Tag Archives: weather

Living with the Beast

Western Australian summer is a beast. For months it slumbers, its great curved back a docile silhouette against the greys and greens and bobbing florals. Then it awakens and scrapes its claws across the land in a blaze of heat.

  • The water in garden hoses scalds and the cold tap in the shower runs warm.
  • Lawns crunch and prickle bare feet.
  • Thick metal necklaces become burning collars. Steering wheels and doorhandles and car seats scorch hands and thighs.
  • Pedestrians at traffic lights shelter beneath buildings, metres from the kerb, waiting to cross.
  • Paddocks stretch into the distance: rolling, fuzzed and tawny; rustling with bleached crop stubble; closely-capped in the pitch black of char or flat, bare and crazed with cracks. And, above them, the deep, rich sky.
  • Urban buildings glitter and oncoming vehicles are globs of eye-watering golden light.
  • The only clouds are the tiny tufts of cumulus stirred up at the ocean’s edge by the reach and retreat of the waves. People come in their hordes for the cleansing and lightening peculiar to swimming in the ocean.
  • The air is an invisible wall, high and hard and hot. It batters and stings…and waits for a spark.
  • Fire alerts on the radio warn residents who have remained to fight for their suburban homes not to venture out because the heat will kill them before they even see the twenty-metre flames.

sheep at dawn

But sometimes the beast slinks into its cave and only its switching tail shows that it breathes yet and will strike again.

  • The Fremantle and Albany doctors drift across the land signalling the end of the working day. People dare a drink of red instead of cooling white and know that tonight they will turn off the fan and pull up the bedsheet.
  • A storm’s first drops spatter and the world smells of dust.
  • The earth is made nubile by the honeyed light of evening.

Australian shed and tree

Australia, evening light

Eventually, the beast curls up again, a monument to the season. We used to think it immovable, impervious to us, but now our proddings rouse it earlier. It stalks for longer. And we have become its prey.

Australia, evening light

The Unlikely but Well-deserved Journey of the Gumboot

They said it would rain all day. It did. They called it a storm but I called it ‘set-in rain’ of the kind that occurred during my Western Australian childhood and which doesn’t any more. It was persistent and of varying intensity.

Well before the end of the first block from my Berkeley (California) hotel, the sole of my right shoe had sprung a leak. My toes were damp by the second.  I classed the sock as ‘wet’ by the end of the fourth and I could feel the water flowing over the top of my foot with each step along the sixth. In shops, I wasn’t sure whether to stand on the wood and create a slipping hazard as water leaked out or stand on the carpet and create a future mould spot. Continue reading

This Air, The Rain

This day, the German summer air is laden with visible moisture – not mist – enough to blur and blue the forest trees skirting the narrow field beside which I sit. Australian air is intense, like eyes piercing secrets.
I had not known there was other air. Continue reading