Every day since I got here, the skies have been cloudless and bright. It gets to -2 at night but as soon as the sun rises, it warms your skin and the air quickly until it’s 20 – 25 degrees and perfect suntanning weather.
Last weekend though, we had rain.
Dark clouds came in, and misty swirls of damp draped themselves over the shoulders of the mountains. It immediately felt cold and the roads (which are untarmaced sand) almost instantly became unpassable.
I spent a weekend sitting in my donga. Luckily, I had some great company. Not just my normal mates - Bronwnie and Red Dog, two dingo cross camp dogs who love hanging out, and in Brownies case is quite persistent and demanding in her desire for cuddles.
No, this weekend I was lucky enough to be stranded with a fantastic resin artists from Melbourne, called Kate Rohde and her tour manager for their outback trip, Emily McCulloch. What can be better than sitting around a donga, surrounded by camp dogs, learning how to make jewellery, talking art and cooking feasts with friends? (OK, so glasses of wine would have been good but it’s a small price to ay for the calm of a dry community) I re-emerged after the weekend with three wax rings that I will get cast in silver back in Sydney, and feeling refreshed and happy.
The smell of the earth after the rain was amazing – rich and ferrous. Red ochre puddles reflecting a clear sky again. It felt colder in the mornings – icy almost - and the earth felt hard under foot. I began to appreciate what the intense aridity of this place (apparently it’s the second most arid place on earth after … where was it now? The antarctic I think…) does to the temperatures. Even if it does play havoc with my hair!
On Monday a local Anangu woman came in with some ininti (seed) necklaces. They are beautiful, made from dried red and white seeds the size of your baby fingernail and quandong seeds – all wrinkly and round. The seeds are dried and then stuck through with a red hot poker and strung in intricate patters, and sometimes in double lines that are sort of knitted together. Some women can even make mats and vests out of them. The necklaces are used in ceremonies, but these necklaces and bracelets are for selling.
We oohed and ahhed a bit over them, and over the next few days more and more appeared, each day a new person coming in with another amazing piece of jewellery. It was a bit like Christmas. And the reason – that rain, it brought the seeds out and ready to use.
We also had some fantastic Tjanpi animals bought in – an emu and a lizard. Tjanpi is a kind of dried grass. In this case woven into animals then stitched with boldly coloured wool.
I love the way being in rural or remote areas – in any country - brings me closer to the seasons and tides of nature. I feel like it recalibrates me.
As I walk around the Community, I have been amused by the random items I come across. Pushchairs in particular seem to get stranded. The kids race about the football pitch pushing their smaller friends around in them. Last week I saw a toddler pushing a tiny puppy around in one (unbearably cute, the pair of them). Later I see a pushchairs abandoned in the dry sandy creek, a pair of brand new kid’s boots in a puddle, a teddy bear, fully functioning soccer ball, a T Shirt squashed on the road like a corpse. Only to discover the next day that the abandoned item has vanished. It’s like they are carried around on tides, washed up beside a road, then swept away again.
And sadly, like this debris, I have to follow the seasons and next week is my last week before I’m swept back to Sydney.