Dying of thirst in the desert, men are said to conjure up fantastical images of verdant oases, with lush greenery and deep dark waters to slake their craving need.
And on the country horizon a puddle of water shimmers temptingly at the end of a hot road, only to vanish into dust as we approach.
The heat draws strange pictures in our minds.
Here in town though the mirage is slightly different. Autumn has come early to Melbourne, courtesy of the recent baking temperatures.
From a distance the trees are cloaked in autumnal colours of red, brown and yellow. It’s pretty, if slightly curious to see in the middle of summer.
On closer inspection, it’s not the changing seasons that have transformed the picture. Trees are scorched and brown, their leaves turning to ashes as I touch them. They’ve crisped in the heat. Their branches are burnt.
Drifts of dead leaves have fallen to the ground, expelled in their last dying breaths and shaken off; and walking to work I kick my way through them, crunching my way to town.
The damp warm air moves across my skin like a swarm of flies, gently sucking as it goes. Beads of moisture form on my top lip and my backpack feels heavier and heavier with every step.
The sky is overcloudy, filled up with the ash from country bushfires.
A cool change is due later today, but it comes too late for our scorched plants and gardens, for our distressed animals, for our patience and forebearance.