I pulled up the tomato plants before they had finished fruiting. The sickly haze of the megafire had lifted only days earlier and now, able to spend time removing weeds and rot for the first time in weeks, I felt determined to clear the space and start again. I wrote in my diary that night that the tomatoes had become a psychic burden—taking over so much of the garden, needing more water than I could give them. They had become a huge messy tangle. Although they had been prolific, the skin of the fruit had become tough. This was, I read, a normal reaction from the plant under the oppressive burn of summer, a way to keep a short supply of water in.
Over those smoked-out weeks I had cultivated a similar barrier for myself as my mother sent images of red and black skies over the coastal town where I grew up and where she had been a volunteer fire fighter for nearly two decades. I failed to keep it all in when she sent me a text ahead of the ember predictions that week, which simply read, ‘I am confident I can survive in the fire shed if the fire comes through.’ In catastrophic times it is hard to figure out what counts as catastrophising. I imagined my mother trapped as every inch of my little town burned to black.
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