Summer is associated with a sprawling somnolence here in sub-tropical Australia. The sweltering heat and sultry humidity slow the body and mind. The air is so moist that it has weight and resistance – it’s hard work to slice through it as you move about. Summer is also the time of our long annual holidays with festivities and families. The season offers permission for slothfulness; we can swim and laze about, read and dream, eat left-overs and watch re-runs.
I haven’t written anything for a month. I’ve been on holidays and about to go back to work. I am attempting to gather my thoughts into coherent sentences, to coax my body back into movement and to resist the siren call of the after lunch siesta.
For me, summer holidays are associated with the beach. I share childhood memories with millions of fellow Australians of summers spent in the water and on the sand. We stayed out most of the day, driven home only by hunger and furry wrinkled skin. Sometimes we drifted on our backs, the sky pressing down on our bodies; other times it was the force of the water that picked us up and dumped us in the shallows. We lost several layers from our noses – these were the days before skin cancer awareness campaigns were launched. The memories of childhood are etched into my surgery scarred face.
My memories of summer holidays are primarily sensory and my experiences of summer still evoke some of the timelessness of childhood. The light is so intense it hurts my eyes. These days I hide from its bright white heat behind sunglasses, but the intensity always strikes me as I arrive back in Australia from a trip elsewhere. On a cloudless day, the wide horizon draws the eyes and the mind into the distance where the blue of sky and sea blend. Not being an artist I can’t adequately describe their colour – bluer than turquoise, greener than cobalt, deeper than azure, sharper than sapphire.
The smells of salt, seaweed and sun cream persist, mixed with barbequed onions and the slightly pungent sweet smell of rotting vegetation. Some sounds are gentle – the persistent splash of waves breaking one upon the other – the sound so soothing it’s been marketed in sleep machines. Other sounds overwhelm – the clamour of cicadas at dusk, so loud as they rise together into a cacophony of sound that conversation is limited.
The days flow into one another – sometimes punctuated by the drama of an afternoon thunder storm when the light becomes an eerie green and forks of lightening punctuate the sound of driving torrents of rain. Storm birds, Koels, sombre black birds with sharp red eyes, warn of the impending storm with their wail. Frogs broadcast their delight in the aftermath.
At such times, the weather of the day and the rhythm of the season, break through to conscious awareness in a way that is lost in the everyday working world, when I’m closeted inside an air conditioned office. I’m hoping an awareness of such rhythms will be one of the joys of the post work world of retirement. Meanwhile I’m savouring the endless summer, lazy days, hazy ways, summer daze.