Feeling compelled to share my thoughts because I am a thoughts and writing hoarder, and as in most cases of hoarding, it’s better to set things free. So for my mama, for my faraway friends, for my secretly shy self: I re-dedicate to my blog and sharing my writing adventures.
I got back to Melbourne from Bali a few days ago. Amongst so many other moments of pure lushness and beauty in Bali, I especially love the sight of plumeria trees blooming: spindly branches and a puff of lowers against the blue sky, flowers springing out in an abundance on every branch.
There was a plumeria tree at the end of a street I lived on as a kid. I would pluck them off the asphalt on my short walk back from the bus, call them egg flowers, for their soft yellow and white petals. Whether that was an private nickname or something I said aloud to others I do not know.
The memories are so hazy they are figments: egg flower figments of golden days with hoisted backpacks and slugs coming out after it rained.
My soul probably resembles a plumeria. The harshness of cities crushes me. I question if it is possible for me to hold on to happiness in the winter – most of all in the cog-in-a-machine endless loopingness of a city.
In New York, it was the sound of sirens in the distance – a call of something going wrong, a minor disaster, a death – you’d never know. The woowooooo-ing of the sirens becomes so normal when you live there. I’d speak to someone on the phone and they’d go: What’s wrong? What do you mean what’s wrong? Why are there sirens – did something happen?
No, I did not know. I was oblivious to the sound.
In the city you grow accustomed to slinking by other people’s disasters, shutting down your eyes and your ears and a part of your soul. If you didn’t, you would simply short circuit for the influx of sound and sorrow.
Melbourne is not bad in the grand scheme of cities. I appreciate Melbourne’s low buildings (so the graffitied streets are not cast in shadow), high quality coffee and falafel, cozy pubs, and most of all, how I can bike alongside a (real, tree-lined, burbling) creek to a wonderful whole foods store while still in the city.
But this was my first winter here, my first winter in two years at all.
Already the memory is receding – so easily replaced by those first ones of spring, of people rushing with picnic blankets to fill parks on the first warm days, sunshine seeping into the cracks, around the corners, of the sidewalk and the soul.
This winter, I felt personally affronted the few times the temperature dipped below zero. Winter, to me, is a pervasive grimness, and Australia, to an unknowing outsider, is all electric blue skies and hot deserts and foamy surf. This was not the Australia I bargained for, with the sun dipping below too early, the wind whistling in under under-insulated windows.
I am coming to terms with the fact that, firstly, the Aussies were not just being soft when they said Melbourne had winter, and secondly, I still cannot, and never want to, do winters.
I tried exposing my corneas to direct sunlight for 15 minutes a day. I tried to soak and steam in public baths next to groaning, stretching, shedding strangers, despite my hygienic tendencies and aversion to chlorine. I tried a bedside lamp that woke me up with the fake rays of the sun – a gift from a friend who saw my descent into wintry despair. I went to hot yoga just to experience what it was like to be warm again, I ate multiples of my body weight in pho, I took all the vitamin D and 5-htp to support those pesky neurotransmitters – to no avail.
I am a shivering fish in a barrel for seasonal depression to shoot me.
The biggest positive of winter, I suppose, is the shift in energy and attitude to introversion. The cold weather encouraged me to write a lot of poetry. Looking back, it is kind of funny how all of my poems center on chilliness, runny noses, tea, and darkness. These two, especially, capture my headspace at the time:
here in melbourne wintery i have a tin roof for the rain yes i start typing with hands that wanted to play the piano never learned to shuffle a deck of cards well i think i died on the dance floor last may since nothing has been the same here my bones slowed to allow shivering shaking flew down a worming hole one man excavation of being a woman found out i like loud visceral sounds my diaphragm is sensitive and inner standing easily falls so bike down slopey side streets til the sun never rises up to full potential of the sky and i plummet back bombed out bed like a quail served brittle on the table i don’t know if essential oils are antiseptic but there is something cleaning my wounds like water
like water i have seen no water for the forest or the trees
here is something like tranquility or its antithesis i see shadows in the corners i see dragons in every pixel my sinuses are crying here in the quiet like a shiver weight of siren’s bones my mouth is burnt swollen you see there is only so much warmth in this forty dollar bathrobe
oh the dreams are back
explain the mosquito bites on the insides of my arms from the fourth grade
i am doing something i am doing work i am present when the earth falls through darkness comes like salvation standing alone with the seed of my pain saying look look what i did with my own bloody hands because there’s such a thing as sclerosis of the soul and life is too easy when you have a center here in melbourne wintery yes
in any orange sort of mood
i’d prefer the blues
seasonal sadness still
moon is turning
a balsamic period
god can be a cold girl
when bats shake
when my reflection greets
still my heart
beats on like quiet
like quiet i will stay
I sit proudly in the fact that I just went to the depths of seasonal depression and back again. And that I have it in me to brave another winter: steeling myself against windchill, ignoring the stray hairs of public steam rooms, minimizing my rants on what seems to be an Australian aversion to central heating, and drinking any and all streams of sunlight like a sad, sad plant.
One more season of shivering. Then I’m going back to my former winter boycotting summer following sun gypsy ways. This plumeria soul needs the lush languidity, the even rhythm to the days, the seasons unchanging except a flush or a drizzle of balmy tropical rain.
The moments pass slower in the sun, like shadows across the sky.
~ shell photo is from a cover of the waves by virginia woolf ~