It was cold. Freezing actually. Regardless of the number of layers I wore the wind would still tear through me and ice my bones. My nose would go cold and drip relentlessly. My ears ached as my tiny hearing bones reacted to the cold. I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. As an asthmatic, I found it difficult to breathe. The cold, dry air was so difficult to inhale it was like trying to breathe in while someone sat on my chest. My exhalation fogged out in front of me and my dad said I was breathing ‘dragon breath’. Even in autumn, the pipes in the school would freeze and we’d stand at the bubblers marvelling at the ice that was supposed to be water for us to drink. I would stay with my grandmother often. Her quaint low-set house with its soft greens and apricots. It greeted me with the same comforting smell every time and I felt at home. The plum tree out the back made me want to climb, despite its rough exterior and little black inhabitants. During the day I’d call for my grandparents after climbing too high and finding myself stuck. During the night my grandma would sneak into my room and wake me up, rug me into my dressing gown and slippers and take me out to see the families of possums living in my tree. Their big eyes would stare, so round, in the torchlight.
In the afternoons we would take the dog for a walk and seek out a park. The trees were bare most of the time. Tall sticks reaching up into the grey sky on an overcast day. On sunny days it was still cold and dry, but the sky was a beautiful blue with no clouds. Finally we would reach the pathway adjacent to Grandma’s street. It always had a big pile of autumn leaves. Browns, yellows, oranges, reds. All the colours of autumn in a pile just for me to jump in.
As I grew up, I realised that Canberra is the city of seasons. Despite what I would call incessant cold and dry weather for most of the year, the seasons were marked by the first of the month. In autumn, the leaves would crackle and dry on the path, perfect for painted leaf prints. In winter, the fires would be lit and we’d wish for spring, which was full of flagrant flowers, Floriade and sunshine. In summer, the heat was like walking into an oven that would dry the grass until it crackled underfoot. In spite of leaving Canberra and moving up north, it will always be fondly remembered as the place I grew up.
Picture courtesy Outback Encounter