The Weekend Australian - Review - - Review - Tony Sevil Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

It is that time of the year when I tend to mud­dle with in­de­ci­sion. Af­ter the blis­ter­ing sum­mer heat of record tem­per­a­tures, the first chill on the table­lands comes as a shock. There is a bite in the sou’easter and show­ers sweep across in­ter­mit­tently. Then the sun breaks through and there is a warm rem­nant of sum­mer heat. It is that time of year when the wind re­leases au­tumn leaves but the lawn still needs mow­ing.

I am un­de­cided whether to light the first fire of the sea­son in my wood heater. In a small coun­try town I don’t want to ap­pear a wimp, to light the fire too early in the sea­son. In my over­sen­si­tiv­ity, I imag­ine lo­cals pass­ing by would gos­sip about my weak­ness. And those who could not see my house would no doubt smell the smoke ... and know where it came from.

I have lived in this town for 25 years, but doubt I’d be con­sid­ered a lo­cal. I’m prob­a­bly still one of those “dif­fer­ent” blow-ins who would never be as hardy as the gen­er­a­tional table­land dwellers. Still, one par­tic­u­larly fresh morn­ing sways my de­ci­sion.

I light the fire and en­joy watch­ing it come to life, that first flare con­jur­ing thoughts of warmed win­ter nights of in­ward­ness and re­flec­tion. I sit close to the stove as it heats the room, feel­ing cosy as a shower passes over.

I walk out­side to check the day. Oh no, the sun is out; there is warmth and hu­mid­ity. Oh dear — a mis­take. I feel fool­ish and am tempted to let the fire burn out. If it’s warm now it will be even warmer later. A fire of course re­quires wood, which is be­com­ing a scarce com­mod­ity.

My wood heap is low. Like many others, I avoid think­ing about it dur­ing the swel­ter of sum­mer, then when the weather turns ev­ery­one wants to buy wood at the same time. There is of­ten a con­sid­er­able wait, es­pe­cially if you want box or red gum. Then there are al­ways those damn peo­ple who think ahead.

Driv­ing around town, I no­tice many neat, full stacks; they look like gallery ma­te­rial in their sculp­tural beauty. My mea­gre, scat­tered blocks of last year’s knot­ted un­split­ta­bles fill me with spite­ful jeal­ousy to­wards those for­ward­think­ing in­di­vid­u­als. I ad­mon­ish my­self but mum­ble in my crank­i­ness that it’s “all right for them, they’ve got all the time in the world to cut wood”.

But there is an­other rea­son I hes­i­tate to ven­ture near the wood heap. It’s that time of year when it is still warm enough for snakes to be around. Snakes love wood heaps, and bush lore tells me snakes can be a bit cranky be­fore hi­ber­na­tion.

And for me, too, on the cusp of au­tumn, it can be a time of ir­ri­tabil­ity, in­de­ci­sion and re­duced fo­cus af­ter the out­ward­ness of sum­mer and be­fore the in­ward­ness of the long win­ter.

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