Notes on Saturday's Ash

A few years back, after nigh on fifteen years living in the inner city of Melbourne, I moved with my family out to the country. We left behind the noise and grey concrete of the city and embraced the sense of space, the trees, and the abundant local wildlife in the hills. We’d watch kangaroos and rabbits hop around the property and listen to the birds singing in the mornings. But living out there I also got an understanding of the harsh realities of the Australian summer, of bushfire season. Every summer, as the temperatures began to soar, a familiar sense of anxiety would creep in.

There was one particular summer that had everyone on edge. It had been a good five years since the Black Saturday fires but the days were hot and the fire warnings kept coming. Every time the mercury hit the mid thirties and the wind picked up we’d go through the motions again – listening to the radio, looking out the window, and checking the fire alerts every ten minutes.

It was on those hot windy days, with bushfires burning on the surrounding hills, that we’d pack our things and get the kids out of the house. We were never in immediate danger, but each time we would head back into the city to spend the day in air-conditioned comfort with family. Thankfully, the fires never made it to our place. But over those months, when we were in and out of the car every few weeks, the people that were affected by the Black Saturday fires were in my mind a lot. Our place wasn’t far from where a lot of homes and lives had been lost, and we’d often visit those towns on the weekend. 

I wrote the lyrics for Saturday’s Ash that summer. I guess it was my way of reflecting on what the locals had been through and trying to understand what it must be like to have to pull yourself up again after losing so much. 


Karl Smith