July 15, 2006

Passing Time

The silent dark is broken by the padding of feet, drawing me slowly out of the depths of dreaming. The bedroom door opens a fraction, letting in a thin rectangle of light, then closes, drawing out the light once again. Something else has slipped in with the light. I strain my ears, listening for clues, but there’s only a sixth sense of another presence. Then comes a sigh, softer than the gentlest breeze, and a small sleepy body slips in beside me. Inside the covers, a cold foot presses on my belly.

On winter mornings the darkness lingers. I expect my children to wake with the light, later each morning, until the solstice, but that isn’t what happens. Instead they wake early, 6am, 5am, sometimes even 4am, and shuffle around the house in the cold, waiting for the sun, expecting breakfast and stories and warm fires from me. Every winter I make up rules. Tell them they mustn’t wake so early. Tell them it isn’t fair. Tell them I won’t. But I always do.

They try. For minutes at a time they hold back their restless energy and lie in bed, searching their senses for morning clues. They listen for the stillness before dawn, the distant rush of cars, birds stirring, a change in the feel of things. . . They listen until the exquisite pain of anticipation propels them out of bed and into the new day.

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March 23, 2006

In the Stars

I’m sitting next to Tim in the van, daydreaming, hands cradling my rounded belly, the baby lulled quiet by the engine and the gentle rhythm of the road. In the back, the children are asleep, mouths wide open, red hot faces and damp sticking hair. When they wake we will stop for lunch and after lunch we will move on again. We’re not going anywhere in particular, just meandering, letting one thing lead to the next.

After months on the road our days have formed a regular rhythm. Sometimes the children cry and grumble and the van fills with a sharp tension. Sometimes they play happily together and Tim and I spend time savouring long conversations. Often we sing along to children’s tapes, songs and nursery rhymes, played over and over. But there are also quiet times like now, when the children sleep or just stare out. Then we pass hours moving through flat landscape with low bush, termite mounds for as far as we can see, dry riverbeds, the occasional car … Regularly we see kangaroos, usually dead on the side of the road, their bodies swollen with the heat, or carcasses half devoured by Wedge Tailed Eagles who rise into the sky as we pass. The monotony has its own sort of beauty. There’s something hypnotic about it, something about the vast expanses that makes us look inward.

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