On the first day of an Australian heatwave, you shut and darken all the doors and windows of your home. Underneath the corrugated iron roof lies a layer of insulating seaweed. The hours pass in a dim and listless obscurity, until eight o'clock - or perhaps nine - when it has become cool enough outside to open up the windows. After dark, all the houses are empty, and from every garden comes the sound of quiet voices, relaxing into sociabilty.
Perhaps at midnight you carry your mattress on to the lawn, where a mass of pinky-white oleander flowers, sweeping to the ground beside you, reflect such brilliance from the moon that you must needs turn the other way...Sand and grit are everywhere, and flies of course, and no water for the garden. And all the talk is of the bushfires to the north.
When the change comes, which may be in five days, or in fifteen, the wind swings around quite suddenly, and a great freshness blows up from the sea. Doors bang and the trees bend the other way and the temperature may drop 20 ° in half an hour. Everyone collapses.
Stella Bowen, in the opening chapter of Drawn from Life.
Today's heatwave, with its bushfire-scented winds swooping through doors and windows flung open when they should have been closed early on, brought to mind this (edited) passage from Bowen's carefully crafted autobiography, read during another heatwave at the end of last year. As we sat on the verandah, worried by a severe lack of rain, drained by days of incessant heat, these words soothed, for, though written as remembrance for her 1890's Adelaide childhood, there is an odd sort of comfort in knowing they too had searing, drying summers way back then. Drought is no new condition in this country. All managed without airconditioning (as, very un-21st century, do we) and dressed in corsets and neck-high layers of fabric, no doubt. Thankfully, 110 years later, women can dress in diaphanous, loose linen.
Heat, and particularly bushfire season heat, can make for stunning sunsets. Incredible sunrises. Still, Autumn, you cannot arrive fast enough for this little black duck. We've not yet resorted to carting water in, though our neighbours have.