THEY WERE THERE for months, small shapes embedded in the mud at first, and then, as the mud was washed away, small shapes embedded in the grass. A few plastic toys; the shiny white squares of slide frames – some full, most empty; triangular shards of broken crockery with pretty patterns in blues, greens, yellows. Pressed into the verge like a crazy mosaic, they transformed our corner into an archaeological site. They were all that was left of the piles and piles of muddy detritus stripped from inside this house, every possession, every belonging of the woman who had lived there, who had come back, seen its inundated state, and walked away from it all. After seven months of walking past them, over them, around them, I bent down and picked out four of the prettiest fragments of the china. I brought them home and carefully washed every speck and grain of dirt from their surfaces. I studied them; I traced their colours and their patterns. And I put them on my windowsill, like a tiny memorial. I wasn’t sure what else to do, but it seemed important to do this.
The totems left in the wake of Brisbane’s 2011 flood are many and various – although none is yet as official as the wooden arrows installed across the city after those great big floods in 1974.
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