For the best part of a week last October bush fires threatened the townships of the Blue Mountains, advancing along ridges and surging through gorges, damaging property and bushland, killing wildlife and destroying nearly 200 homes in the Springwood and Winmalee area.
To give you some idea of the magnitude of the fires, here are some photos I took on the afternoon of Thursday 17th. They show Sydney Harbour, its water turned to a deep charcoal reflecting the angry blanket of smoke that had settled over Sydney from the bush fires burning more than 80km away.
If this was how Sydney looked, I can't begin to imagine how terrifying it was for the residents and fire fighters. A friend who was driving back to Sydney through the smoke and chaos phoned to update us and said it was truly frightening.
Di B and I drove up to Winmalee last Wednesday, where we finally met Tracey Greenaway, co-ordinator of the Springwood Salvation Army Quilters, to deliver our quilts from St Mark's Quilters, and hear her dramatic version of events.
As we drove around the area we saw plenty of reminders of the fires' devastation. The ground is still bare, but the blackened trunks are sprouting bright new leaves and the bush is starting to regenerate.
This is a typical sight, a gate to a vacant block of land where a burnt-out home has been demolished and cleared and the front driveway now leads nowhere.
On the previous Sunday we displayed the 30 quilts made by our group at the back of the church, hanging them from the gallery and around the font.
Typically, I was still stitching the binding down on my fourth quilt for Winmalee at the last minute, but I made it just in time. This Double Square block proved a simple but effective one for our scrappy quilts.
Tracey hopes to have 600 quilts by March, when there will be a grand exhibition on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd. Our delivery brought the total number of quilts to 545.
Then the families from the local community will be given the opportunity to choose their quilts, hopefully finding comfort in knowing that so many quilters all over Australia have wanted to help in just a small way.