Returning

Hobart’s hills are distinct through stripped trees now winter has come. I’m transitioning from Ireland’s long, bold twilight to this soft darkening. Dusk is known as “dayli’ gone” in Ulster-Scots, poet Michael Longley told us at his reading, and back here in Tasmania it’s as if the day has barely awoken before it’s gone.

I feel wistful and somewhere between worlds. This liminal mind lumbers into routine as if for the first time, re-convening roads, time-zones, people, work and radio stations. I miss the Burren and its mauve shadows that are as gesso to everything in the foreground. Vestiges of autumn’s tones and the frosted morning grass remind me of where I am, not in the glow of Ireland’s west coast. As memory fades, longing returns and the prevailing sense of exile drifts again into my orbit. How is home remade?

As I breathe into returning to the hem of the world - and a limping Commonwealth - another election is re-fashioning the UK. Jeremy Corbyn, the much-maligned-by-media candidate is reviving the pitch towards best-for-all while Prime Minister Teresa May falters and will align with the DUP in Northern Ireland to arrest her ship’s tilt. Ulster is so often forgotten in political scrums and now its chance to bolster Britain may revive simmering sectarian fear. Will a United Ireland emerge from the dust or will the motes explode in its face? No-one wants a return to hard borders on the island of Ireland and I’ve read that the border may now move to the Irish sea rather than reappear on the roads. The majority of farmers in the borderlands voted to remain in the EU and although Brexit is now inevitable, and a hung parliament in Westminster complicated, perhaps transitions might become more equitable. Ireland is like the supporting character in a narrative of hope within a spectacular history of survival.

Tasmania’s winter-green tone is not the emerald of so much of Ireland yet its prevailing presence is almost as comforting. The eucalypts, blackwoods and silver wattles along the banks and hillsides are dusky, almost blue-grey, as if reflecting the sombre winter sky.  As I watch the gulls circle across the slopes of kunanyi, Mount Wellington, before they return to the estuary at dusk, I’m reminded of patterns and rhythms in nature and of how they represent so much hope. The winter solstice is one week away and celebrating it is a welcome rite in 40-plus latitudes. David Walsh’s fireside festival has become an institution: not only for transgressions in art but for transmission towards warmth and light. While we farewell the longest night, in Ireland the festivities will bid adieu to the shortest night, with song and dance. We hold hands across the planet.

Australia has its distinctive animal characters that mock and manifest whatever the season. Kookaburras nearly fell off their perch laughing as I jogged past them today. Can laughter be the collective noun? A murder of crows and an ostentation of peacocks made it into the lexicon; a laughter of kookaburras? And what of currawongs, those charcoal ravens that swoop into the city’s fringe as snow-clouds build across the mountain, their falsetto calls screeching as if commanding law and order. Their sound is unique to Tasmania and one I associate with walking through forests or camping near rivers in the mountains. Like the cuckoo in the Burren, the currawong speaks to being where I am and to listening.

Eucalypts in the suburbs

Eucalypts in the suburbs

kunanyi/ Mount Wellington in winter

kunanyi/ Mount Wellington in winter

Dark Mofo Hobart 2017 light show

Dark Mofo Hobart 2017 light show