In my part of the world, it’s summer again and I’m happy. I wrote this piece when I was living way inland, where summer regularly serves up 40°C days, with very little moisture in the air. Now, I have a sparkling blue lake almost on my doorstep, and I feel very lucky.
(This was published in The Weekend Australian Magazine.)
Summer is my favourite season. I watch anxiously for the first new leaves on the Chinese elms in the yard, and when I see the tiny splashes of green unfurling along bare, grey branches, the weight of winter lifts.
I love the lengthening days, afternoon light lasting long enough to sit a little before dinner, with a glass of wine or not, as the fancy takes me, to take stock, reflect on the bits and pieces of my life, or just breathe a little more slowly.
I love the frenzy of approaching summer holidays: the shops’ Christmas glitz, Bing Crosby carols over loudspeakers, unlikely Santas perspiring amid crowds of sticky children, and along each residential street, crazy displays of neighbourhood lights becoming more elaborate each year.
But more than anything, I love my annual summer getaway – a week at the coast, with its incredible blend of the sublime and the tacky: sublime scenery, water and sea air with that salty tang that tells me I’m here. I’ve escaped again
from the humdrum, from my own particular version of the daily grind.
Nothing beats a coastal break to zap up faded spirits, and provide a small serving of sublime freedom from the rules and conventions of real life. Because it’s not real – it’s a respite from the real, and I can let loose, a little or a lot, and nobody who matters will be any
Which is why, I suppose, I love even the tacky parts of my coastal break.I love the crowds, the characters, the costumes. I love the shops with their racks of sarongs and souvenir t-shirts, the ice cream vendors, the noisy carnivals that never change, the over-crowded caravan parks with kids everywhere, retirees on deck chairs outside mobile homes, dads cleaning fish and fighting off marauding seagulls, and the heavenly, rising aroma of barbecues.
As night descends, the mood changes; pubs and nightspots buzz, revellers spill out into beer gardens and boulevards, and party time madness hits the streets.
There’s another thing about summer, however. Summer brings a lingering, unnerving sense of foreboding; an undercurrent of chaos and devastation that increases with the temperature as December moves into January. Back home, four hundred kilometres from the sea, Christmas lights have been packed away, and Bing Crosby has been replaced by the more usual selections of shopping centre mood music. Memories of Christmas and coastal interludes recede as the silent lethargy of another inland heat wave presses down on the dry, still landscape.
Birds shelter out of sight, dogs are stretched, panting and motionless under shade as hot north-westerlies whip up dust that swoops east and south in a dismal haze. The TV news does a bushfire watch, and we hold our breaths, together, the whole country. We cross our fingers, and pray that this year it won’t be too bad.
Summer seems to be the season for the letting loose of calamities – for nature misbehaving too.
Summer keeps me on my toes – watchful, mindful of unwelcome possibilities.
Summer lulls me, refreshes me, sharpens me up. It reminds me, by flashing past in a blur of sensation and colour, of the swiftness and fragility of life.
I’m not so glad when the days begin to cool and shrink, the leaves shrivel, and the creeping dormancy of winter returns. There is too little time. Summer has the best of it.