Chapter 1: Summer
The wind gushing from the ocean was warm and relentless as the beach stretched out in front of us without the respite of shade. As the sun blazed down, the sweat on my brow slid like a river down the side of my face and I lay, like a lizard on a rock, contemplating the cool ocean ahead and internally conversed about making a move.
As the flies buzzed overhead, drunkenly landing on the prime real estate that was my hot, sticky body the familiar chimes of an ice cream truck began to drift across the shore.
‘Dad?’ I said
‘Yeah, yeah, my wallet’s in the bag…get me a Sprite while you’re there.’
I began to sprint my way across the dunes, sinking down every few steps as my toes gripped my thongs so they wouldn’t become lost in the stinking hot sand below. I joined the queue behind six other customers until the heavenly face of the ice cream man beamed down from his lofty height.
‘A Sprite and a soft serve with sprinkles please’,
He winked his acknowledgment and turned his back. My heart skipped a beat as he leaned himself over and handed me my snowy white mountain of ice-cream goodness, entirely encrusted in a rainbow of sugar. I beamed my thanks and, cradling my stash, walked away.
As the sun beat its path, the rainbow sprinkles turned into multi-coloured rivulets avalanching their way over my fingers and into the crease of my elbow. I lapped feverishly to salvage what I could, too focused on the task in hand to notice the gaggle of voices calling out to me until a lady tapped me gently on the shoulder.
‘Dear, I don’t think you paid…’
I stared blankly at her before turning my attention to the ice cream man waiting patiently. I held onto dad’s Sprite in one hand and my fast-melting ice cream in the other. Dad’s wallet feeling as heavy in my pocket as my heart – the lady smiled kindly at me, turned to the ice cream truck and whispered softly: ‘I’ll pay for her.’
As I walked slowly back to my family, slurping that creamy puddle in a cone, I rubbed dad’s cool can of Sprite over my face and neck before handing it to him. And, after kicking off my thongs, skipped towards the waves to wash away the sticky sweetness of someone else’s kindness.
It’s the practicalities of summer that tie me to this annual concept of seasonal change. And as the weather shifts from winter to summer so begins my mental and physical metamorphosis.
I find that as the heavy layers of winter start to lift and I shed my cumbersome winter clothes the physical heaviness begins to dissipate, replaced by an elevating warmth.
As summer days get clearer and brighter, I do too. Summer allows me to see that the weight of a dark cloud can always be lifted by a stream of light, and it’s that light that can create optimists from even the most devoted of pessimists.
When I was a kid nothing said summer more than diving into a body of water. It didn’t matter the size or the location, sometimes it was an Olympic-sized swimming pool and other times our backyard pool, Warrandyte River or the ocean. I didn’t care, feeling the heat of summer simply meant finding somewhere cool and diving in.
I would use the contrast of the crisp water against my hot, tingling skin to cool the body and change my perception of the world around me. As my head disappeared under the surface I would spend as long as I could submerged, the lack of discernible sound changing my focus from the external to the internal. Voices would become nothing more than muffled music and I would tune in to my breath as it dissolved into bubbles.
As the whoosh of water moved through my hair and brushed against my swimmers, and my body cooled to its touch I would feel soothed and weightless. The spinning, tumbling and rolling allowing me to feel free. Gravity no longer held me back and with the water supporting me I could tune in and connect to my mind and my body. To me. Myself. And at once I would be grounded, yet with no ground beneath.
“My partner and I had been travelling Europe with our four-year old for almost three weeks and had recently landed in Paris, where we were spending a week before heading across to London. We’d talked about visiting the Pompidou Centre to explore the incredible galleries and discovered that on this particular day the artist JR was running a workshop for kids. Perfect timing.
Outside was warm, crowded and the Plaza in front of the Pompidou was packed with entertainers – including one who was covering people in huge, soapy bubbles. I decided to pay a quick visit to the Pompidou gift shop and when I came out, 10 minutes later, my four-year old was covered in bubbles and sticky detergent, my partner was flustered and then all hell broke loose…”