This is for those of you who are not in Canberra. This is my recent piece featured in Us Folk magazine Issue 2. Us Folk is a new independent magazine providing a platform for young and emerging artists, photographers, designers, writers and performers from Canberra and the surrounding region to gain exposure and have their work published.
Hope you guys find this an enjoyable piece, as much as I enjoyed writing it. It took me a while to think about what Canberra means to me.
Embrace the season of deliberate gatherings
Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.
– John Berger
My city, Canberra, is a middle-class modern geeky introverted boy. He has never really fit in, often teased and hassled because of his unique geeky personality. He dances like nobody is watching. So what? He is comfortable in his own skin. Unlike his peers, Canberra is more laid back and peaceful. This city loves his book clubs, and enjoys quiet gatherings at pubs more than jostling around in clubs. However, he tries not to stand out in a bad way. He is always looking for something new to be part of, be it ice skating or roller skating in the city or that upcoming Apple store. He is shy and usually quiet, and takes a while to warm up to him. He is a typical teenager, experiencing erratic changes in his mood swings all in a day. He can be cold to you in the morning, warming up to you in the afternoon, before turning plain cold nonchalant in the evening. On cold frosty winter mornings, he gets up, scrapes the ice off the windscreen of his car, and continues on with the day. This is a city chastened by an extraordinary landscape and extravagant weather.
There is no clean definition between seasons in Canberra. For around four months every year, Canberra is often bitterly cold and dry. You have to watch and listen to know when winter is coming. But, don’t rely on the trees. The view outside my window says autumn, but the world outside of my window screams winter. There are other ways to tell that winter is just around the corner. The days get shorter, with the sun setting at five. You keep the fans away, and start switching on the heaters instead. You wake up to frosts in the morning, and you see smoke coming out of your mouth when you talk. You see clothing shops in town shift their displays from shorts and summery dresses to long coats. The radio stations start talking about temperatures inching above zero degrees celsius at 9am in the morning.
In summer when days are longer, gatherings with friends are often spontaneous. We run into friends on the street and have beers at a pub or decide on a barbeque right there and then. We bask in the sun and have picnics at the Botanic Gardens. In winter, particularly in Canberra, the opposite is true. We often hurry home at the end of the day, staying in unless an event warrants our presence. Gatherings between friends are often deliberate and infrequent. Winter potlucks are organised with intentions. Friends come together at each other’s homes wrapped in coats, scarves and gloves. We bring comfort food perfect for the cold weather: hearty soups, robust roasts, wholesome casseroles, rich cakes and sweets, and of course, rich hot chocolate.
Winter in Canberra may be crisp, foggy and bitterly cold. But, there are redeeming features. Frosty mornings in Canberra can be rather therapeutic and beautiful if you are able to pull yourself out of your warm bed. Instead of trudging through this winter and making plans for summer, make this winter a season of intentional small gatherings between friends, family and loved ones. Have not one, but multiple Christmas in July gatherings. Winter in Canberra comes as a season that reminds us how much we need each other. Like all places and seasons, the winter here is what we make out of it.