During these parched, fierce days, I’m up long before the dawn. It’s during the pre-dawn that I feel the luxury of hours. The stretch of possibility, before the torpor sets in. Held inside that pocket of cool betweenness, just as the night creatures are shuffling sleepily home.
This is the time before the bellowing of the kookaburras in the tree-tops outside my window. Long before the desolate funereal cries of the currawongs, who arrive in the heat of late-morning, seeking water. I often wonder if Poe would have written of ravens at all had he heard the far more haunting cry of raven’s distant cousin, currawong.
Around 5am, I slip out of bed, being careful not to step on any roving night-spiders, and make my way to my tiny kitchen. I brew my habitual pot of spiced chai, and sit in the old armchair on my balcony, waiting for the furious sun to bully his way over the horizon. My heart always sinks a little as he rises, pushing his sharp prongs of light through the canopy of trees that shield my little house. I feel myself shrinking as he rises. On days such as this, his is an arrogance of heat. There is little that lies between him and my skin. The lightest of layers. I’m driven inside, to grow only paler.
In six weeks, there’s been little more than two days of decent rain. The water tank is running dry. The Chook Ladies crouch in the shade, listless, like all the other creatures. I fret about them. The garden looks ragged and down at heel. The hydrangeas have had their big, blue faces beaten. They hang with their heads down. The petals of the lilies are badly scorched, and the gingko tree lost many of its leaves during a recent assault of 41 degrees (celsius).
My love of roses and herbs makes sense to me now. They are tough. The delicate beauty of the rose belies its toughness. It’s only the roses that have the courage to bloom in my garden now. They look absurdly fragile, but remain unfazed in the merciless heat. I pick one or two for my desk to remind me of the value of endurance, and courage.
The wooden house creaks in the heat. We eat watermelon, and there is the aroma of nag champa, mixed with the heady scent of yet another batch of homemade pesto. The sounds of the Moon-girl’s saxophone drifts through the rooms, as she adds yet another instrument to her repertoire this year. The dog plays dead at the bottom of the stairs, sighing gruffly from time to time. Too hot to move, she never opens her eyes, but simply wags her tail furiously whenever we approach.
I shuffle the cards, trying to sort my thoughts, which are mostly hot and grumpy. I draw the Six of Vessels, and am soothed by the cool imagery, but little else comes to mind. It’s too hot to think.
During these ghosted days, I’m visited by a host of characters. They come and sit with me as I attempt to work on other things. So I’ve given them a brand new notebook, festooned with flowers, in order that they can write themselves in there. I make promises to not forget them, and the witchetty mountain story that follows me about. Such promises feel big, and extravagant somehow.