A land without winter
They had started rebuilding Darwin by the time I was born. A big wind had blown all the walls down and thrown roofs across the countryside.
People had been building and living in homes that were not suited to the weather.
I guess, up until that time, we had just been constructing English buildings like we did everywhere else. Silly colonials, acting as if the environment around them was a mistake. Let's all wear our woolen suit to the 38 degree theatre...
Of course, we are the same today. That's why folks up here carry cardigans to their work places where the air-conditioning vents blow Winds Hobartian.
Air-con is our way of saying "I have a certain lifestyle to live(style) and that weather out there is not a part of the plan." The clothing stores up here display winter stock even though this is a land that has never known winter, because that's what the rest of the country sells at this time of the year. (When I asked him, the sales guy said the denim jacket with woolen trim is really handy if you're "heading south," meaning almost anywhere else in the country.)
It is as if we are living in spite of the place: I'm not here. This isn't happening. Close your eyes and think of Melbourne.
A friend once introduced me to the idea of blooming where you are planted. I like the idea, though I'd take it a step further. I am both gardener and garden, in that I planted myself here. I can water myself too, make sure I'm not in direct midday sunlight and meet other blissful bloomers.
But if I'm going to bloom here I need to know the soil, and there's a bunch of layers down there.
If Australia were Europe, I have migrated from the equivalent of southern Israel to Sweden. I wouldn't dare imagine I knew anything about Scandinavian dirt. I wouldn't have dared assume that I was packing the Middle Eastern weather in my suitcase for a journey such as that one.
But it's different in Australia though, right? Because the whole thing is called Australia? Because I sailed on a boat for a day, drove for a week and still was not There Yet?
Some people say Australia was once hundreds of nations. Some say it still is.
So, the wind toppled the city a few years before I was born. This means Darwin is a kind of peer to me. The city is young. It is as if the buildings are a youthful gang, without any boring sandstone grown-ups to tell them what to do. No elders anywhere to watch the architectural fashions come and go, nor to give any sense of the passage of time.
And here I am, an indoor plant in an air-conditioned room, gazing out the window at a country that has never known a winter.
In my heart, I left Tasmania one Sunday afternoon. That morning I'd had no intention of doing so and by sunset I had made up my mind. Sometimes that happens.
And now I am a sixth generation Tasmanian, living in the top of the Top End.
Why did I move? Like a meerkat, opportunity popped its head up and I gave chase, hoping those little guys don't bite.
I chased it in much the same way as my great-great-great grandfather, the Englishman John Townsend had seen an opportunity to work with a farming corporation on the other side of the world, signed up and got on the boat. I chased it in much the same way as my great-great-great grandmother Agnes Turley had seen her neighbours' house door ajar and Goldilocked her Glaswegian fingers all the way to the court house.
Neither of them belonged in Tasmania, but there they were anyway. I don't belong up here either.
Before my northern move, I didn't even own a pair of shorts. When I disembarked from that aeroplane, I shed the second skin that was my leather jacket and it has hung in my cupboard ever since. The humidity here has caused my guitar strings to rust and the ivory on my piano keys to come unglued. Delicate green fuzz started sprouting on the piano lid.
The mornings started out hot and got hotter as the day progressed, without any of the schizoid weather changes with which I'd become so familiar. The skies rumbled every day at almost exactly the same time before screaming rain onto gutterless tin rooftops . Lightning struck and snapped a tree in my back yard. Frogs were living in my air conditioner. I didn't know what any of this meant. I didn't belong.
Two weeks in and I had developed infections in my throat and ears, as if the weather had entered me and was rusting me from the inside, un-gluing and green-fuzzing me.
It is probably not surprising that when I started writing songs again, they were all about the weather, the water in everything, the fire in the sky and the twitchy, lizard green, living-ness of everything.
I had wanted to film a new song today, to complement these few written thoughts, but my camera has stopped working. Like everything up here, it has the weather inside it.