Tag Archives: outside

Rain fall from concrete coloured skies

We left hospital in a taxi. My husband held our newborn daughter. As we drove I noticed the trees and hedges on the roadside were out in newly unfurled leaf. I commented and the taxi driver asked if I’d been in hospital long.

 A lifetime.

The seasons here are dominated by the light, by the duration of the day. Winter is dark and grey. You leave the house in the dark. You come home in the dark. Even when the sun is out, it sits so low on the sky it has no warmth. Most of winter the cloud is thick and solid grey. The world can seem strangely uniform, especially when it snows, grey-white cloud above grey-white earth, only the vertical sides of buildings to add perspective and colour.

I know there is no truth to it but winters seem to last forever, an eternity of gloom. If you know where to look you can see an orb of light locked behind the cloud. Have faith, it tells you, the sun is still there. Slowly you notice the days are getting longer. Until suddenly they lengthen in leaps of bounds, gaining hours of daylight in only a single week.

regnbueAfter the long gestational winter I missed last spring. Too sore and huge to go out much in the last few weeks of pregnancy. And then too sick and tired at home. My husband took our son for long walks while I huddled at home, feeding on the couch. It was summer before I noticed. I had worried that the long, long days would interfere with my ability to go back to sleep after night feeds. I needn’t have worried. I was too exhausted to notice.

The days get shorter as quickly as they get long. The closer to the poles you are the longer sunrise and sunsets last. I remember last autumn as being full of coloured skies, lighting us in that beautiful golden sunset glow. Green and gold faded. Frost began to nip the air. It became hard to get out. Hard to get to the shops to buy the snowsuits, the hats, the mittens for two growing children. I bought it all at the last minute as winter settled in and I could avoid the shopping no longer.

In Canberra where our son was born I would take him for walks to fill up our days. In winter the nights drop below zero, but temperatures can rise 20 degrees or so during the day; perfectly pleasant for an afternoon walk. In summer I would go for a walk first thing in the morning, before the heat would drive us inside for the rest of the day. At first he would just sit in his pram. Then the walks got shorter, but took longer as he began to toddle. We lived near some wetlands, so there was always something to see, ducks on the pond or cockatoos and galahs in the eucalyptus. Rocks on the shore to pick up and examine. Ants marching across the pavement. ‘Outside’ was one of his first and favourite words.

The sky was always blue. All except for the storms. When it rains it pours, and the wetlands flooded. Thunder and lightning filled the sky. Maybe it is a trick of memory, but the storms never seem to last long. The rain washed itself away. Living a world clean and soaked and glistening as the sun returned.

Last winter it was hard to find the energy to get out. Hard to spend any length of time in the great outdoors. My daughter and I would venture out for the necessary trips: daycare for her older brother, shopping if I needed too. Otherwise it was easiest to stay in the artificially lit indoors. The walls of our house providing us with warmth and safety. We were insulated; isolated.

Slowly, imperceptibly the days got longer. The light grew brighter. The sun rose on the horizon; lateral light that shines directly into your eyes.

First the crocuses popped up through the soil.

They’ve been replaced with bluebells, and the daffodils are beginning to flower.

My daughter’s eyes are opening to the world around her. She looks past her mother, father and brother. She goes to the glass back door. Presses her face and hands against it. Her eyes ask the question she does not have words for. The door opens and as she pads out, fresh air gusts in.

I don’t spend so long on the couch now. We breastfeed just once a day, in the evening. The other night she was tired, sick and hungry. So we just sat, we two, and it felt bittersweet knowing that this, at times resented, part of my life is about to draw to a close. She fed herself to sleep. And lay in my arms much as she did as a newborn, soft and fat and milky.

I carried her into her bedroom. I kissed her cheek and lay down my baby. Her eyes flicked open and I thought she would wake. But she only stretched, rolled over and fell back asleep. A little girl sleeping in her cot.

Every day with a small child is liminal. You are always on the cusp of change.

Soon the trees will be green again.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Aarhus’s old town in nestled against an industrial harbour. Although some housing is beginning to be built there, it isn’t exactly a ‘seaside’ as I would think of it. Further afield are some lovely beaches. One of which, Risskov, I have visited briefly. A Dane told my parents that she had thought Aarhus was hilly, until she moved to Wellington. I realised after I arrived I had misinterpreted that. Denmark is very flat. Aarhus undulates gently. Not really steep, but steep enough you notice pushing a pram uphill. I’m pleased, after flat, inland Canberra, to find myself living in this topography. My son has not spent enough time in Wellington. Walking through the park he exclaimed ‘big hill’. Not exactly sweetie, but the locals might agree.

We live near the Botanical Gardens; it is a lovely park, but I’m not sure where the garden part kicks in. They are constructing a tropical dome there. From the outside it looks like it will be well worth visiting once it finally opens. One of the lovely things about Aarhus is that there are little parks and playgrounds everywhere. Even the playgrounds at daycare centres are open to the public after-hours. There are also paths between the villages and city centre for both cycles and pedestrian. It is a great way to get into town and to enjoy watching birds, and picking flowers.

The reality is that Aarhus is a surprisingly ugly city. My husband put it best when he said ‘it was pretty ugly for somewhere that wasn’t destroyed in WWII’. Buildings in the old town are mostly brick, and about 5 floors high. Sometimes you get a change from the brick, like around where we live, with concrete instead. Despite the undulating street level, the buildings are tall enough that sea views are rare. If it wasn’t for the sea gulls, and the icy blasts of wind, you wouldn’t know it was there.

I suspect our view is partly our cultural upbringing. After spending so much of my life overseas, I find the arrival into Wellington, with the view of villas perched on hillsides, especially beautiful. Much of the rest of the world has a uniformity in their housing stock that I find vaguely depressing, be it terraced housing in the UK or apartment blocks here. I found the new build suburbs of Canberra creepy, in a dystopic-Stepford-housewife kind of way. Hopefully I’ll get a bit used to it and it won’t bother me so much. Until then, I’ll just have to keep hunting out the bits I do like.