Ben Wood and I have just come back from a week’s break in the Blue Mountains. In the mornings we’d do a creative exercise to get our juices flowing – one of us would set a theme, and we’d spend half an hour responding to it. I’ve been posting the results over the past couple of days. Today’s theme is “Fire”.

Here’s Ben’s response:

And mine:

From our perch here above the bush, the changing conditions of nature are hard to ignore – they are, in fact, the chief point of interest. The way the chorus of cicadas rises and falls in volume, depending on the temperature; the changing gradations of colour from sunset to sunset, one in civilised bands of pink and yellow and blue, the next a brilliant, fiery red. These are the rhythms that govern the days; this is the complex world you inhabit.

With the news of fire you begin to notice these changes in a different way: you examine them, attempt to interpret them. You become an amateur meteorologist. The smoke, when it is still fresh enough to have a distinct form and a likely source, is coming from the west: you wonder what is happening in Mount Victoria.

Soon the smoke is so general – settled in like mist – that you can no longer tell much from it; only that there is fire somewhere. You’re reduced to checking the RFS website, as fires teeter between a state of emergency and a lower classification, to the images of catastrophe on the news. You field calls from anxious relatives. Through it all, the cicadas keep up their driving percussion, magnificently untroubled.