Saturday morning. Dave brings our camp chairs from the garage and I take out my coffee and we sit in the snow for half an hour, listening to the cheerful buzz of chickadees, the cranky lectures of red squirrels, the deep, sweeping hollow of ravens' wings stroking through grey muffled skies, and the sorrowful complaining of the mourning doves.
This is the sound of winter in Muskoka. People, for the most part, are indoors. Tourists are living their workaday lives in the city. We're alone, we're still, we're listening to what we might normally miss. Without human distractions, winter mutes daily ruckus, slows our moving parts and the pressing business of the day to day.
"I got a letter from Denise Covey," I say to Dave.
"One of your blogger friends?"
I nod. "She's from Australia and something she said in her letter really struck a chord with me." I take a sip of my rapidly cooling coffee and smile at my husband. "Wanna move to Australia?"
"Sure," he says. Just like that. Humouring me, as usual.
"I mean, here we are, freezing our butts off, dealing with winter because that's who we are, that's what we're used to. But think of it – we could live anywhere we choose on this planet. Somewhere we don't have to worry about freezing rain and snowstorms and bad roads. Or big heating bills. Or splitting wood. Or coffee that goes cold the minute you bring it outside."
"Well if you drank it faster instead of flapping your gums it wouldn't get cold," he says. I make a face at him, which he ignores. "Other than the fact that neither one of us likes hot weather and we'd have to worry about work permits and visas and all that nonsense, you're right. We could live anywhere we want."
I imagine what it would be like to be Denise, to live her life. To swim in the ocean any time I want. To never have to buy a winter coat or scrape ice off the windshield.
That, right there, is the reason I love blogging. It's one thing to watch Oprah visit the land Down Under. It's quite another to put a face, like Denise's, on a place that would otherwise be nothing but a spot on a map. Like so many of my blogging friends, Denise and I hooked up writing Friday Flash. She's an aspiring novelist who writes short stories by the boatload and an avid blogger with more than spot where you can find her: L'Aussie Writer is home base for this adventurous writer, teacher and traveller; Romantic Friday Writers is rather like Friday Flash but all the writing is romantically themed (and boy, are these writers enthusiastic and fun!); and Reading at Dawn, a scintillating book review blog.
Yes, Denise is right there, at the click of a mouse. But I would love to join her on one of those sand dunes overlooking the ocean, a salty breeze in our hair and lots of writerly ideas putting brilliant smiles on our tanned faces.
Oh, and Hugh Jackman, of course, bringing us another round of fresh drinks. No worries about cold coffee in Australia.
My dear friend Cathy
If I was writing you a special little story I’d call it Out Far, In Deep - my tribute to bush and beach. I wonder – do you ever think of Australia? Up there in the Northern Hemisphere when you’re being buried deep in snow, and as you shovel it aside (or whatever you do) do you crave a warm climate just for a change? Can you imagine what it’s like to grow up in a place which is nearly always warm and whose inhabitants have probably never seen snow fall? Do you think people are shaped by where they live? I think we definitely are.
Aussies project an image of bush people, wildly independent, innovative - Hugh Jackman in ‘Australia’. Well, the truth is, we’re basically hard-working beach bums. Our country is big, dry and empty. Our small population hugs the coastline (83% of us live at the beach). We take a dip at lunchtime, go for a surf after work and spend whole weekends on the beach, picnicking, barbequing, reading. There’s only a couple of weeks of the year when it might be a bit nippy for a swim, so we have to forego our rituals. But there’s always tourists who think it’s warm enough all year round and we shake our heads and mumble bloody idiots when we see them frolicking around in what we consider Arctic conditions.
I’m an exception to the beach rule, or used to be. I spent my early childhood running wild and free in the Queensland bush, where my father was a horse whisperer (true) when he wasn’t droving cattle, and my mother killed snakes that threatened her brood. I wrote about it here and called it fiction, lol! We kids ran around bare foot, rode horses bare back to school and swam in creeks and dams (when there was water). As much fun as that was, nothing compared to my delight when I first caught sight of the beach. Once seen never forgotten. My family eventually moved to a little country town not far from the beach, population 300, not including the cows and horses. My dream was to live right on the beach. And I achieved that dream. Too easy here.
Now I have the best of all worlds. I live in two places – a small apartment right in the inner city of our capital city, Brisbane, for work (I tutor English when I’m not writing), and a large two-story beach house overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Peregian Beach, (60 miles north) for play. I travel a lot, but it’s hard to beat these two places. I saw a little poem the other day and it says it for me:
The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
The turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
One day soon I’ll be in Canada I hope, my friend, and must look you up on the Muskoka River. And if you visit Australia anytime soon, you’ll find me gazing at the beach, pen in hand, (a laptop just doesn’t seem right) trying to capture the beauty of this marvellous creation. And there’s a bed for you at the beach house where you can hear the crashing of the waves as they lull you into the best sleep you’ll ever have.
Your Aussie mate
P.S. Have enclosed a picture of Peregian Beach just to show you what I’m doing now! See if you can find me in there!