Prologue Part 1
The dirt patch behind my letterbox has been transformed into a carpet of yellow. It is the kind of yellow that makes me happy to be alive and I think to myself, ‘Even the weeds here are beautiful.’
We first saw this suburban Adelaide house in 2005. It was a stinking hot summer day and the baby, who did not like being strapped into his car seat, screamed and screamed. Nothing could be done – the search had to go on – so we simply ignored him.
The art deco home with an aviary had so many people traipsing through that we knew we didn’t stand a chance. Another home had junk in the garden and paint flaking off the walls – unsuitable for raising children.
Once, in between house inspections, we sat down in a small café. An elderly lady, perhaps the proprietress, asked our children how they would like their croissant. Jam or ham and cheese? Toasted? Her attentiveness to their small wants touched me. Her kindness gave me permission to relax and stop wondering how others regarded us, the newcomers.
Later, we parked by yet another grassy verge. On a sub-divided plot stood a newish house built in the classical style: green gutters, cream quoins, faux blue stone cladding. The house was very small, but so were the children; we could fit three of them in the tiny back bedroom. Perfect.
Now I have been living here for a while, long enough to know the moods of the garden. I love the row of frilly pink roses by the bay window, and the way the Philodendron has glossy leaves larger than dinner plates, and the way the daisies turn to face the sun.
So I have been here long enough to know that behind the letterbox is a neglected patch of dirt. Sometimes an inconsequential weed, called sour-sob grows there, giving green relief to the dusty brown.
But today is the entire patch is yellow. I walk closer to take a look. I see that the sour-sob has burst into hundreds of delicate cupped blooms, nodding in the breeze. Even the weeds here are beautiful.
About five years later, I am on my knees in another garden, another rental property. By the beige Colourbond fence, I tug valiantly at the lattice root system of the sour-sob. Dirt lodges under my fingernails as I try to extricate the knobbly nodes. The smallest fragment left behind will rejuvenation and undo hours and hours of patient weeding.
I think back to the extreme sentimentality of my earlier years in Australia – even the weeds here are beautiful – and smile at myself. Back then everything about Australia was, to me, beautiful and welcoming, just and kind. I did not even suspect that shadowy places existed, in this friendly lucky country, Australia.
Read Prologue Part 2 here.
From 1 March the book proper – ‘Australia: Island of Refuge’ – will be released serially online, with a new instalment published every Friday.