When I think of a Melbourne summer I think of wavering pavements, irrepressible heat, lurid colours and scrunched up faces. I think of hot chips, burning sand and the ocean. I remember picnics, bush-fires, barbeques and festivals and I wish for icy poles, cold dinners, chilled ciders, rain and more time.
When I think of summer in general I link it to some of the best and worst times of my life. Summer for me is a time to renew, it’s a chance to get outside, listen to good music, dance, be carefree and meet new people. But it’s also when I worry. I connect a hot day with the chance of a bushfire and think of my family home, my childhood friends, and that pivotal day in February 2009 which is now known as Black Saturday.
Last night I was in the video store with my housemates, we’d just spent the afternoon at a friends gig and stopped on the way home to try a new ice cream place on Smith St and hire some DVD’s. As I was looking through the various options I came across a documentary about the Black Saturday bush-fires. I stood there for a moment, just staring at the DVD, it felt strange to hold something in my hand which I had lived through….something now graphically designed, wrapped in plastic and reproduced for commercial purposes. And I realised how even though I was there I still feel as if I wasn’t, as if I can’t truly say I was. My experience is a blimp on the scale of what many others went through. I remember being exhausted and awake for days, sitting outside at night and watching the fire burn like a silhouette against the night sky, hearing things I didn’t (and still don’t) want to believe. They are vivid memories, more vivid than a lot of things and they conjure strong emotions. I thought about watching the DVD, but knew I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours. So I put it down, turned away and returned to the present.
In many ways Melbourne is much more than a two hour drive from my family home. It’s a different way of thinking. Summer has a different form in a city. People don’t listen to the radio with the expectation of hearing about fire, or tend to their garden to minimise risk. I’m not saying that it’s bad, it’s just different.
This summer I will inevitably think about bush fires, rain and whether there is enough food for the cattle but I’ll also spend days at the beach, nights out and weekends with friends.
I’ll never forget what happened in 2009, I don’t think I could, but I will continue to celebrate summer and remember it for what it has given me and what it has taken away.