Saturday, September 8, 2012

Os Bombeiros de Oleiros são Heróis

Last Saturday, September 1st, fire came to Vale de Moses. It is the only natural disaster we fear, but comforting it is to now know that of all the elements, fire is the only one man can do something about. We can work together to put it out. You can't stop the winds from blowing in a hurricane. Nor the water from sweeping a home away in a flood or tsunami, nor the lava falling from a volcano, nor snow from an avalanche, nor the ground in an earthquake. But water kills fire.

We owe our lives here to the brave and outstanding service of more than 200 firemen, drivers and pilots, who with their trucks, helicopters and planes, battled tirelessly for 6 or 7 hours to put out the fire that if left unchecked, would have consumed everything in its wake.

A special thanks to our friends Barbara and Emma from the Mount of Oaks, who drove 2 hours to be by our side and also to our incredible guests this week, who arrived on the same Saturday. Franzisca from Berlin, Frida and Malin from Sweden, Sara from CercaSul in Portugal, Shilla from Austria and Jessie from Belgium. Even in the face of such violent destruction and fear, you chose to remain and stay the week with us, on yoga retreat, to relax with us as we found peace after the inferno.

Vonetta and Eloise were out in town at the time, but the quick response by Chris, Anette and Joshua (he was first to call the Bombeiros / Fire Brigade) and Frida, Malin and Franzisca (we had all just finished lunch) meant we were able to soak the land around the Monastic Adega and save it from destruction, before we were called away to the top of the valley for our safety by the police. I was only wearing flip flops and shorts while dowsing the 5 metre high flames as Chris held the hoses off the ground to prevent them melting. The others rapidly filled up buckets and soaked everything they could reach. If our Yoga Helpers hadn't cleared the scrub around the Adega in June, and TK hadn't cut back all the grass in the orchards along the river with me in May, it would have been a very different story.

After only a couple of hours though, once we could see the fires would be tamed, we almost immediately began giving thanks. That no-one was harmed. That none of the 4 houses we have restored were touched. That we have such an army of volunteers in our local town and from other Bombeiros in towns over an hour's drive away, had dropped everything they were doing that day, and came immediately to our aid. That they stayed with us with their trucks for the next 2 nights keeping vigil over the land. That I slept outside with 4 fireman on our veranda!

We are also, ironically, thankful that we are now a little safer here. The fire cleaned the forest of all the brittle, dry, resin filled bush or "mato" on our neighbours land around our valley. It will be years before it can grow into the danger that it was. Now, perhaps even this Spring coming, we will see the forest begin to burst forth with life. The small lavenders and gorses will have the sunshine and space to flower in abundance. And enough pot ash to create a spectacular colour explosion we won't have yet seen here. That's something to really look forward to.

Sadly we lost our apple and pear orchards. But we hope they too will grow back again. Our neighbour José Matteus said the trees might return if we cut them at the base just above the graft. We'll see. We can always plant more.

So this week, we stared our deepest fear straight in the face. And marveled at the way our heroes in the Bombeiros and our community gathered and acted to save us. We will never forget. Truly we are blessed beyond words.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  Namasté.