Bundanoon artist, Del Cooley, doesn't like the 'phoenix rising from the ashes' analogy but that's exactly what's happened at her property over the past 10 months.
At 10.30pm, on January 4, the devastating fire which had already torn through so much of the Highlands leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, impacted the property owned, and lovingly cared for over more than two decades by Del and Durwood Cooley.
Del had evacuated several hours earlier and Durwood made the tough call to stay and defend their home.
While that decision saved their former bed and breakfast, it almost cost Durwood his life, as flames licked their home which was quickly filled with thick smoke.
"While we still had a home thanks to Durwood's courage, my art studio and Durwood's adjoining work shed were burnt to the ground. We lost so much that was special in there but, most importantly, we still had our lives," Del said.
Also lost was 70 per cent of the magnificent garden (named Jean Flora Garden in memory of Del's mother) that the couple had dedicated their lives to since purchasing the property in the late 1990s.
It has been open to several community groups and garden societies in NSW.
"We wish we were 20 to 30 years younger of course but we aren't the sort of people to give up without a fight, so we set about rebuilding what we lost and the massive job of repairing and restoring the garden," Del said.
"Considering the year started so badly for us, and then add COVID on top, who'd have thought we'd be ending the year on something of a high? We owe it all to a small army of friends and supporters who've pitched in to help get us out of the biggest mess of our lives.
"Thanks to the incredible support of former federal member of parliament, businessman Warwick Smith, and his associates, we're now well and truly on the road to an optimistic future. To local landscapers Miclan, who've been with us every step of the way, guiding the garden restoration with energy and empathy, a huge thank you. Words can't express the gratitude we owe to so many."
With their new studio and work shed almost finished, Del and Durwood will host an open day, an opportunity to say thanks on Saturday, November, 14 at their property.
Del is busy painting again and will have on exhibition a selection of her trademark oils, depicting the magnificent Highlands skies and landscapes.
Highlanders are welcome to attend the open day, which will run from 11am until 5pm 11 Evelyn Avenue, Bundanoon.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.