Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The New Leaf

You’ve already heard how hot it was on the Australian eastern seaboard this past New Year’s Day: 44º C (111.2ºF!) where we were on the New South Wales Central Coast. But while the rest of our trip was spent sweating, sticking to automobile upholstery and praying for a cool change, my New Year’s Day was spent inside my brother’s house, blinds drawn, central air-conditioning ON. The beach? they ask. No sirree, Bob, I’m happy right here, in the near-darkness, knitting for the first time in weeks.

My brother is a gadget man. And a bit of a handyman too. My sister-in-law is impeccably neat, and the combination of the two can best be described as akin to a marriage between Martha Stewart and Bob Vila. Without the frou frou. Or the old house. But whatever, their place is neat. Things work. And it is possible to spend a 44ºC day knitting, which is something that won’t ever happen in my house.

About lunchtime, my brother called from upstairs for Isaac to come see the beginning of a bushfire in the national park across the water. Within minutes, there was a huge plume of smoke. Within hours, six separate fires had joined to form a huge front, evacuations began and roads were closed. All day, I felt a kind of morbid nostalgia: this is the real Australia, I was thinking, the Australia of my childhood, where you played on the beach while hot ash rained down on the sand. That night, the sky glowed red.

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in a bushfire-prone area, and we were drilled strictly by my grandfather about what to do if we couldn’t evacuate in time: we were to wrap ourselves in wet blankets and lay on the floor of the carport. If we could evacuate, we were to sit in the river, something my grandparents did once, as the Ash Wednesday fire ripped through their town, sparing their house but taking many others in the process. More enjoyably, on bushfire days, I'd go to the Red Cross station with my grandmother and make sandwiches and coffee for the firefighters. I’m the kind of person who cries at newscasts of disasters and displacements, but I also feel the perverse thrill of anything out-of-the-ordinary, of people banding together against threat, of impending apocalypse.

Fortunately, it didn’t come.

Sydney in the new year is a little like Paris in August. Cloth was closed. Paper Couture was closed. Many interesting-looking shops and cafés were closed. But thanks to Di, Alison, Meg and Kylie, I got my fill of paper, fabric and notions, some of which will feature in upcoming posts. Best of all was the subtle change in perspective, the delicious feeling I have while away when my plans and ideas fly free, unshackled from my day-to-day reality. Yes, I will make all my own clothes. Yes, I will organize a big party. I will write a yarn review and install iView. I will find a wooden filing cabinet and file stuff in it. I will paint the other half of the back fence.

Why not? In my away-mode, it’s possible that all these things might happen this week.

Now I’m back of course, for two whole days, and I, um, returned some library books [what, someone else wants to borrow Flea Market Style?] I bought and assembled an outdoor table that, despite being made of steel, shows a worrying tendency to bend and wobble. [“Butter steel,” Isaac suggested.] I called the agent about the studio space, but the landlord is out of town. I’ve wondered idly how many thousand e-mails and phone messages will greet me when I return to work tomorrow, and how perhaps I should have left vacation messages indicating when I’d be back. I’ve marveled at how much our tomato plants have grown, and how they might make it nearly impossible to finish painting the half-done fence.

As long as I can remember, I've found returning from a trip almost always more exciting than arriving in an unknown place. I remember daydreaming in the backseat of my parents’ car about commandeering a section of their garden for an elaborate vegetable patch. I remember pondering a career in architecture when I grew up. I dream-designed an early eco-sustainable house, which featured a metal bathtub with a log-burning cavity underneath for heating the bath water. [Ouch!] Car trips home provided the perfect time and place for new year’s-type resolutions. The world rushing by, adults at the helm, dreaming of rearranging my room the minute we got home.

Welcome back!


Blogger Laura said...

your crisp insight into return rides slips gently through my own memories. now i'm eager even to just drive around the block because somehow even a momentary absence gives me a push towards new resolutions.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Di said...

As a very young child I had nightmares about the country town where we lived going up in flames, but I'm lucky to have never experienced a bush fire. The sky glowing red is so ominous.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely. Welcome home!

3:09 AM  
Blogger kylieps said...

I'm so glad (selfishly,) that you're back, because I just love reading your musings. I always have that same feeling of being clutter free while away and all my future projects seem eminently do-able. Thanks for reminding me. I need a quick trip somewhere.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought it was just me who got over excited at all the possibilities upon returning home. I went nuts cleaning on Sunday and Monday, and sprucing up things that should have been taken care of a year ago.

BTW, I was perusing the Swinburne and CAE short course catalogs this morning and seriously contemplating a Swinburne course called Female Patternmaking 1 or something like that. I can sew really well, but to be able to make your own clothes! Oh the excitement.

We must organise a craft date in the next month...

9:06 PM  
Blogger knitabulous said...

That post brought back very similar memories to me, of sitting in the surf shallows to cool down and having glowing ashen gumleaves landing all around us. And the unbelievably red sky.

Great post.

6:48 PM  

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