We’ve just had the first weekend of winter here, and it was a lovely one. Lunch at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed on Saturday, followed by a few hours picking up leaves in the garden. It was still warm enough in the late afternoon that I sat outside with a book and a cuppa to watch as the sun went down.
Sunday was a bit less lovely – heavy rain and a chill in the air – so we didn’t venture very far. The fire was lit by lunchtime, and DorkySon snuggled down into his beanbag while DorkyDad pottered around the kitchen making a big pot of chilli.
Me and winter are not natural friends. Thirty years in Scotland provided enough cold days to last a lifetime, so it’s always very grudgingly that I pack away the sandals and summer dresses. But Tassie does know how to do a winter well. Puff jackets and Ugg boots are now in regular use, the woollen blankets are back on the bed, and even I can’t help but feel charmed by the sight of snow on kunanyi.
As ever, autumn was spectacular. It’s the season of beautiful sunrises each morning, clear blue skies during the day, and shockingly dark evenings. It was so strange to peer out the window into the black at 5 or 5.30pm and realise that just a few months earlier that had been my half hour of running time – often close to 30 degrees, and the sun dazzling beneath the brim of my cap.
I’m still running, but barely. The oval across the road has re-opened after work to repair flood damage, and it has a new gravel track around the edge. On dry days, DorkySon and I stop there on the walk home from school. We alternate – one fast lap followed by two slow ones – with days off for swimming lessons and Saturdays.
It’s not much, but hopefully those few minutes of increased heart rate each day will be enough to keep our blood pumping and extremities warm over winter.
Blood. I had mine tested recently, and it revealed that my iron levels are horribly low. I’m now on a cocktail of pills and potions, trying to fine the elusive balance that keeps the ferritin figure rising without giving me stomach cramps. The dentist last week took extra time and an especially fine tool to polish the Floradix stains from my teeth.
Is this what it means, to be closer to forty than thirty? A diary full of tests and appointments, sheafs of paper scrawled with prescriptions and physician names?
I exchange messages with friends. We are all looking for the best acupuncturist, the strongest immunity supplement, the meditation app most likely to help with chronic pain. We watch our children at playdates and parties and reminisce – half jokingly – about what it was like to inhabit bodies that we were mostly unaware of.
At the same time, our children’s heads seem to be full of worries that were unimaginable when we were their age. DorkySon went to his first demonstration a few weeks back: a surfer-led paddle out against drilling in the Great Australian Bight. As we walked home along the beach he told us he’d found it inspirational. Seeing a mass of people who want to make the world a better place – and knowing that he can take practical steps towards that himself, through events like Sea Shepherd beach clean-ups – can only be a good thing.
But the day after the Australian federal election, when the mood in the house was already subdued, he looked me straight in the eye and asked if he would die early because of climate change.
Sometimes it is hard to balance the honesty required of a human being with the protection required of a parent. We had a long talk about privilege, acknowledging that he is sheltered from many of the changes that are already destroying people’s lives, but also acknowledging that we need to turn things around very quickly. We agreed that much of the science and technology is there, and what’s lacking is political willpower.
“It’s like Harry Potter,” he said. “When the Ministry of Magic act like everything’s normal and pretend that Voldemort isn’t back.”
It’s as good an analogy as I’ve heard, and I feel awful that we are putting so much pressure on our children to fix this mess. I hugged him, and went for a long cry in the garden.
DorkyDad and I have just marked a year in our new routine of working from home together. I’m planning a post for my work blog about how that’s going. (Spoiler: really well!)
I’m very grateful to be so busy. The current to-do list on the notepad beside my desk includes a proofreading project, three copywriting projects, finishing off a creative non-fiction essay, and submitting a grant application. It’s a good balance of head work and heart work, and even the projects that are purely professional are on topics that I care about.
I also feel lucky that even when we’re both very busy, working freelance gives us a lot of flexibility in how we organise our weeks. For now, DorkyDad has taken over the weekly swimming lesson, which is allowing me an extra couple of hours to work every Wednesday. Because we’re more able to share the housework and life admin during the week, it also means we can do more with our weekends instead of catching up on errands and chores.
We went to Mount Field National Park for the first time a few weeks ago: an absolutely beautiful drive up the Derwent Valley, and then some gorgeous walks through ancient forest and waterfalls before a picnic lunch. It’s still amazing to me that there is so much diversity of landscape and habitat all within easy reach.
On the Saturday after the election we went for lunch at the Fern Tree Tavern – gin and tonics, roast dinner, and sticky date pudding. It didn’t make everything feel better, but it definitely helped. That afternoon we went on our usual beach walk, and spotted a pod of dolphins off Blinking Billy Point. There was at least a dozen, and they were having great fun in the water: teasing a couple of kayakers, and playing in the wake of a larger yacht.
There are so many of those special, unexpected moments here, and it is those that keep us grounded. They remind us what is important and what is worth fighting for, but they also restore us when the fight feels too much.