The Price of Paradise
The Price of Paradise
Video by Malcom McKinnon
Contact Malcolm McKinnonCopyright
Phillip Wierzbowski spent ten years building a house in the bush just outside Healsville, east of Melbourne.
In February 2009, while he was away overseas, bushfire destroyed the house and all his possessions. Here, Phillip contemplates the cost of living in a place where fire has always been a part of the natural environment.
-My affinity towards the bush goes way back. And when it came to making a decision when we were getting married about where to live, when I came across this property it was a no brainer for me. It was something that I was comfortable in living in this sort of environment. It was a challenge for me to work with my wife and to design and build a house and live in harmony in the local environment.
When you look at an aerial photograph or satellite image, you actually realize how isolated this place is. Our nearest neighbor is over two kilometers away. And that means you can crank the music up pretty loud as long as we didn't disturb the wildlife.
One of the great memories I have of this place is coming down here on an afternoon, just watching the world go by. Being very, very quiet, and then a Lyrebird coming along not knowing I was present, bathing in front of me. And I was in awe of simple things in life.
When we moved in here, there was evidence that fire was part of the landscape. And you can actually see fire scars on the trees. So we knew that we were moving into an area that has had a history of fire. But I was willing to put up with that concern about living in a fire prone area because you're living in paradise, basically. That's a price you pay for living in paradise.
This is the location of where the house was. Whenever I come back here, I can view things in four dimensions. And what I mean by that is that it's not just the height, the width and the depth, it's also the fourth dimension being time. In my mind, I'm able to walk through that house every time I come here. That's frightening at times, actually.
There were very few items that actually survived the intensity of the fire. This is a fiberglass hammer, and this is what happens when a bush fire goes through. And here we have a nice sculpture. Unfortunately it's turned into a flytrap. But before it was a flytrap it used to be glass cookware, and that can normally withstand in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius.
When Leeanne was learning how to do ceramics. She actually did the artwork on this. So each item, even though it may seem like rubbish, has a memory attached to it.
I've got no regrets in making a decision to live in this environment, nor do I have any problems with the way things panned out. But I don't think either myself or my wife have come to terms with the impact that this property has on us. So after a lot of soul searching, we actually said that, yes, we do want to live in this environment. We have to be able to come to terms with what transpired and how we move on from here.