully soft jumpers every year since I developed nerve pain. She met me in the street in Alexandra shortly after the fires and her eyes lit up when she saw my apricot colored baby alpaca which has been a friend for the last year. I patched some holes in it recently as I've worn it so solidly it's really ready to go out, but it gave joy to Jenny that something from her shop was living on.

It's hard to orient oneself in Marysville now, but Kerrin is good on directions and took me straight there. Nothing left but a burnt out shop fitting made of wrought iron, and the roof lying bent and burnt all piled up on the side. I took some photos and am glad I did although I was worried about doing that at the time.

This week as we drove through Narbethong, truck after truck after truck turned out of the Marysville road. Some of them were doubles and all of them were taking debris back to Melbourne. It was hard enough seeing Marysville burnt, but Marysville gone???

Along the road up to Taggerty, the houses and businesses that we are used to driving past all blackened and ruined, are beginning to disappear. Level ground cleared of all debris is what's left and I think that is maybe a harder sight even than the burnt remains. It's all being cleared so quickly, I feel like getting out of the car and hanging onto some of it and can't imagine what it must be like to have lived in one of those houses.

One more place at Marysville called me. I went in search of Bruno, and found him standing in the car park. We chatted for a while in the rain and he encouraged us to walk through his grounds. It seems miraculous that so many of his figurines were left standing. Terracotta doesn't burn easily. Some of them are broken and most of them are discolored. The trees are burnt, the undergrowth has gone. I look forward to the next edition of his book which will include the story of the fires.

It's important to the recovery of Marysville for people to return now. To return respectfully and with love in their hearts for the people, the animals and the forest. Some of those who lived there want the new Marysville to be clear of trees, others can't bear the thought of that. I understand both sides and hope a new Marysville can emerge which is safe enough from fire yet still has some of that magical green.

This last photo says so much to me. It was taken in the pouring rain, sheltering under an umbrella lent to us by a kindly passerby who sat in her car and waited while we absorbed the reality of what is left at Bruno's. The drop of water on my camera lens is a poignant reminder of what was missing on Bushfire Saturday, but the uplifted arms of this sprite are symbolic of the spirit of renewal still alive in the trees and the people.