It's been slightly disorienting leaving behind the ritual of putting on thermals, donning gloves and scarves and hats, throwing in extra mittens for Lil, making soup, drinking hot chocolate (bemoaning the lack of loose leaf tea), to now find myself waking at 4am to the smell of smoke in the air from distant bushfires. All day today Melbourne was in that strange haze the presages bad news on the radio of houses burned and lives threatened. I turned 12 on Ash Wednesday in 1983 when the smoke and dust turned the sky dark in the middle of the day.
We went to friends for dinner last Saturday. It was still 39 at 6.30 as we walked down Hoddle Street to their house. I took whipped cream and fruit in a cold bag for the pav I'd made so it didn't melt off on the way. We sat outside in the airless evening sweating and intermittently spraying each other with the mist pump. Our own mist pump smells vaguely of garlic from a long ago anti-cabbage moth concoction we'd used on the broccoli, when we still tried to grow broccoli. By the time we left the girls were fractious with exhaustion but the hot night didn't abate and sleep was elusive.
The girls have slipped back into their roles as gatherers of 'fairies', makers of tea parties, mixers of potions and wreakers of havoc. I've been trying to get the house in order, or, more accurately, establish a new order for the house. Sorting out cupboards, filing art work and putting a decade or more of photographs (old fashioned photos printed from film!) into albums. It's been rather lovely revisiting those years, seeing myself pregnant (again and again and again), holding newborns who somehow look exactly like the people they have become, falling in love with these adorable, chubby cheeked, cheeky eyed, worried browed, newly toothed then newly toothless, growing girls of mine.
Last week I ventured back to work. I'm trying to maintain a professional distance, trying to keep work as just one of the many things in my life. It's easy at the moment but I know this will be a challenge. A colleague wisely said to me today to make all my life changing decisions now, before the perspective granted by my long holiday vanishes. Quickly, he urged, it'll be gone next week. It's something I've always prided myself on, my ability to switch off, establish boundaries, stay detached, but this past year really tested me. I have to remind myself sometimes that, even in the concrete jungle, the sky is still blue when you look up.