Richmond Valley, 1949
Now Stella was in this new place of waterways, crops, swampy lands and flood plains. Her eyes glazed over at the greenery, the brimming rivers and the concentration required for the undulating, twisting roads. She drove past fluffy trees with bushy crowns and papery bark and a sign that advertised the selling of tea-tree oil. She pressed the brake pedal and pulled the station wagon to the edge of the road, slowing to a stop. In the shade of a proud tree, she dug in the soil, squeezing the earth until it gummed together in her palms. She looked back towards the hills and the spring haze that blurred the scene in a whitish mist and breathed in hot, moist air. It was seven years since she’d left to go inland. Stella supposed the eastern coast hadn’t changed much in her absence. She was the one altered. Her mind and body would forever remain braced for the dry, hot winds of the past, for the bulging dust storms that sought out man and beast, and the emptiness of that old life.