living in the forest
I am sitting on the deck at my sister's house. A soft breeze is blowing through the forest, the ceiling fan whirrs overhead, the dog Tickle's nail click on the wood. The children are having lunch. I've just had breakfast, after an early morning walk, a long leisurely swim and hanging on the deck in my bathers chatting with my sister and her partner and our kids. Dad went home today. It's been great being all together as a family. Not always perfect, because well, there are three kids between eight and twelve and four adults telling them what's what. But yeah it has been really, deeply good. We have four more days here and then back to Melbourne where there is definitely no subtropical forest.
Dad has been taking me for a walk in the forest most mornings. We go early, before breakfast, before the heat. Tickle the dog comes too, running ahead, sniffig the smells, doing lots of wee. I hate to say it but she is better behaved than Rupert. She comes when she is called and doesn't steal your shoes. The forest walk starts off fairly level and then goes down to a lovely brown creek where the water level varies depending on the rain. It is then a very gentle climb until we reach the fallen tree that indicates where we normally turn back. The first walk was quite difficult and I dreaded the uphill return but I have gained a small degree of fitness and now it doesn't seem so bad. Indeed on the last walk we went a bit further. We have seen cyclists some mornings and the signs of horse riders but it is mostly just us and the dog. And the forest. It is green and lush and damp. It smells of sweetly rotting things with the occasional burst of something even sweeter. It is shady and not that hot but the damp equals humid and well, I sweat. Oh boy, do I sweat. My dad barely cracks a breath because he is super fit. By the end of it I am dripping and really looking forward to that moment of diving in the pool. Into the soft cool water.
Back at the house, the forest is all around. You can see it from every window, from the deck, from the pool. You can't see beyond it. Occasionally you can hear a distant lawn mower or a plane. The dominant sounds though are the insects, the crickets and cicadas (I think) and the birds. The forest is a deep presence here. It is both lovely and slightly terrible. It is lovely from the pool in the moonlight, your body semi immersed in the warm water, your arms resting on the concrete edge, your eyes looking to the stars, to the white trunks of the big gum trees. Not so lovely when the cat gets a tick or you get a great big leech like I did on the last visit. Or when there are a million bugs at night and you have to retreat inside and close the doors because the midgees get through the fly screens. Sometimes when it is very cloudy and humid, it also feels a bit oppressive, but I get that in the city too. However it is great when it rains and you are up on the deck listening to the thunder and reassuring the dog. Just now though, it is very pleasant and lush.