The sky was blue, daughter dancing amongst the waves and my 23-week pregnant belly glistened in the sun. Family gathered under beach umbrellas. The bush whispering ignored messages of danger in its winds. The beauty and comfort that Mallacoota’s sandy beaches always brought me proceeded any feelings of danger. This was my home, my safe place.

Suddenly, we fled. To a boat. Onto the water, over 24 hours I watched my memories burn.
Two days later I flew home. In the dark unknown, on a plane in distress. Leaving my car and belongs behind. Once landing in the comfort of my home trauma flickered through my body. Pain slowly submerged to the depths of my unconscious, only to be triggered by the kindness and thoughtfulness of others around me, eager to help asking “Would you like me to collect your car from Mallacoota?”. My insides felt burnt, my heart darkened, no more tears fell from my eyes but my brain turned to ash when someone touched on the subject. Their kindness met with staggered excuses and so my car remained where it was for months.

A visible wound felt raw within my soul. The healing progresses through stages, open and raw like a fleshy wound, uncomfortable, settling into a scar that never forgets. My experience of the Mallacoota fire left me burnt and wounded. No one could see it, but I could feel it. It was uncomfortable, hard to look at, hard to talk about. When people who hadn’t been at Mallacoota during the fire offered to collect my car, for me, they held an unconscious desire to seek out my closed wound. To pick open the stiches and watch it bleed. I wasn’t ready to listen of tales on their return of Mallacoota regrowth. Of a bush desolated, returning to life.

I wasn’t ready to come back from the dark red sky that filled my mind. My car attached to memories of the fire, fear of my family’s life of losing my belongings. Belongings, symbolizing memory and meaning, reminders of love and happiness with others. We spent three days in fear. Fleeing from the fire. Driving the roads of burnt houses, bushes, animals, loved locations. Then taking flight from Mallacoota with my toddler to an unknown location. Everything left behind.

Childhood memories, charred with ash. Bushy areas I rode my bike through, beautiful walks where I collected leaves. I watched them burn, I felt them burn. My heart burnt. I knew were the animals lived, what they ate, when they came out to play. Goannas climbing trees near a sandy river. Burnt before my eyes. Beautiful yellow tailed cockatoos that sung to me along walks I knew, scattered. Koala’s that wandered down bush paths, perched on trees I connected with, burned. My Mallacoota, the safest place in my world crumbled before my eyes. A big open wound in my heart, covered in ash, hidden from the world.

My wound was no place for someone who didn’t know Mallacoota, to drive through the landscape and collect my car. To return to me of their tales and exclaim positively that the bush recovers. When my memories remained ash forever. A friend becomes a stranger when your life is threatened. Blackness of the night sky, red death clouding you. The nervous system, slowing down from the smoke. Lethargy setting in. A beautiful coast line, attacked, brutally murdered. Whilst we float in a boat on water, clinging to safety, not knowing for how long we will be there.
Lighting strikes through the black sky. It’s dry and can’t be seen. No-where is safe. Not the water nor the shore. I touch my daughter’s chest to feel her breath. I lie still, waiting to feel my baby move inside my belly. There is an unknown. Will the sky clear from red, black to blue again. Have people survived. Is there a town, food, water… life?

My car sits at Mallacoota waiting for my return, there is an unknown. People ask. Do you want me to pick up your car? When will you get your car back? There is an unsteady transference of my inner wound as I babble excuses. I become shut off, unknown, aggressive, disconnected. The gesture is burnt. My car is left at Mallacoota and with it a memory of uncertainty. Uncertainty is the only meaning I can convey to those around me. My car stays there, you can’t get it. When will it return? I don’t know.

My car resembles my inner wound, deep and raw. I’m not ready to look at it. It’s stitched tightly, it festers. I’m uncertain, unsure and triggered. Transferring my distress and withdrawing from others. An aggressive fire flare within me. It’s my Mallacoota, my car, my things. People have stopped asking. In replace of their kindness is an emptiness between us. Like ash falling from the sky. An empty misunderstanding of the burnt land, my burnt dark deep wound.

About the author

Rebecca Thomas

Education and Developmental Psychologist (Endorsement Candidate) B.Arts, G.D Edu, G.D Psych, G.D Psych (Adv) M.Psych (Ed & Dev) Cert Play Therapy, Cert IV in Training & As.

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