Change is in the air. After a more than generous period of retirement, I am on the precipice of embarking on a spell of significant work again. The Treasurer will be happy, though it’s not like I stopped being a consumer. Despite recently spending extortionate amounts on dental treatment (not covered by the much-revered Medicare of course), and purchasing coffee (and sometimes cake) to break up the days a little, the economy is still heading towards possible Armageddon. So the prospect of work lies ahead of me like the Nullarbor, stretching out in hazy uniformity for the rest of my life, only to finally end up at Norseman, which is possibly even worse.
Change of a more subtle variety is also noticeable around the neighbourhood. The summer storms appear to have dissipated and – for now at least – Canberra has settled into a golden period of warm days, pleasantly refreshing nights, and big blue skies seemingly typical of March. Leaves are largely unturned, but there is a soft wilting and readiness to transform. Mornings are lighter later, but the wattlebird still manages to indulge in its annoying calls outside my window really early every morning without fail. Meanwhile, the cockatoos are even more voraciously attacking the acorns and itchy-bombs, causing overhead hazards on walks in this suburban wilderness.
Aligned with the glorious prospect of seasonal transformation is a final, lingering dose of Canberra activity. Enlighten, which appears more popular as the years pass (I was one of those stoic first year visitors before the advent of hipster-conducive noodle markets), always seems to coincide with the finest of nights. Each year brings a new stab at illuminative inventiveness, although one which is usurped this year by that going on within the National Gallery. To stand within an artwork in daggy little protective feet covers and be simultaneously disoriented, uncomfortable and exhilarated by light and space is just a tad different to giant projections of political cartoons on Old Parliament House. Maybe James Turrell can design all of Enlighten next year?
Whatever, the natural light and space of Canberra can be every bit as magical all year round, though there seems increasing clarity and depth as the sun shifts lower on the horizon. Rising early to see the annual balloon extravaganza is a reminder of that hallowed time of the morning before day breaks. The wattlebird may have been carping on for half an hour already, but the indigo sky is only slowly softening, the glow on the eastern horizon building until the first rays of sun blind the eyes, redden the white bark of the gums, and silhouette the parade of tripods seeking to capture it beside the lake. Hundreds of cameras redirected because the balloons are tethered, unable to take off because of too much or too little or too much and too little wind.
“Not strong enough wind there is or wind too much in gusts of the force” mutters the giant Yoda balloon. I would trust his wisdom (certainly more than an angry bird or dodo), and thus they remain a picture lingering upon the lawns, surrounded by an always surprisingly large mass for so early in the morning.
Further round the lake, distant in the west, several balloons have made it into the air. I guess wind conditions are more favourable away from a parliamentary area that usually generates a lot of unnecessary hot air. Hot air that has, I guess, indirectly contributed to my own forthcoming increased income tax contribution to save the economy. Hot air piped out of the giant flagpole that will mix with cooler and colder and – eventually – perishing air as the months progress. It was good while it lasted!