I grew up in Tennessee, enjoying four distinct seasons. In early spring I would wake up of a morning, sometimes before the sun was rising, and I would feel the hum, and hear the bird call, and the slight warming of the air, and I would know spring was coming.
Towards the end of summer, I would suddenly become aware of of the sideways slant of the light, repositioned on our bit of the planet, slipping away to somewhere else.
The daytime seasons still seemed the same. Winter. Summer. But there were clues that a change was coming. Clues around the boundaries of the day. Clues in the feel of the wind. Clues in the sounds in nature.
I didn't need a calendar to tell me change was coming when I spied those clues. The "first day of" only labeled what I had already known.
It has taken me years in Australia to read nature's signs in this land of drought and flood. Almost five years in, I KNOW that February means the dog days of summer, when children are back to school but the cicadas buzz noisily in the afternoon, and some nights I lie in bed, damp, with no breeze stirring the heavy heat from the day.
I know that in August we will have bright blue skies, and the whole landscape seems to open arms to the warming sun. I know that there are August days where you can wear a t-shirt and wade in tide pools, even though it is the tail end of winter.
I know about the arresting fragrance of the jasmine that blooms in the day, and in the night. I know about the gardenias that sing out from urban gardens as I walk past. I have learned that the low call of the Kookaburra means oncoming rain.
When we left Tennessee, on the 1st of April, we left in a spring rainstorm so intense, the windows of my best friend's car fogged up on the way to the airport, turning the nearly impossibly neon green of a Tennessee spring into an impressionist rendering of the countryside. Green broken by dogwoods flashing white and lush pink, surprises in the woods.
Sydney, the new home we arrived at on April 3rd, was dry autumnal gray of gum trees and sandstone, like all the colour had been left behind us when we flew. I couldn't see the beauty in it. I cried when I saw my new landscape.
The scents won me over before the scenes, and now I know that wherever I am in the world, I will crave the citrus yellow of golden wattle, flashing out midwinter, and the magnificent purple jacaranda haze in early spring. There are things to love here, the flash of lorikeets, their wings whirring low as they dash in pairs from tree to tree, singing the worship of nectar.
The glint of silver sun on a black lizard's back as it scurries across the rocks along the sidewalk, and the intense gleam of the oceans that carress this country on every side.
"The season's changed, didn't you see the light?" The Captain asked. I did see it, but I hadn't realized what is signified. Now I do. Now I am ready to become Australian.