We are nearing the end of January, well past the midpoint of summer. It has been a subdued one, really. Cool and damp and much quieter than usual. There have been a couple of days when the temperature has tipped into the thirties; on those afternoons we have sat out in the Adirondack chairs, letting the warmth penetrate deep into our bones. But not once have we hit the switch that turns winter’s heat pump into summer’s aircon. Nor have we removed the woollen blanket from our bed, or had a day when we have braved the water at Long Beach.
In conversation, we all agree that it is better than last year, when fires raged on the big island, and better too than the year before, when our own small island was ablaze, the Huon community choking on smoke.
The other thing we all agree on is how lucky we are. How close life is to normal. No international travel, of course, but here in Tassie we have been in bars and restaurants, museums and shops, kart tracks and cafes. A little wary still. Perhaps we keep our distance just a little more than usual when we are in the city and see someone step off the Skybus, airline tags still flapping on their luggage.
Mostly though, it is normal, and we are grateful every day to be here. We watch from afar and wish we could do more to help as friends elsewhere work their way through a third lockdown – working and learning from home, limiting their walks, missing touch and hugs and easy conversation over coffee.
That is not to say there has been no tension. Once the festivities of Christmas and New Year were over – the tree taken back out to the farm for mulching, the champagne corks cleared, the Lego sets built – there was little to distract us from the looming news of DorkyDad’s scan results. It was a long few weeks.
As so many of you have read though, in DorkyDad’s beautiful post last week, the news was good. The scans came back clear. The cancer – I can hardly believe I am typing this – is gone.
Back in July, on the day he received the diagnosis, I started a new Word doc on my computer with the name ‘We did it.’
Every day since then, when I’ve fired up my Mac to work, to check emails, to upload photos, that document has been the first thing I’ve seen. It was a place to keep notes through the months that followed, with a view to one day, maybe, being able to share a success story. It is the closest I have ever come to manifesting a positive outcome.
At the same time, I don’t think we ever let ourselves believe that such an outcome was possible. That the treatment would actually work. Almost two weeks on, we are still looking at each other on a daily basis, asking each other ‘Can you believe it? How did that happen? Are you sure this is real?’
We feel a little of the weight drop every day – a little more tension released from tight shoulders and anxious chests – but there is a way to go before it fully, completely sinks in.
A couple of days after we received the good news, we headed south and caught the ferry to Bruny Island for the day. There is nothing like big skies and salt water to provide some perspective. We climbed The Neck for the first time, the calm waters of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to the west, the great breakers of the Tasman Sea to the east. We stopped for oysters and champagne, for a kilo of black devil cherries to bring home and preserve in brandy and cinnamon and obscene amounts of sugar. We saw a seal, a sea eagle, two echidnas snuffling for ants by the road. There may be no international flights for a while, but we have no shortage of special places right on our doorstep.
Next week DorkySon heads back to school – his final year of primary. Even he has been tucked in this summer. A couple of quick catch ups with friends, but not his usual whirlwind of playdates and parties. He has been patient on the days when DorkyDad and I have had to work, pleased on the days when we have stepped away from the desk for a game of Catan or a beach walk.
Summer is normally my time for running, but I have never quite got going this year. Instead, we have been doing daily bike rides, which are so much more fun. Nothing like feeling fifteen again as you stand on the pedals and feel the breeze on your face. DorkySon also bought me a yoga mat for Christmas, and what a game changer that has been. No more sliding on the carpet as I coax my heels to the ground in downward facing dog.
I sat down to do Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year workbook in early January, and for the first time ever found myself stumped. I could come up with no ambitions, no grand plans. This year does not feel like the year when the book that I hope is in me is going to become a reality. Perhaps 2020 taught us all that life planning is of limited value – that there is no way to know what might be thrown in our direction – or perhaps my inability to think big thoughts was just an indication that our family is tired; that our gas tanks are emptier than we really realise.
The one thing I could come up with was a word for the year – a guiding word to help me make the best decisions.
I have gone with BALANCE. Written it in bold capitals on a post-it note, and stuck it on my computer monitor. A suggestion to leave space for writing that satisfies the heart as well as the head. A reminder to step away from the desk sometimes for a board game, a lap of the oval, half an hour with the Lego trains. And a focal point when I am trying to maintain my imperfect tree pose – big deep breaths in, and a long breath out.