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Glenelg sunset after bush fires

Smoke and eucalyptus, the twin smells of Australia

The car’s thermometer read forty-four degrees (44°C). To open a door was to open an oven full of baking, or to stand before a giant hairdryer. We expect a few days like this each summer, when the choice of restaurant, coffee shop or bar is determined by which has the best air conditioning. This is Adelaide summer. I have never had such an intimate, elemental relationship with the sun, planning the day around keeping cool. Even to walk down the street to the shops you calculate the most shady route, ducking from kerb to canopy, a blast of cool from an open shop front an oasis amidst the heat.

Then there’s the risk of bushfires – a permanent threat, a total fire ban imposed (but not for conventional gas barbecues- some things are sacrosanct!) In the recent fires there was no loss of human life, but the animals suffer terribly – a koala is not built for speed of evacuation. The fire is so unpredictable, frenzied by the wind, seemingly leaping from tinder to tinder, with no apparent cause for ignition. The smoke plumes into the sky, a dark unnatural cloud, its smell all pervasive. Everything is on the edge on a hot day. As if inspired by the furnace on the hills below, the sky puts on its own show, the smokey particles lending unnatural refractions to enhance the fiery sunset as the sea turns red. After the fires, the rains, and a temperature plunge of more than twenty degrees – an instant autumn, the usually crystalline ocean is silty and full of untimely shed leaves. And after the rain, with the clear fresh air comes the other pervasive aroma – eucalyptus. Smoke and eucalyptus, the twin smells of Australia.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

Dorothea Mackeller

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Footnote: The International Fund for Animal Welfare IFAW had an appeal to knit mittens for koalas’ paws burnt in the fires.

Also see Ocean of fire.

Re blogged for The Daily Post photo challenge Elemental.