Wattle never blooms, it bursts: tiny needles of sunshine laughing at the last days of winter.
I’ve been taking hundreds of photographs of them lately, hoping to capture their laughter, boldest in the late-afternoon sun. My hands blue-cold around the camera, my gumboots slurping along tracks that have turned to ribbons of mud in the biblical quantities of rain we’ve enjoyed since June.
I want to catch just the right shout of mad loveliness, one that might bring inspiration for the cover of a new edition of my first novel, Black Diamonds, which will be published next year. It’s a story of coal and war and invincible love – and wattle bright against the grim struggle for peace.
Ten years ago, when this story was just about to step into the world for the first time, my own heart was breaking. I was still reeling from my mother’s sudden death, a catastrophic cancer having taken her from me before she’d had the chance to read the manuscript. I could still feel her leaving me as I tried to breathe life back into her goneness, on the lounge-room floor where I found her. My father, meanwhile, was returning to the strange childhood that dementia brings, making him unaware of who I was, never mind that I’d written a book. My marriage disintegrated under the weight of grief – a mercy killing of sorts, but nevertheless another space to mourn.
There was no celebration of Black Diamonds then. For almost a year afterwards, I couldn’t go anywhere without walking barefoot over the crushed-glass carpet of my own heart shards. I shredded my feet across the globe to Prague and back. Every shadow I owned engulfed me.
Good friends and a good therapist pulled me out of the black; the needs of my children tugged and tugged at me, too. And words, always my words, made ropeways of light away from any desire to crawl under that sharp carpet and never come out again.
Words, new glimpses of story, would burst like wattle blooms from black branches, bringing new life and new love. Boughs heavy with sunshine would soon garland the adit of my bleak cave, my coal pit, just as they do in my novel.
Yes, ten years on, I can finally celebrate Black Diamonds. I will dance with her in my arms when I hold her again.
Because wattle never fades, either. It smoulders deep gold before it melds into the warmth of spring.