I’m an American living in Australia. For a year now, almost exactly, I’ve been living south of the Equator, farther away from home and my family than I have ever been. In a sense I’m used to being far away from them, but in another way it feels lonely and frightening. I’m lucky to have the Atheist Wife as a partner, as well as her welcoming friends and family, to keep me company. Still when the weather starts changing and the holidays come around, I can’t help feeling nostalgic and a little homesick.
Spring is arriving here in Sydney and I’ve never seen a more glorious thing. It has rained probably seven out of the last ten days with talk of warm fronts and cold fronts and troughs, none of which I understand even after taking that one Atmospheric Science class in college. All I understand is that after the rain stops, the sun comes out leaving patches of light streaming in through the windows for the cats to lie in.
The sun here is like nothing you will ever see anywhere else. It’s crisper, warmer, softer, more enveloping, yet wistful, like the light touch of a comfortable lover holding your arm as you walk down the street. It is happy in the way that a simple smile is, without frenetic energy or angry heat. Growing up in California, I thought I knew sun, but this is far beyond the stickiness of Northern California’s springs or the dry, rasping heat of SoCal. I thought I knew what weather was when I moved to the Midwest and spent four years in the middle of whiteouts and muggy days where you simply could not get dry. I thought, ‘That’s it. I know what all the weather in the world is like now.”
I was so wrong. There has never been a more beautiful Spring than the one I’ve found here in Australia.
But it’s September. In Omaha, my friends are pulling out the sweaters, buying matching ones, pulling the pants out of hiding, contemplating if they really need to shave their legs today since they’re just going to wear pants all week (one of our favorite pastimes in college). The wind is starting to bite and the air grow hearvy with extra oxygen. The leaves change in brilliant colors, students on the campus find the North Faces their parents packed, and the Hawaiian students (of which Creighton has many) are wearing coats and swimtrunks, as they will be for most of the winter.
In California, the Fall is still green. We live in shades of darker green and brown, the evergreen trees refusing to change color and contradict their names. Everyone freaks out the first day it gets cold, bundling up in scarfs like it’s 0 degrees outside. I used to do that. Omaha taught me that 50 degrees is the perfect opportunity to wear shorts, not to wear the puffy coat. Everyone looks forward to the rain, which will either be too much or not enough for the state’s water needs. I think we’ve been in a drought since I was born.
My body wants it to be Autumn. I want to smell snow, hearth fires, pumpkin lattes, and warm, creamy soups. I even wish I could be back in class again, walking from warm room to warm study nook as quickly as possible in order to keep my fingers from freezing. If I don’t concentrate, it almost feels like one of the last warm days. But the breeze is cool, not bitter, and the sun is clear, not muddled by the growing haze of clouds. The illusion doesn’t last long.
You can’t help but miss what you’ve known all your life. At the same time, what is new feels exhilarating and interesting. I am both pleased and disappointed by September this year. But change is good and I’m learning from it.
I’m learning to ignore the impulse to worry what people think. Right now I’m blogging in shorts, my white legs (which I’ve always joked were so white you’d need sunglasses to look at them directly) bared to the sun, the hair I haven’t shaved in over a year a black contrast to their lightness. In a way, there is no better symbol of my progress in life than my legs. I used to keep them covered so people wouldn’t look at them, no matter how hot it was outside. Now any excuse for shorts is a good one to take. I used to shave in order to keep up with some expectation of female beauty, to conform to what I was told I should do, and to not stand out from all the other women whose legs were silk smooth. Now it’s not just that I really don’t have the time, but that I really don’t care what people think when they see an apparent female with hairy legs. Even more importantly, as part of my gender expression, it feels comfortable and right to look down and see hair there, a contradiction to the gender inferred by my voice and chest. Who cares if people think I’m weird or ugly or curious if I’m a girl or boy? I don’t anymore.
Still I miss the comfort of being unexceptional, the invisibility of conformity. It’s effortful to stand out, even if it makes you more comfortable with yourself. I’m tired of the work involved in not caring anymore. I’m worried by the uncertainty of being so contrary to what is considered normal. I miss the constancy of home which you think will never change. I miss the constancy of the seasons I grew up with, but even in the middle of all that missing, I have to say that Spring in September is a wonderful experience.