To catch up on this story, you may wish to read Part 1 and Part 2 first. It was the day that has swiftly and completely turned life in the fortnight since on its head. For the joyous better, I’m so pleased to report.
“That’s a pretty healthy looking group of plants,” I thought to myself. We were on the road again, almost into our third hour having started for home at day break. The cruise control was set at an even 110km/h and we were travelling on a deserted highway somewhere west of the northern Victorian/South Australian border. Only twelve hours to home…
We had been here:
I was driving easily, pondering the green of this roadside vegetation because it stood out so boldly amongst the other low, dirt-coloured dry saltbush across the landscape when…… KANGAROO!
The scene slowed to a snail’s pace. But the first thing I did was brace, I remember that. It was an impulse that caused my body to unfortunately bear the brunt of the impact to come. There was only time to think the words “How beautiful” as I tightly shut my eyes and hit the brakes. He had been travelling across the road – in fact, he filled the road, such was the size of him, and in his upright gait stood an imposing height higher than the bonnet of my car – in what appeared to be nothing more than a late morning saunter. He had looked so serene and focused on his path ahead. He had appeared so instantly in my vision it was as if he were a wooden duck in a carnival shooting game, flipped up from the floor for me to take aim.
Only hazy grabs of recollections come next.
My cousin exclaimed in alarm, “You’ve hit him!” but my memory tells me that I was hoping I hadn’t. Or, at least, would only clip the creature. At the point of impact I had not yet braked. The roo had been in the centre of the road when I first saw him; we’d happened upon him so fast that I only knew he was in mid-hop travelling to the right because that’s the way he was facing. I shut my eyes and ducked (that always helps….) and right before I did, he turned his sweet pale face towards the car and for a split second we met gazes. That’s when I braced, eyes shut as I braked, hoping desperately he was still travelling to the right. But when I squinted again, the road in front was clear. He had turned back. Silly bugger! But as it turns out, it was a split decision he’d made that probably saved our lives.
There was so much noise then in the car that it dulled in my ears and seemed to fade away. I don’t recall the road, I don’t actually believe I was driving the car in those next moments. I do recall hearing the words, “Stay straight, stay straight” in my head and that’s all I had time to do: keep that wheel straight. If it meant I had to plough through the animal, then I would. I had the experience and presence of mind enough – thankfully – to instinctively remember that swerving at such a high speed would be disastrous. But there was really no time for anything. Later, I received praise and pats on the back for keeping myself and my passenger safe from harm but I felt it was less my doing and more a bit of swift divine intervention because, honestly, I didn’t have time to think anything.
When I opened my eyes, my vision focused on a grotesque spray of multi-coloured glass flying out in a huge arc in front of the vehicle. Whoever or whatever was driving – for it wasn’t me! – kept us on the road, in our lane, on that sweeping bend… on a dual carriageway with no centre median where the speed limit was dangerously high. Should we have come into the path of anyone coming the opposite way, they wouldn’t have had time to act.
I “came to” and got my senses back when I looked at the dash as the car slowed down. I was trying to train my hearing on the most godawful sound. It was coming from the engine, revving high and low in awful waves. I pulled the car to the side then, barely clearing the lane, and stopped the engine as soon as I could. “I can’t open the door,” my cousin was telling me calmly. Bless her and her level-headedness. I got out of the car shakily and went to inspect the damage. The vehicle behind us pulled in and the passenger – a stranger – hugged me without words. It was the kindest thing she could have done.
There was no way we would be driving this car home. Had the roo not turned back, the hole would not have been so neat. In fact, when the emergency services eventually turned up they unanimously said this was a “very, very lucky” hit. He had connected with the car on the left corner – the furthest distance from the cabin it could have hit – and been bounced off to the side, clearing the windscreen altogether. A blessed bloody miracle, because I had looked at that animal and he was bouncing higher than my car, I’ll tell you that much.
