A famous Australian Playwright -Dorothy Hewitt commented that it’s going to the ‘blonde’. Which means that grasses and shrubs are dried because summer heat is a natural version of peroxide, bleaching the color from everything? Eventually even the suburban front lawn becomes beige and hibernates in its summer coat.
People in Sydney people would ask, “Where are you from?” Naively I replied, “The west”. To which they would assume I must mean the western suburbs. It seems that for many in Australia the Blue Mountains marked the edge of all existence.
Eager to enjoy a nostalgic journey of Christmas on the Australian west coast we took a day time flight across this wide brown land. Each day dawned with blue skies, heated to the edge of bearing, followed by our lazing into a cloudless afternoon, slightly cooling westerly breezes and awakening rested for the same again, then again, then again. I enjoyed a strong sense of familiarity through knowing that the summer wind on the Australian west coast has no obstructing mountains (WA does do blustery) will predictably be from the east, laden with a tang of hot, blonded wheat fields, in the morning. Then will turn into a sea breeze at some stage during the afternoon. On this summer vacation my husband (born in Sydney with a surfer-dude childhood) remarked, “that wind will blow off shore all day”. But I had insight from local knowledge I knew full well to predict with confidence, “no it isn’t”, sure enough at 11am the beach-side flags floundered and hugged their poles for a about half an hour and then just following lunch I was able to enjoy a “I told you so” moment. But while living in Sydney I’d forgotten just how windy the west coast was until we tried to sleep. In an effort to enjoy the cooler evening we’d opened windows and experienced constantly rattling vertical blinds being tossed about in breezes they call the Fremantle Doctor.
Watching the sun set over the ocean is a quintessential WA summer holiday experience. Very few Australian’s have travelled to this “most isolated capital city in the world…” but those who have, including us, recall with eagerness how the sky changes through a plethora of tones from daylight to night on the western sea shore. In daylight the white sands are even more brightly blond than the summer grass, the water cerulean. While we watched the setting sun becomes a red-golden orb that sinks with an almost audible hiss into the Indian Ocean horizon. I remember a childhood experience of the double whammy sunset in the scarp-edge John Forest National Park where my family watched both the sun-set plus illumination of city lights an orbiting astronaut named “city of lights”. From our vantage point there was a fairy world below on an indigo carpet, and flame related rainbow overhead. On our recent sojourn we paired with the close-of-day experience as spectators at the daily ‘going down of the sun’ with fish and chips consumed out of a steaming hole in a paper packet. It is also possible to watch this event over cocktails at Cable Beach many thousands of miles and dollars worth of air-fare away. Or opt for a cold beer in numerous bars that faced west taking advantage of a view over the Indian Ocean that nothing interfered with for thousands of oceanic kilometers.
Our summer in the west was also synonymous with food pleasures. We enjoyed picnics by the river side; meals on the edge of various water courses; late afternoon dips in the cleansing surf before the everyone trundled up the sand hills, dragging damp towels, sand clinging, salt crusted, to pack the now empty esky (chilled-bin) and various bits of beach paraphernalia into the car and return to a still hot house, opening it up to the potential of a ‘late weak sea breeze’. You could almost smell the way another day in the sun was turning grass crisp and flaxen!
I will try not to evoke the expatriate ‘sand-groper’s’ everything was wonderful back there mindset. But I already miss the long, hot; dry that marks my West Australian summer holiday.
About the Author. Karen Leathlean grew up on the west coast of that ‘wide brown land’, ’great southern land’ – Australia, but has travelled in Asia, America and New Zealand. She is a teacher and triathlete. Her fiction writing work can be found on various websites or in magazines.