19_DanA brother came to Desert Father Abba Theodore and began to converse with him about things that he had never put into practice. So the old man said to him, “You have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo on board it, and before you sailed you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will have the speed you are making now”.

When we lived in the suburbs our near neighbours, told us how they had decided to move to the suburbs because they were tired of the constant threat of bushfires.

Much later, we did the opposite – we moved from the ’burbs to the bush.

Our bush fire plan is to leave and not defend. But it’s the ‘when’ for us that can often be a difficult decision. The other day, helicopters were buzzing around like blowflies and I stood watching from my vantage point, with the wind behind me, as water was systematically bombed on a fire about 2km away. We stayed home on that day.

More recently, we had been invited to dinner at our minister’s manse. But that afternoon, she had to enact her bushfire plan and had ‘evacuated’ to a shopping centre. Dinner was called off. Our daughter was over at her boyfriend’s (unlike us, they have a swimming pool). They too decided to evacuate. We stayed at home with our bag packed.

My older brother and his wife live just a little bit closer to the mountains than we do. Theirs is a location that would be very difficult to defend. The house where they live replaced one that was burnt down in the fires of the 60s. Their plan is to simply leave the night before any extreme Total Fire Ban Day. In some respects, it’s easier for them; they don’t have children or ‘critters’ living with them.

Apart from two grown-up kids, we have a dog, a bird and a fish. Our dog is a terrier and is at home in the earth. Our bird is a cockatiel and is at home in the wind. Our fish is a gold fish (whose name is ‘Richo’) and is at home in the water. Our chooks have died of old age and we said we would not replace them until after the bushfire season.

The bag we pack is basically just some clothes and a few bits of paper. My uncle Dick says that I should put some special books in a box, ready to go. But I don’t do that. I have quite a few books and I ‘carry’ them around with me with me in my mind.

When I recall something I’ve read, I can usually remember the book and where it sits on the shelf and even picture the paragraph on the left or right hand page, top or bottom etc.

The work that Abba Theodore speaks of is of course the work of prayer.

Nearly everyone knows someone who has been or is affected by the bushfires. Mercifully, we have not been affected. But the ‘unknown’ affects different people in different ways. Ask yourself whether it’s necessary to ring people up on the day that it’s all ‘happening’ – that can sometimes be more for the benefit of the caller than the callee.

As for the firefighters themselves, if you can’t picture the ordeal that they go through, maybe log onto e-bay and have a look at the second-hand bright yellow ‘turnout’ gear which is no longer bright. Look at all the different sizes, long and short, wide and thin, the worn-out cuffs and elbows and knees. The sooty ash stains.

“Do the work first” says Abba Theodore.

Dan Wootton

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