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If our sky wasn't so dangerous it would be beautiful.

Summer in Goulburn, Australia: if our sky wasn’t so dangerous it would be beautiful.

The chooks are panting.  They’re holding out their wings as if they have sweaty armpits – this despite the fact the coop and run have for weeks been covered in an old tent fly.  Outside the coop and run the birdbath is a dried-up clay-pan.  The large wattle adjacent is yellow, not from flowering but its tiny stressed leaves.  The dirt, it’s sandy.  The clematis around the front of the house, planted at the end of spring and for much of the time since has been growing vigorously up the verandah post, is now limp, fading.  The two standard white roses beside the front gate look like miniature street-trees in autumn – they’re leafless.  Inside the house it’s dark, all the curtains and blinds closed even though it’s the middle of the day.  When eyes adjust, the cracks in the walls are obvious as the ground shifts and splits.  There’s no breeze coming through the hallways and rooms because the doors and windows are shut tight.  The skylight’s honeycomb covering is drawn across, making a cave out of the loungeroom.  The corrugated-iron roofing creaks like a ship keeling into the ocean (if only).  Sometimes the mad and maddening whirr of a trapped-in blowfly.  The fridge motor bravely trying to keep up.  The Old Lady of the House dragging herself from one place to another, head down and puffing.  The coolest place, she knows, is in the writing room, because its only window faces east – the room is protected from the worst of the afternoon.  There she finds a writer in grey gym shorts and white t-shirt.  Look at the blackened souls of his feet.  Beside him is the six-fin bar-heater, dusty, silent, switched off but plugged in.  The heater is waiting for cold rain.

What I was wearing when I wrote this First Word.  Potentially.

What I was wearing when I wrote this First Word. Potentially.

When it’s intense it howls, truly howls, as if it’s angry with me, or with this house, or with this town, or with this whole damn country.

Across the paddocks it comes and up over the ridge and, so it feels, rushes headlong down into my humble little yard, pushing the climbing rose into the windows, flattening the wattles, sending buckets flying.  The wind, it’s true, has decapitated fully grown shrubs.  When it’s properly bellowing, so much so that the dog takes herself off to the safe harbour of the en-suite, there’s nothing for me to do than hide under a blanket on the couch and get lost in a novel.

Goulburn is famous for its winds; this is why we’re surrounded by wind-turbines.  It’s good clean energy and it’s what we need if we’re going to be able to keep living on this planet.  But on the couch I don’t think about these pragmatic things, this frustratingly political situation.  I just let the wind rant and rave as I read.

Some days, when it’s literally blowing a gale, I put the book down and set my imagination free.  I could live in a lighthouse and my job would be nothing more complicated than getting the light going each night (perhaps a simple flick of a switch does it) and help keep boats and ships out of harm’s way.  I’d like to be that: a keeper of light – what a business card that would make.

But my imagination doesn’t stop there, not when there’s a novel close at hand.

As the wind batters me and my house around the ears, I could be on of those boats or ships, a sailor, a lone sailor exploring the seas and the oceans and be out there amongst it all.  Or I could be a sailor of the wind; I could run some kind of air-ship and discover worlds beyond my wildest dreams.  Oh I could be a pirate of the sky!  An eccentric, a madman, shouting and calling as I travel here and there on the thinnest of whims.  Yes, that would be me, riding the wind, sails full and powerful.

Until the calm comes, as it always does, and I’d sleep in the quiet, so quiet it would be.  And in this sleepy silence I’d know that I was living a good life, because it’d be one of almost unimaginable adventure.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 14 September 2013.)

And then there she was.

All week I’ve been marvelling at my happy, cheery little friend that has sprung up in a rather grim-looking black pot on the backstep.  Maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised, because I actually planted the thing – a geranium – over summer.  But still each morning, as I peg my bath towel on the Hill’s Hoist out the back, I look down and get a happy, cheery little vibe from my happy, cheery little friend in the grim-looking pot.  And pink isn’t even my favourite colour; actually I’m not a fan of the colour pink in the slightest.

But still, there she is, looking so happy and cheery.

Perhaps it’s because in the part of Australia where I live we’re coming to the tail-end of one of the hottest summers on record.  Or was it years? Or decades? I can’t recall – all this talk about the world falling apart weatherwise gets a bit mixed up after a while.

Or is it because, speaking of weather, no one seems to have the definitive answer on climate change – is it fact or fiction? – and what we should do about it – tax polluters or plant more trees?

Or maybe I’m cheered up by my happy, cheery little friend because she comes from my aunt’s place, a farm a couple of hours drive west of here, couriered to me by my brother as a cutting in a plastic shopping bag.

Or it might be because ten years ago some bastard poisoned parts of my front garden and all this time later I still can’t get things to grow there (one day I’ll talk about this, perhaps even here on this humble little blog-shaped contraption), so it’s just nice to see a happy, cheery little plant doing so well.

Or it might be because, unknown to me, I just need a little cheering up this week.  Could it be this?  It could be, you know.  Perhaps, perhaps.

What I do know for certain is that I’ve now taken a snap of my happy, cheery little friend and put her up here for all to see.

Isn’t she pretty?

To celebrate her fame I’ve just put on repeat on the stereo Beirut’s ‘The Gulag Orkestar’ (off the gorgeous 2006 album of the same name).  Not because it’s the cheeriest song in the world, in fact it sounds like a stack of men with banged-up brass instruments getting plastered on cheap vodka because their wives have run off with a herd of donkeys.  Or they just like getting drunk on cheap vodka.  Either way, Beirut’s music is music that makes me smile.

More to the point, I think my happy, cheery little friend is out on her back step right now swaying this way and that because she loves this music too.  Or she’s remembering what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam once wrote: ‘how poor is the language of happines!’  So she’s swaying this way and that.

Yes, how poor is the language of happiness.

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The past