Sunday, November 20, 2016

Upside down

It is November, and a very lovely November it is. The daylight hours have been stretching. And spring has fully crept up into the tops of the trees, and they're all full of leaves and sunshine and shade. The sun is up before I am, so I can shower in the mornings without turning on the overhead lights. And the sun doesn't set until late in the evening. Summer is only ten days away, and I love it. I love it.

This week is Thanksgiving week in the US. That's a big holiday where I come from. It involves cold weather and orange pumpkins and cloves and turkey and cold gray weather. Occasionally I remind myself that it's Thanksgiving the the US soon. That's such a bizarre thought. The word "Thanksgiving" doesn't match the glorious nearly summer weather at all. In honor of my roots, however, I played every Thanksgiving hymn I know as prelude at church today. It made me think of pumpkins and cloves and cold gray weather, and it was really out of place. I was pretty sure someone was going to come up and tell me to stop, that the baked-pumpkin hymns really had no place in the glorious green and floral scents of late spring. And then it occurred to me that they probably almost never play those hymns here, so the people probably don't associate them with pumpkins and cold gray-ness. And nobody was listening anyway. And perhaps I could even get away with playing some of the funny US patriotic hymns for prelude and no one would even notice? But I didn't go that far.

Related to crazy backwards weather holidays, Christmas is coming. There are Christmas decorations up and Christmas ads on the tellie. Christmas in the northern hemisphere celebrates midwinter's day. Here, it will land almost on top of the summer solstice, the lightest, warmest, sunniest time of year, when people go hang out at the beach and grill sausages and lick ice lollies and I can't wait!

But it's funny to watch the TV commercials in which the family is out at a barbecue, everyone in shorts and sleeveless shirts, eating watermelon, with jingle bells playing in the background. And then a nostalgic pause as the Christmas lights go on, all strung along the green leafy trees. And then the disembodied voice: "This Christmas season, celebrate with groceries from Coles." It seems so bizarre.

Our church is trying to find someone to play Santa Claus at their Christmas party. I asked some women at church today what Santa Claus wears here. Still the fuzzy suit? Won't that be really really hot? And they looked at me like I was brilliant and said, "Yes! Let's do an Aussie Santa! With red shorts and a T-shirt and a Santa hat." Still seems a little silly. I know for sure that Santa head is going to be too hot. But whatever.

Anyway, with another month to go, we are finalising our Christmas plans. We have almost found all the presents we need to ship -- this week -- to our international family members. More locally, we have to figure out what to do for a Christmas tree, as we did not ship our old fake one when we moved, and more importantly, and where to put it. There is a plant nursery I pass on my way to work each morning that is now selling potted pines. I'm thinking that might be the way to go this year. And then we will have to decorate.

I can't wait to do an Aussie style Christmas. For the week between my last day of work and the ends of December, I want to spend each day trying out a different beach, working on my body surfing and boogie boarding skills. Merry merry merry!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


I was in Canberra last week for a workshop. Canberra is the capital of Australia. It's a lovely little city partway between Melbourne and Sydney, more than ten times smaller than Melbourne. What that means is that nature is not so far away from Canberra. On Wednesday night, I walked a few blocks through the suburbs into the hills and saw kangaroos.
There are kangaroos in this picture.
There are also a lot of birds, even on the university campus. Sulphur crested cockatoos, galah cockatoos. This time I saw a couple of gang gang cockatoos, which are more rare. Crimson rosellas, eastern rosellas.
This is a very tiny crimson rosella.
Tim and Jonathan came to visit for the weekend, to see some of the sights.

Here are the sights we chose to see.

The national science museum: Questacon. This is kind of like the Exploratorium in San Francisco, with lots of things to see and do. Here is a picture of Jonathan enjoying the view in the endless mirror room.

And building.

There was also an earthquake simulator, a lightning room, puzzles, microscopes, dry-ice asteroids, and other cool things.

From Questacon we walked through the Old Parliament gardens, which were very lovely in spring.

And then we wandered over to the National Museum of Australia, which is kind of a museum of stuff, showing stuff from the history of Australia. It seems I didn't take pictures. In addition to stuff from the natives, there were old vehicles, fancy outfits, and the record-breaking wool of a sheep that had been unshorn for five years. Kind of a random place.

Oooh. Here is a picture I did take, on the university campus. This is a statue of Churchill. He would look more impressive if that spider hadn't woven snot and drool all over his face....

We arrived home to find a new house guest: another huntsman spider, the size of my fist. Since it was too big to kill, and not moving, we left it alone entirely. Creepily, it was gone the next morning.

We left the next morning as well, and walked to the botanic gardens, arriving just in time to take a tour in the extended golf-cart bus. That was fun. We saw squiggly-bark eucalypts. Lots of native flowers.

And lots of large lizards.

No, lots and lots of them.

From the gardens, we climbed the summit trail. And climbed and climbed.

At the very top of the hill --- they call it "mountain," but I can't bring myself to say mountain if the top doesn't even make it out of the tree line --- at the very top there is a huge tower.

We paid a small fee to take an elevator to the observation level, where we ate lunch with spectacular panoramic views of the city.

And then we walked down, back through the botanic gardens...

... and then caught a taxi to the airport and flew home. 

Tim spent the whole weekend sneezing. The levels of pollen were super-duper extra high in Canberra. Poor red-eyed, red-nosed Tim huddled with his tissue box. He was very happy to leave. Poor Tim.

In any case, I agree that Canberra was nice to visit, but it is nice to be home.