acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Monday, October 25, 2010

fire and rain

the three sisters in evening dress

A grass fire came in from the west, devouring tinder dry yellow grasses. Giant orange flames raced across open plains and along dry riverbeds. They tiptoed through the open woodland where the elephants had trampled the grasses, then raced out into the sunlight again. The wind was their friend, urging them onwards. But the wind is capricious and finally it turned. The flames stumbled and stuttered trying to find a new way forward, but they were stumped and the fire died right there.It  has left  a desolate landscape where burnt leaves shiver and shift on the ground, crumbling to soot and rising in dusky columns to dance with the dust devils of their old friend the wind.

fire stick man

We drive along the sand track which in places marks the end of the fire.  Black as pitch the soot covers the charred view. Elephants have left big round impressions of footprints, where they have crossed out of the fire zone and into the bright blonde grasses again.  Here and there a fallen tree continues to burn. At night the coals still glow red but during the day they hide in snow white ash.  Trees that burnt where they fell, have left a ghostly impression in ash on the ground. We are driving past funeral pyres for trees - there is an armageddon feel as if we have stumbled onto the battlefield after a ghastly war.  The stump of an ancient leadwood tree shines dazzling white against the black. Cascading pure white ash it is a tower of smouldering coals around the baked ceramic core of the termitaria which once shared its niche.  Soon all trace of its existence will be blown away in the wind.

leadwood fire stump caldera of snow white ash

We are waiting for rain again. The October heat is reckless, relentless, and ever increasing - building for rain.  Yesterday was a full moon. It was a red moon as it rose through the smoke haze mimicking, for a while, the setting sun.  The full moon promises to bring a change in the weather.  Across the country people are watching the skies.  Bets are on for the first big rain.  Inland pans are drying up and the elephants, our most water dependent species, are forced to travel long distances through the dry interior to reach the lagoons and spillways of Selinda.

steenbok on fresh neon green grass shoots

Yet here and there already, neon green shoots of grass begin to appear. Tiny green shoots of leaves are poking out of dessicated branches - signalling that hope springs eternal. It has been more than a decade since the last grass fire came through here, and some think it was time.

This morning the horizon is dark grey in the north - whether from fire or rain we cannot yet tell.  There is a touch of moisture on the wind although I cannot smell that magical rain smell.  But then I am not an elephant. We pass one heading directly towards the dark sky, the rhythm of his steady pace belying his traveling speed.  A flock of open bill storks pass overhead in classic V formation heading the same way. Their wings flicker white against the dark clouds.

This heat has to break soon. We are on the cusp I feel certain. Any day now welcome rain must fall.


The Solitary Walker said...

A great piece of writing, Val. Very nice indeed.

Diane said...

Beautifully written, so realistic. The fires always worry me as there must be so many small animals that cannot escape and of course the slower ones as well. Hope your rain arrive soon. Diane

Miranda said...

Ah, makes me homesick! Hope it rains soon. xxx

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

A riveting piece Val - it really does look like a post-Armageddon landscape. Hope you get rain and cooler temps soon!

Angela said...

That white ash looks so fascinating! I am glad you are not an elephant, though, e´ven if then you could sniff the rain. But what elephant has ever told us such a story?

mermaid gallery said...

It is all so, ash, dust, heat....your life part of a distant far away...yet ....we feel your need for rain....thanks for including us....

Anonymous said...

Were the ellies seen tramping into the blonde grass wearing black soot shoes??

There is a special feel around the 'mad max' that winter and fires leave.

Rain soon I hope. Haven't checked out what the ITCZ weather is looking like.


Kristin said...

You leave me longing for rain.

Friko said...

Excellent writing.
I hope you will soon get the rains you need.

I know that these fires are necessary for regeneration (I watch a lot of wildlife programmes and nature programmes) but I always wonder how much of the wildlife perishes.
It is never said.
Do animals run before the fire?

Amanda Summer said...

from your description it does sound like a battlefield - powerful writing. and the foto of the white ash is amazing.....

Snowbrush said...

Gosh, I sure hope you guys get some relief soon. I would ship you some of our Oregon, USA rain if only I could.

Val said...

SW thanks !

Diane - yes, if its a fast fire some creatures inevitably get caught, if its slow, its a little easier for them to get around it.

Miranda - it keeps promising - any rain in the Valley yet? x

Bonnie - thankfully today a respite from the heat but still no rain :)

Val said...

SW thanks !

Diane - yes, if its a fast fire some creatures inevitably get caught, if its slow, its a little easier for them to get around it.

Miranda - it keeps promising - any rain in the Valley yet? x

Bonnie - thankfully today a respite from the heat but still no rain :)

Val said...

Angela - elephants have better memories though so could probably tell more and better stories if we had ears big enough to listen :)

Susan E - yes very primal - fascinating stuff

Janet - havent seen any eles in boots yet - let you know!

Kristin - rain dances happening this weekend - today overcast and a few tiny spots - we are watching :)

Friko - the bigger animals can walk around the flames or step through if they are not too big; they dont generally panic; its the smaller stuff that worries me like tortoises, snakes, small mammals stuff that cant fly away. Then again if its a fast fire sometimes its better because it goes over them quicker. eeish. but its quite good for the vegetation to have a burn now and again. pros and cons i guess

Amanda - its a dramatic sight for sure - just the contrasts, black white, yellow etc and all those tree casualties look tragic but some of them were already down though; loved your story about the twins x

Snowbrush - hello! yes please send some :)

thanks for all your lovely comments - good to know you are all out there somewhere xxV