Today is the first day of winter. The sky is grey and low, here, on the mountain. We are expecting rain. Soon, I will gather sticks for kindling and chop firewood into smaller rods, ready for building fires over the coming week when it may be unpleasant to step outside and chop in the wet … should the rain come.
We’ve been waiting for rain for weeks. The usually rich garden soil has turned to sunbaked dirt; the greens are vulnerable to pests, their leaves holey and ragged. Last week we drove down the mountain and I was surprised by the brown grasses in the valleys: thirsty paddocks and dry scrub, certain to burn should a careless driver flick a stub out the window.
I remember a time, perhaps fifteen years ago, we’d not seen rain for months. It was when I lived in the city and the relentless humidity had been tormenting us all summer long with no relief. The farmers were in dire straits and all of us lived with water restrictions – two minute showers and no unnecessary flushing. Then, late one afternoon, charcoal nimbus clouds swirled overhead and finally, finally it poured. People whooped and cheered, and ran through the rain to catch their bus home, elated by the sudden storm.
This dry spell doesn’t feel the same. No humidity to speak of. Rather, there’s been sunshine for weeks and brilliant blue skies. Happy weather, mostly. Autumn has been unusually warm, but these endless sunny days have turned our bushland to tinder. We’re in need of rain. Then, these last few days, have been bleak and still. We wait as though in limbo.
Welcome, rain. Bring your dousing waters and extinguish the threat of wildfire. Soak the earth. Fill our tanks. Drum on our tin roofs and lull us to sleep with your song.
Now, as the day draws to a close, I’ve chopped the wood and I am about to light the fire. We’ll warm our home and hearts, and await the imminent change – today, on this first day of winter.