It was 35 degrees in Sydney today. Celsius. That’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In October. We have just gone into Spring. Usually we don’t experience temperatures like this until at least the first few weeks in December when summer starts.
On the news this morning the weatherman said there was a westerly wind blowing in from central Australia, from Uluru. It was a fierce wind, the type of wind that can make you faint or so het up you would dive into a public swimming pool fully clothed.
I saw a film once about a light house keeper. There was a storm at sea and the wind and rain were thrashing about the lighthouse, encircling it like a predator. As people are wont to do in such movies, the keeper put himself at risk and opened the door. The wind rushed in with the speed of a bullet, flickering into every corner of the room, spiralling and whirling until the man was knocked backwards.
That’s what it was like today when I opened the door to the garden. The heat thrust itself forward like a punch. If I had held up my hand I’m sure I could have caught a hot ball of wind. As little as half a second of its touch would have singed my palm.
There is an elderly man named Vic who lives in my street. He has a blue heeler dog named, Davo, who appears to be just as old as him. They walk up and down the street on spindly legs saying ‘G’Day’ to everyone they meet.
It was Vic who told me that in the 1940s my house was painted a fetching shade of blue and was called My Blue Heaven. People always paused to look, revelling in the cheery colour.
Vic knows a lot of interesting things about local history. He thinks the area has changed, but not for the better.
Too many people ripping out their gardens to put in imported terracotta tiles. Too many people poisoning trees to improve their views. Too many cars, SUVs grinding up the streets. Too much plastic clogging the waterways.
His environmental bent surprises me.
‘It’s hotter than it used to be,’ he says. ‘The sun burns more easily. That’s man made climate change, that is. The politicians spend too much time arguing about whose fault it is and not enough time doing anything. Soon the heat will turn the faint-hearted to cinders.’ I fear he is right.
The rain has come. The lightning. It illuminates the sky in bands.
I play the game I used to play as a kid where I sit by the window and wait for the lightning to shock the sky searching for a glimpse of the shape of heaven.
The shapes are strange, contorted, like a landscape by Dali or Munch. I imagine hands reaching out from the blackened clouds, pushed back by the lines of electricity.
The thunder rips through the branches of the jacaranda in the garden which is just beginning to bloom. Tiny lavender petals stain the ground like confetti. The wind beats against the windows like fists are banging on the glass. I become convinced there is someone outside and search with the jaunty red torch that I keep for emergencies but there is nothing but the silhouettes of storm clouds on the grass.
The cool rises, more slowly than the heat did as if weary, reluctant, fearful of traps being laid. I open all the windows to the night and let the cold seep in. There is a gasp as the house relaxes, taut all day against the unrelenting sunlight.
The cool touches everything, walking through the house in stockinged feet, soothing our brows and our limbs so we can settle to sleep.