Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wet Season (again)
I moved to Darwin seven years ago this January, so I know the monsoon deal well.
Dark clouds, thunder, lightning, pouring rain, sunshine, humidity, repeat.
And I loved it too. The chaos of the storms. Negotiating sudden flooding on Bagot Road in a hatchback. The thrill of the temperature dropping to 25 degrees and reading a book on the couch in your tracksuit pants, fans turned off.
I loved all the different kinds of rain: fat rain, skinny rain, sleeting rain, sheets of rain. I loved the way it smelled and I loved the way I’d get out of swimming laps because the pool must close during a thunderstorm.
I even had three different umbrellas for the spectrum between casual and formal wear.
But somehow, somewhere, in the two weeks of monsoon since I got back from holidays, I lost the love. I’m prepared to take hate mail now from rusted on Territorians, bushfire beleaguered Southerners and The Farmers, but there you have it.
I’m not sure what tipped me over the edge. It all started with 12 straight days of rain, load upon load of washing that never dried and a cupboard full of mouldy shoes that even ten bottles of oil of cloves, three pairs of pantyhose and Shannon Lush couldn’t fix.
There was the smell in the back of Mr Tea’s car like something had died, nay that something crawled in between the spare tyre and canvas fly with the sole, spiteful intention of inflicting stench. Then again, that could just be the golf buggy Mr Tea found at the dump. (“Just $5! And I’ve wanted one of those for ages”, he told me.)
Every social invitation we received was to a farewell, as friend after friend moved south for new jobs, study, opportunities and to bring their kids up closer to family.
The only song in my head was by Mental as Anything. I found myself humming in the car…“If you leave me, can I come too?”
Add to this the general climate of back to work blues, or in my case, not back to work blues. And by the end of last week, the inside of my brain smelled like an open sewer in South East Asia and the soundtrack was even worse.
…You’ll never get better your career is over you’re hopeless you have to lie down after you have a shower you won’t be able to work full time ever again you’re a financial burden you’re a shit friend you let everyone down you’re a burden to your family everyone thinks you’re boring now why can’t you just get better why do you have to be such a broken down loser…
I was ready to curl up in the car with the thing that died (or the golf buggy) and call it a day. So it was with limited enthusiasm that I agreed to join Mr Tea for a monsoonal weekend away.
And we didn’t get off to the best start.
“Shall we go down the back road to Litchfield?” asked Mr Tea
Umm, OK, I said. Is it even open? Won’t it be flooded?
“Why don’t you check the road report?” said Mr Tea.
I checked the road report.
It’s flooded, I said.
“Let’s try anyway”, said Mr Tea.
Let history record that the road was, indeed, flooded, and we had to turn around and go back the way we came.
The dark space in my brain was still pretty fetid at this stage.
But over the weekend, the black clouds hovering over the highway started to become beautiful again. The magpie geese honked, the station horses brayed. The termite mound scarecrows, dressed in high vis and sodden Carlton Draught caps, made me smile. So did the bullet holes in road signs and the Stuart Highway wit who put up the placard “Emerald Springs: Population 1”. I drank a delicious mango smoothie in Pine Creek and we stripped off for a brave swim in the raging flood waters of Mother’s Day Gorge.
I remembered that this time of year there are more shades of green than we have words or Dulux paint chips for. Fluorescent green, pandanus green, eucalyptus green, green with a sheen of mud, where the water levels have dropped. Kaffir lime green, spear grass green, unripe guava green and dew soaked green.
On the way back to Darwin, we drove back to Litchfield for a walk and swim in my favourite secret spot.
Just as we arrived, the rain began again, with interest.
I was a bit nervous about scaling a waterfall in torrential weather, but we walked in anyway. And as the rain soaked my hair, my shirt, my trousers and then my sneakers and socks, I felt more and more elated.
The rainforest was alive and green—all those many kinds of green—and the trees were covered in intricate fungi. An entire corridor of native ginger plants had burst into pink and yellow flowers. The path had become a creek and every step up the escarpment was trickling with water. By the time we got to the top, the waterfall was bursting at the seams. I was so sodden, I jumped into the falls with my clothes still on.
“You look like a drowned rat”, said Mr Tea. “An excited drowned rat.”
Isn’t this terrific, I enthused.
Mr Tea agreed that it was terrific.
Isn’t this just life affirming!
“Yes”, he said.
There was a 40% chance that Mr Tea was not finding our walk in the rain especially terrific or life affirming, but he’s good like that.
We sloshed back to the car, made sandwiches out of the stale bread we had left over and I felt a sense of calm for the first time in weeks.
This morning, I’m back in Darwin and it’s raining again. The record in my brain is still playing, broken bore that it is, but at least it’s a bit quieter. Like any good tailings dam, my mind might take a few decades to clean up, but it’s nice right now to have fresh memories of all those beautiful black clouds and the many, many shades of wet season green.