Saturday, May 23, 2009

resting, not stuck

In Finland where I grew up, changes in natural seasons were always distinctive. Each year was a cycle of familiar parts with their own rituals, from light filled milky green summers, mosquitos and pine trees, to closed, silent, dark winters with air so cold it sometimes hurt to breathe (but only for a while). In between them the strong, ancient springs and autumns; like sharp cuts of a blade that draw blood, uncompromising contrast in their light and shadow, times strictly about being born and needing to die.

I think each Finn carries these natural cycles in some personal way, our song lyrics, poetry, literature, visual art and every day expression all repeat the collective experience of moving through a year in a certain way. Weather equals our emotional landscape. There is no house, unit, tent or a temporary hut without a thermometer outside the kitchen window. Most of us, regardless of whether we live in a village or in a city, also list "walking in a forest" as a serious, favourite hobby. We all own gum boots. This says something.

15 years in Perth, Western Australia, were about sunlight that can blind and burn, and sudden arrivals of major seasonal periods. In a few days' time, often, it was suddenly another universe. The dry heat of our long summers there, our warm, sand covered salty skins after long afternoons, the eternally blue skies (sometimes I called this the "dull sense of happiness", it could feel like irony at times of sadness, or oppressive, day after day stuck between the ocean and the desert), switching within a week to the damp, green winters that smelled like wood smoke.

As much as I've now realised I grew to deeply love that climate and place, there always was a sense of being a strange animal in a new territory, not able to cling to patterns, familiar plants, trees, scents, predictable changes. A tangible sense of having left one's home. And maybe it was that I never tried hard enough to study the small, new details that help our roots grow and bind us to our new land, as I always thought I would not stay. (It must have been a self-numbing belief that we in WA lacked seasons, and a sign of some kind of "urban alienation"; The Noongar, Indigenous people of South-West Australia, name and recognise SIX definitive times during the year. [see below])

Here in Melbourne, two and a half years of trying to settle, I've caught a glimpse of that seasonal feeling of my childhood again. We have trees with leaves that change colour and fall away, we have dramatic cloudy skies in a constant change, we have warm coloured, tad melancholy autumn light with powdery, dusty air like on Friday afternoon; the last fling of May before giving it up to June, the first month of winter. I sat outside our uni building and enjoyed how the Melbourne blacks (the coats, the minis, the stockings, the hats) looked deeper than ever in that light.

And I wonder if this somehow affects me by bringing up old things of my country left behind -- autumns were always a time of noted change from lightness into deeper waters, and often about a feeling of restlessness, that something is brewing just under the surface, but it's impossible to know what. Sometimes I wondered if this was an age old sense, body strong and independent of our conscious will, of wanting to conceive, just before the darkest time of the year, so that new life would emerge in the beginning of the warmest and most fruitful period. I don't know, but it is the kind of feeling that keeps you awake at night, in a goodbad way, and you wake up exhausted in the morning from a pure strength of emotion. Im there right now.

So, come cool winter after all this, I sometimes long to be resting -- not stuck, not frozen, but resting, and reflecting. I think that soon, I need to curl under the dark soil with mute roots of plants and trees for a while to gain a sense of belonging, and self. Perhaps I need to find a home that is not bound to a place.


PS. 1
A beautiful blog by a Finnish friend, about the seasonal changes in nature, by pictures of her & her family's personal environment:

PS 2.
"The Noongar ... have a close connection with the earth and, as a consequence, they divided the year into six distinct seasons that corresponded with moving to different habitats and feeding patterns based on seasonal foods … :

  • Birak (December/January)—Dry and hot. Noongar burned sections of scrubland to force animals into the open for easier hunting.
  • Bunuru (February/March)—Hottest part of the year, with sparse rainfall throughout. Noongar moved to estuaries for fishing.
  • Djeran (April/May)—Cooler weather begins. Fishing continued and bulbs and seeds were collected for food.
  • Makuru (June/July)—Cold fronts that have until now brushed the lower south-west coast begin to cross further north. This is usually the wettest part of the year. Noongar moved inland to hunt, once rains had replenished inland water resources.
  • Djilba (August/September)—Often the coldest part of the year, with clear, cold nights and days, or warmer, rainy and windy periods. As the nights begin to warm up there are more clear, sunny days. Roots were collected and emus, possums and kangaroo were hunted.
  • Kambarang (October/November)—A definite warming trend is accompanied by longer dry periods and fewer cold fronts crossing the coast. The height of the wildflower season. Noongar moved towards the coast where frogs, tortoises and freshwater crayfish were caught."