Spring in Hobart, 2017 (and recalling a month ago)
This spring, snow has regularly delivered its topping to the mountain in defiance of impending warmth and prophecy. Today (early October) the cold breathes down into the city as if we’re summering in Siberia. Daffodils lining footpaths have browned off and the boughs of wattles that have been gilding the valleys for weeks are spilling their wares. Soon these trees will be reddened with seedpods. Hellebores are nodding sepals and the maples, after wintering bare, renew with céladon vigour.
Predictions are for a warmer than average summer. Last week I travelled to the Fingal Valley, near the famed beaches of the east coast. News of fires there, in late October, has pushed forward the calendar: it’s as if we have fallen into January.
“Any rain is welcome,” says a farmer, as I walk a wide brown path between green fields and stop to make conversation at a cottage gate. “This green is superficial. Soon it will all be beige,” she adds. I keep moving, keen to finish the line that reaches a fence keeping Angus heifers within limits. They stop as I pass, motionless in curiosity. I envy them their stillness. The severe escarpment of Ben Lomond, north of the valley, is like an image from the Romantic Sublime: evoking a realm beyond my existential reality and the immanent drought. Later, my friends return from a drive to Ben Lomond's summit, their necessary excursion before heading back to Western Australia and its flatness. I’ve never been to the west and, if it's as flat and hot as reputed, I’m not wanting to go there, not yet. The ascent up Ben Lomond was reviving, the summit spoke, my friends said. I'd warned them of the horrendous road, Jacob's Ladder, but they only mentioned the calm and bliss near its end and, that temperatures were mild - "like down below" - and that the diminishing snow offered just enough contrast to satisfy.
I return to Hobart through the midlands, thinking of Ireland's fecundity as I drive between fields greened by light spring rains. Next time I come here, if in summer, this valley will probably be brown and Ireland a gallery of green.
Ben Lomond from near Avoca