'The beauty is returning … the place is blooming, there's a new beginning'
Bruno Torfs...his garden is coming back to life. Photo: Helen Nezdropa
BRUNO TORFS' art and sculpture garden in Marysville has been his sanctuary for fantasy, beauty and humour for 14 years.
On Black Saturday, he fled with 14 paintings from the gallery foyer. When he returned, almost everything was gone.
"Some of the terracotta sculptures survived but the lush greenery, so crucial to the magic here, had all been wiped out,'' he said. ''There wasn't a single leaf left. The look, the smell - it felt like another planet."
What a difference a year makes. Last week, Mr Torfs, 54, said: ''The beauty is returning to the garden, and to Marysville. A lot of people left but there is a core group who remain very optimistic. The place is blooming, there's a new beginning and, if people are adventurous, they can be part of that."
As the inferno bore down on David Nicholls' home in Narbethong, he had seconds to react. He put his wife Nicole and four-year-old son Lachlan in a car and watched them drive away towards his parents in Healesville. When the Country Fire Authority volunteer realised he could not defend the property, he saved just one possession - his wedding album. As he drove away, the back of his vehicle burst into flames. He survived by diving into a drain beneath the Maroondah Highway.
To this day, Mrs Nicholls cannot believe her husband saved the album. "I was really touched," she said. "It was the last thing I would ever have thought to grab. It's not as if it was even sitting by the door. He had to search for it, too."
As the firestorm tore through Kinglake West, Greg Holloway just had time to find a precious photograph of his sister Tracy, who died of cancer in 2007.
Nothing remains of his home but next month Mr Holloway, 39, and wife Jo will begin building a new home. "The area is bouncing back, the spirit of the locals is rising,'' he said. "I feel so lucky to be here. I've been given a second chance and I want to cherish every minute.''
When Irene Passi's son Robert returned to the ruins of her 4-hectare property at Buxton the morning after Black Saturday, he found his mother's beloved pet lamb Tags still smouldering. In the weeks that followed, Ms Passi dubbed Tags her ''little miracle" but six months later he was dead, his lungs unable to recover.
"It was like losing one of the family," Ms Passi said last week from her new home in Healesville as she cradled her new pet wombat David, named after a friend who perished in the fires.
"In the daytime, reality strikes. Destruction is everywhere, people are angry, neighbours argue,'' she said. ''There's a sombre mood that will hang over the community for a long time. It will never be the same because there's too much pain."
Bruno Torfs Magical Art and Sculptures Garden, drm-l.