Readers ask, ‘Why a snake?’ A girl emerges from the belly of a serpent after twelve years? In Australia, with some of the deadliest snakes in the world, I understand the question.
But the snake is perfect for this magic realism tale. When I moved to Australia, I could see it. The snake in Serpent’s Wake is a primal image for trauma, an intersection where we can be transformed. It frames a taboo into something we can hold at a distance, until it reflects our power, right back at us. After all, Australia doesn’t just have deadly snakes, there’s the Rainbow Serpent—creator, protector, healer—Dreamtime guardian of the Aboriginal people as well.
Initially, Serpent’s Wake is a journey and some readers book sea voyages as soon as it ends. On another level, it speaks to people who’ve been acutely hurt and live with a sacred wound, the kind that never fully closes.
There’s something special about deep trauma, but it’s rarely the focus while we’re trying to recover. Regardless of the details, trauma comes with great potential for growth. We can see ourselves and others more clearly through its lens and our depths can surprise us. Our strength, compassion, innate wisdom, and our ability to love when it feels like we’ve lost everything are some of the most beautiful faces of our humanity.
Serpent’s Wake traces the milestones of trauma recovery through allegory—through symbolic moments from initial shock to new life. People who know trauma recognise these crossings and maybe the story serves as a kind of familiar map. Maybe something profound happens when we feel understood and accompanied.
I know something grew me when I moulded this story and tried to capture the voices of many others I met on this path. Trauma can create as much as it can destroy, even more so if we will it.
Lauren Elise Daniels is teaching the workshop Shaking the Tree: Using Magic Realism to Tell the Truth Oct. 19, 11:30 am – 1 pm at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. You can hear her read at the Literary Cabaret, Oct. 18, 8-10pm at Maury Young Arts Centre.