Late Wednesday night a text comes through from CERES farm manager, Meg Stewart, there’s a fire at CERES. Another follows with a photo taken from Blythe Street showing an ominous glow through the trees.
Peta calls out from another room, people on Good Karma Network are talking about a fire at CERES.
Speeding through the front gate there’s no one around and everything seems fine – the Nursery, the Van Ray Centre, The Merri Cafe, the Grocery, the Eco House, the Learning Centre all still here.
And then there they are; down Honey Lane past the playground, the flashing red and blue lights – everyone’s here – fire, police, ambulance.
Walking past a knot of fire-fighters I see two tall triangular bluestone walls – all that’s left of the CERES Site Team and Volunteer office. A couple of police look on as the fire-fighters douse hotspots.
I find CERES CEO Cinnamon Evans, CFO Nick Porter and treasurer Tom Dobson gathering around Site Director, Nick Curmi, whose office of more than 10 years has just burned down.
A fire-fighter and a policeman brief us on what’s going to happen through the night.
The fire is suspicious. Later in the week the police will arrest a man.
The next morning CERES is in shock; staff members cry openly and as the news spreads offers of help and support come flooding in.
Down at the taped-off Site Office an acrid stink of wet ash hangs in the air.
Nick Curmi, who had lovingly renovated the kitchen that had provided cups of tea and meals to thousands of volunteers over the years looks on blank and drawn.
Late in the afternoon CERES staff gather on the lawn opposite our burnt out building – one-by-one we speak about the fire and what this building means to us.
Mick Harris, the original builder, arrives, he tells the story of how our building came to be.
How in 1983 the Alternative Technology Association decided to build a solar workshop at the newly opened CERES Site.
How all they had was a pile of bluestones and a community.
How every Friday evening Mick would call his volunteers, revving them up, retelling the vision and reminding them how important their contribution was.
Mick remembers it took four years and almost killed them but they built one of Melbourne’s first solar passive structures and helped introduce Victorians to the wind and solar power that’s become so vital to us today.
Thinking he’d be here alone Mick Harris is tearing up that so people many are paying their respects along with him.
We stand there together – a pile of bluestones and a community once again.
And as we continue to share our love for this place we are turning tragedy into possibility – laying the foundations for what will come next.
Have a great week