Posted on December 8, 2017
“To get back up to the shining world from there
My guide and I went into that hidden tunnel,
And Following its path, we took no care
To rest, but climbed: he first, then I — so far,
through a round aperture I saw appear
Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears,
Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.”
― Dante Alighieri, from Inferno Canto XXXIV, Robert Pinsky translation (1995)
Christmas Day this year marks the end of my eighth year in Australia. I arrived on this continent on 25 December 2003, having flown straight through and missed Christmas Eve, due to the time variation between here and home. I spent that first hot summer’s day with my future husband, Robin. We took a walk in Westerfolds Park, and enjoyed a swim in the Yarra River, under the protection of tangy-smelling eucalpyts, and squadrons of screaming sulphur-crested cockatoos. Christmas lunch with Robin’s family included abundant fresh seafood – shellfish, salmon, and king prawns – a variety of salads, beautiful Australian wines, a selection of traditional cakes (plus a delightful Pavlova), dessert tarts, and hand-made chocolates. This was an all together different realm from my usual Northern Hemisphere holiday experience. Everyone was in short sleeves and there wasn’t a turkey in sight!
My husband, Robin, and I have been celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary over the past week. The highlight was his booking a few nights for us at a cottage by the Gippsland coast, near a place called Morgan’s Beach. We set off from Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon and reached our destination about three hours later: a rambling farmhouse, in the middle of a pasture, at the end of a dirt road. Perfect.
Side note: I noticed when we were leaving on Friday that there was an old axe leaning on the woodpile stacked at one end of the front porch. My husband had been coming and going from that pile of wood for three days, as the fireplace was our only source of heat. I realised he had left the axe outside throughout our stay. Can you imagine? It’s like he’s never fantasised about our being attacked by an axe murderer in the middle of the night in a remote country house. Clearly, he has seen far fewer horror movies than I have. I felt compelled to explain, just in case this comes up on future holidays, that we really should have brought it inside. To his credit, once I mentioned it, he grasped how it might be seductive to roving psycho killers in the area. Also, we reasoned that, if the axe were inside with us, then we would be armed and ready for the demented bastard. (Before you label me an hysteric, remember that Australia is notorious for its serial killers).
But I digress …