The exact moment of Winter Solstice was 9.59am Sydney time. The week was far too hectic to organise a proper ritual of Sunreturn before dusk last night. Instead, in an impromptu meditation, this crisp Saturday morning sees my tiny pearl of tealight flame battling an irregular, gentle breeze.
I protect it with my cupped hands, and smile. I can always re-light it if it blows out. No-one will notice the ceremonial faux pas but me.
To the west, just visible past the straggling row of poplars, the neat-toothed Protestant lads of Newington College surge across the neat-mown grass in their own, more muscular ritual. Rugby! 14-year-old elbow meets 14-year-old face! The small but vocal crowd cheers the violence! The family of three kookaburras which lives near the original school building can just be heard cackling above their roar.
Closer, more birds. A magpie does that impossible double-note achromatic thing in a vastly complex carol. And does it again, just because he can. An Australian raven croaks languidly, I can’t see quite where. A dozen noisy miners squabble in the tree next door — that big tree you can see from the satellite photos. A pair of rainbow lorikeets screeches past in search of flowers. A squadron of 30 or more corellas squawks and swirls amongst the eucalypts where the creek once flowed.
Breathe. Look down…
A single scarlet poinsettia leaf lies abandoned on the mossy paving, still covered with a hundred dew drops. I pick it up, idly turn it. A hundred unique but identical crystal-worlds catch the sunlight in a hundred unique but identical ways. I put the leaf down, before I lose myself in those worlds.
Artemis, tailless and camouflage-striped in her winter coat, stalks the pathway, pretending to hunt. She looks annoyed that it’s still too cold for there to be any sign of skinks to chase. She always looks annoyed. She notices me noticing, turns her head and closes her eyes. See nothing, nothing seen.
(Apollo, meanwhile, is spending the morning as he usually does: curled up inside on my hooded jacket, oblivious. Later, he’ll wash, sleep, wash and perhaps, if he has the energy, sleep some more.)
Suddenly a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 747 tears the sky asunder. Its polished white belly glistens, close enough to tickle. I read the fine print on its undercarriage tyres, notice a few spots of oil which should be wiped off. It dodges a tree, hops over the neighbour’s grey-tiled roof — neatly avoiding their ratty TV aerial and their two-metre Greek-receiving satellite dish — and drops its wheels onto runway 16R. There’s a loud, throaty Rolls-Royce roar as it brakes to prevent an embarrassing splash into Botany Bay.
Just like it does every Saturday morning.
The vortex wake swishes and swirls in frequency sweeps that’d shame a techno musician. One day that vortex really will open the stargate. Today, though, even on the Solstice, it just blows out my candle. Or maybe it was just the breeze gusting. A thin streamer of grey smoke — then nothing except the stub of a wick reflected in quickly-hardening wax.
A dog barks somewhere in the next street. A hotted-up sedan revs inefficiently and spins its wheels. The moment is over.
My gunpowder green tea has been made too strong. I make the same mistake every time. Every time.