We are coming towards the end of our fourth Tasmanian winter.
I don’t want to tempt the weather gods. Perhaps just by writing this I’ll prompt a flurry of sea level snowfall, but so far it has been the easiest winter we’ve spent here. Chilly, for sure, but mostly dry with bright blue skies and beautiful sunshine.
We have learned from experience and accepted the limits of this old brick house to keep out the cold. We’ve stopped being mean with the firewood, and instead light the stove almost every day. Before he goes to bed each night, DorkySon has taken to placing his cheek on the wall upstairs where the chimney warms it. He smiles at me.
“Good old fire,” he says.
Last week, DorkySon requested his first pair of Ugg boots, which are only slightly smaller than mine. But, like all the kids here, he still refuses to wear a fleece and shoves it deep into his schoolbag instead. He tells me that ‘pros’ don’t feel the cold.
I do though. I spend my days in woolly jumpers that have been sent from Scotland. Nights too: I counted the other evening and realised I had four layers of clothes on my body, plus three more layers on the bed. The duvet – or doona, as it is here – is really not enough.
In June and July, we did the festivals.
DARK MOFO came first, and we went to a wonderful night of Aboriginal country music. We ventured into DARK PARK with DorkySon, and he liked the lasers and the lights and the pulled pork sandwiches… until he didn’t. Much like me, he has a set limit for noise and people, and when it’s breached he needs to leave immediately.
The Huon Valley Midwinter Festival is more our scene. Hay bales to sit on, highland cows to greet on the way in, and marshmallows on sticks to toast over the fire. DorkySon had sold some toys the week before, and headed straight for the Sea Shepherd Tasmania stall so he could donate his takings. DorkyDad won the Storytelling Cup: a beautiful piece carved out of Huon pine, which now sits in our kitchen. I just wrapped my hands around an enamel mug of warm cider, watched them both and laughed.
Sometime in the middle of it all, DorkyDad had a work trip to Asia. He took fuzzy phone photos from the top of skyscrapers in Hong Kong and Shanghai, sent countless text messages about 35-degree heat and 80% humidity. So strange to receive them as I sat and shivered in my home office, watching the Bridgewater Jerry swirl its way down the river.
It is August now. A funny month, because the end of winter is in sight. The evenings are lighter, the garden is full of buds and birdsong. But it is still time for tucking in. Still the season for early nights with tea and books.
We are doing our usual forty days dry in the run-up to DorkyDad’s birthday: a reluctant attempt to get ourselves wetsuit-ready in preparation for summer swims. But mostly we have accepted that winter bodies are a necessity here. Stews and soups, dark chocolate and cheese, apple pie and homemade lasagna – anything for another layer of insulation. DorkyDad still gets up and treks across the oval to the gym a couple of times a week, but my exercise regime is in pieces. Summer is for running, I reckon, and winter is more for hibernation.
We are all just ticking along then: clearing out cupboards, working on tax returns, preparing for a new school in a few months. Mostly we cook, and we read, and we stack wood. We stand by the fire to warm ourselves, and patiently wait for spring.
Two invitations for you!
The first is to visit my new website – ruthdawkins.net – where I set out some of the writing services I’m currently offering. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me.
The second is to read my recent post on The Lifted Brow – More than MOFO: A Guide to Tasmania’s Thriving Regional Art Centres – which tells you a little more about the festivals mentioned in this post, but also explores some of the other work that’s happening in Tasmania’s vibrant, innovative cultural scene.