The impact had shifted the motor back. Everything under the bonnet was either cracked or smashed. The battery was sitting in a pool of acid on a casing that had no drip holes in it (liquid under the car would have alerted the emergency crew not to open the bonnet but as there was no place for the acid to run off, the danger was a silent one). The firey who checked the car over thanked me for not forgetting to turn off the engine or they would have been attending a fire as well, he told me, and he would’ve taken the brunt of an explosion. No worries, I did that inadvertently on purpose for you….
For the next several hours, I couldn’t sit down. There was so much adrenaline in my body that I had to pace. This gave way during the course of the ensuing hours to floods of shocked tears (and these continued in bouts on and off for some two weeks after the accident), despair for the life of such a beautiful specimen (my first ever roadkill in twenty years… actually, my first accident in twenty years!) and sheer anguish at “what nearly could have been.”
Despite hoping desperately that he was big enough to have sustained a hit bit be “okay” – I imagined him hoping off home, relieved, to show off his near-miss wounds around to his mob – a young apprentice advised his captain some hours later that they’d “moved the roo off the road”. I looked to my cousin for solace and she said, “I’m sorry, honey, I saw the birds circling about an hour ago.” We had one of those shock-cry-laughs on each others’ shoulders. The circle of natural life in all things happens fast, hey.
By nightfall, I was being driven home by my husband, having taken a coach, a ferry(!) in the middle of nowhere, a three hour coach to Adelaide and then a connecting flight to Melbourne. Never before have I been so grateful to see the lights of home and smell the top of my daughter’s sweet head.
One thing is certain, I will never again take for granted the lives of passengers who get in my car either. The grateful words of my cousin’s husband who bear-hugged me (gently!) and told me I did good, “you did real good, thank you for bringing my girl home safely, you did everything you should have” ring in my ears and bring stinging tears to my eyes even now. It was only in that moment that I realised – despite all the horror stories already told to us by the emergency attendants of tourists flipping their cars, having roos kicking them to death in their seats, swerving the creatures only to hit other cars or poles or trees – what had actually been avoided that day. And so began the survivor shock, the flashbacks and the what-if mental images. All normal, and all part of the healing process to resolution which has now all but passed I’m grateful to say.
I am indebted to the one person who came to my aid in the first few days, ferrying my girl to and from school, dance rehearsals (life goes on even for woozy, not-yet-back-on-Earth mummies!) and even taking me to the doctor and waiting while I had xrays done. I tend to play down when I’m really needing help and I’m sure others would have said yes if I’d asked, but this kind soul offered and I gratefully accepted because I was just too spent to think any other option through.
I will also never underestimate the power of instinct in a life or death circumstance. The divine purpose of events such as these. Synchronistic resonance, I’ve written before, is not lost on me and it is apparent everywhere I look. This has served as a huge reminder of my spiritual purpose and I intend to follow through. Despite not having any obvious injuries that can be seen, I’ve worked my way through the psychological trauma well and am almost sorted. I am still in some pain on a daily basis, which my caregivers tell me may take some time yet. With surprise, I realised only two days ago that it hasn’t yet been three weeks. It feels like this happened four months ago, to be honest. I seem to lose track of days and time, so I must have a little way to go still with that mental processing stuff. It is slow and gentle going but I have learned quickly that this is no time to push myself and put anyone else before me. I am finding that right now, all I want to do is stick close to home and tend to the internal tremors and shakes that arise from simple tasks around the house. This is not a time to ignore what I’ve experienced for the sake of “appearing fine now”. To do so would be to completely dishonour what this encounter with the Red Kangaroo has clearly shown me.
In my final post in this impromptu series, I am going to step through the meaning of Red Kangaroo – for there has been so much rich relevance that I can’t deny its messages – and give a little bit of a Where To From Here for Sunny Side Up which will affect how I blog/write and also introduce you to my plans for my new “online home”. I hope you will join me. I’m just a little bit excited already!