Thursday, 14 June 2007


To the northern mind, the southern hemisphere is confusing by its nature. North is still up and south down, but you turn your face north for warmth. Christmas is a season of heat, flies and light. The sun rises early on Christmas Day, beating even the children and the day ends late in steaming darkness. I have lain by the pool on New Year’s Eve, water evaporating off my skin as the darkness deepens. For us, Christmas carols go with candlelight and warm darkness not candlelight reflecting off icicles and songs puffed out on a visible breath. For migrants, even after forty years of this inversion, Christmas just seems wrong. For the native southerner, northern Christmases are beautiful, fanciful fairy tales abstracted from reality.

June and July are the seasons for short days and crisp nights. Thinking about weather, I had a jolt of recognition reading a poem by David Malouf. Nocturnal opens with the evocation of southern winter:

A June night. Frosty stars
whirr above paddocks, breathless
treadle machines
in the pale grass hemming
sheets for a ghost dance.

The Jaeckel family would have been as surprised by the weather in Queensland as many in the northern hemisphere. They would have stood outside in the middle of the year seeing the frosty stars whirring above paddocks and scrub whitened by frost and blazing in the moonlight. And it would have felt as wrong to them as cold Decembers feel to me. Can I catch this sense of dislocation in my writing?

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