Late Saturday afternoon we all walked down to our little beach. Antonia needed some coaxing, but once we got there she was in her element. Straight away she sourced herself a long stick to go ‘fishing’ with, and sat poking the water for a long time, in between finding stones to throw in, and stones for me too. This was a welcome change from every other time we’ve been there, when I have been responsible for sourcing the stones. She even let me have a turn of her fishing rod. Felix, who had raced ahead, and sat pensively on a bench looking out over the water by the time we arrived, was disappointed that all the ice had melted. But he quickly decided that climbing up all the rocks would be worthwhile anyway, and scrambled around the place on his own for a while before convincing Michael to join the rock scaling adventure. We watched the yellow light on the water as the sun dipped behind the hills on the other side of the fjord.
Today we had a picnic in the little patch of forest right next to our house. Michael strung up two hammocks he had brought back from America, and lit a little twig stove to toast marshmallows. It was just. so. good. Like camping, or being on holiday, but only one minute from our garden. Antonia got a little stroppy around nap time (I don’t bother trying to get her down anymore, but sometimes you can see she needs it), but she redeemed herself later, finding a ‘salad’ for me of twigs and leaves. She insisted on going out again just before bed – she dresses herself in her snowsuit, boots and hat, and heads out the door. She instructed me on when to walk and when to follow, where to put the pinecones she found for me, and then sat down with a stick on her lap, pretended it was some kind of musical instrument, and sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I had to do it too.
It’s light till half past six now. It feels like a different world.
Apart from this I cleaned and did laundry, which felt overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but now I feel so much better. Felix helped by spontaneously tidying up the family room so I could vacuum. The house was in chaos from Michael being away for eight days, back for two, then away again for two (he got back on Friday night), and we were both exhausted and near the end of our tether. But it is better now. It was so good to be outside in the forest all together. There is some kind of grace in this place. It is good to be here.
The lovely Anne has an fundraiser auction over at her site. She makes the most beautiful quilts, and is auctioning off one of the two following styles, any size up to a single quilt size (you can choose which sort and if you choose the first sort you can have it customized to whatever colours etc you like.) All the money paid by the winner will go to the bushfire appeal. So if you like the look of these and like the idea of helping the bushfire survivors, head over here. Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested!
The landlady is shoveling snow off our steps. Yesterday was the first blue day in ages. I saw shadows I had never seen before.
And I am sad about the bushfires. Which of course doesn’t change anything but there it is. And because I am writing about belonging right now, I can’t help but notice that the reason I am sad is because they are burning in my home. My country. The place that shaped my childhood. Luckily for me, they are not burning the people or places dearest to me, but they are burning people like them, places like them.
So I feel really quite Australian right now. Having grown up with warnings of how to deal with snake-bites, which jelly-fish not to step on, which spiders can hurt you, where not to swim, how to cover up in the sun, and how much water to take with you if you go for a walk in the bush. And stories of what bushfires can do. How you should wrap yourself in a blanket, and stay down. (Amazingly, in all the news stories I’ve trawled through, this does seem to work in some instances.) I’ve never been bitten by a snake or a poisonous spider – but I’ve seen plenty. I’ve felt the tug of dangerous rip-tides as I’ve stood in the shallows. I’ve never seen a bushfire. But I’ve seen the glowing lick-and-flame of campfires, their nests of embers. I know the heady, dusty scent of eucalypts, and how days like this, they’re fuses waiting to go.
And yet – it’s white outside, and quiet, and cold. I wish I could send some snow.
My Mum used to tell me there were angels in the flames. I sometimes pretended that I saw them. More often, crouched around the campfire on long desert nights, I thought about jewels. How coals were the best jewels in the world, but you could never touch them. Angels and jewels aside, in our fire, there are definitely creatures. What do you think they are?
This is a memory. But it’s a pretty young memory, so I thought I’d write it down. Also, ever since it happened, I’ve been wanting to write about it, and have written about it, in fragments, in emails, but here is the space to tell it properly.
Three or four weeks ago I was out on my regular ride along the lakes. It’s actually one enormous long lake, but it seems like lots of different lakes, because you keep reaching it at different points through the pine forest. On my way out, as I passed a sandy shore of the lake, I noticed a crinkling, crunching sound, sort of like the roar of the sea, but different. I didn’t think much of it. But on the way back, I saw it. The ice on the lake had begun to melt, and washed up around the shore in glittering shards. The fragments rubbed against each other in the movement of the ripples, and made this incredible sound – the sound of water, and ice, and sunlight.
I stood there for a few moments, and then went on my way. That evening, we lit the wood stove in our apartment. We left the door open for a bit, to watch the fire sing, and surge, and crackle. And that’s when I noticed. It was the same sound as the ice on the lake. I had not known that sheens of flame and ice crystals spoke the same language.