The Australian summer

It’s winter now here at the 45th parallel. Daylight savings ended last weekend. And with the dark evenings came the north wind and the cold. Yesterday I was walking the dog and the chill went right through me and I couldn’t shake it the rest of the afternoon.

But this is the good time of winter. Before the desolation that is January, February, March. The air is cool but crisp, and smells of dead leaves and bonfires. Thanksgiving is around the corner. And with it the Christmas holiday, when winter really does shine, at least for those of use raised culturally Christian. Before dawn yesterday it snowed, a fluffy inch that was gone by late morning. When I saw it outside my bedroom window, pulling the curtain back to the bright white dark, it was a nice moment. In January, it will not be a nice moment. For months after the first of the year and the holiday week all we can do is stare down all that dark and all that cold. Eight inches of snow followed by blasts of below zero Fahrenheit temperatures. “Winter slammed us like a fist” is how Nick Cave aptly puts it. But then it’s spring. And the coming of summer in the north is glorious, that first warm day when the whole world is melting away and your heart can’t help but sing a little, no matter how sad you’ve been. And then it’s the bacchanalian summer. When it’s light out until 10pm and you can walk the dog at dawn in shorts and a t-shirt. And you are outside all the time and you drink beer in parking lots while bands play and there are days spent on rivers, in fields, by lakes, sunburns, mosquitoes, cold beers, the smell of freshly cut grass. It seems to stretch on forever until it’s gone. And the leaves change. And the nights grow darker. And the cycle starts all over again.

I have lived on, above or around the 45th parallel almost my entire life. The above is the only world I know. it’s the only world I recognize. And despite knowledge to the contrary, it’s how I assume it is for everyone: you dread January, July is glorious, and on Christmas morning there’s snow on the ground.

But this the case just for a handful of us. A few weeks back the writer Will Leitch ranked the months, from worst to best. He lives in Athens, Georgia, so his perspective is almost entirely the opposite of mine. July is the worst month. The fall is great because it starts to cool off after the intense heat of summer. It never snows on Christmas. It never snows at all.

And that’s still the northern hemisphere.

Tonight at 2:30am on my watch, Australia will play Pakistan in Perth. Right now as I type this it is midnight in Perth and it is 68 degrees outside. By 4pm it will be in the 90s. It’s summer there, in other words. Their weather, their months, are the opposite of ours. Every person older than six understands this, but most of us still don’t understand it. In Australia September means Aussie Rules finals, which means summer is around the corner. On Christmas in Perth it will be 80 degrees and sunny. In July as we in the north are applying sunscreen and heading out on dawn bike rides, the lows in Perth are in the 40s and it’s raining.

I love this big old world sometimes. And I love being a cricket fan in it. No other sport reminds you that your perspective isn’t the only one. The others confirm the world as you think it is for everyone. They are vacuums. Cricket fans watch the sun set at 5pm in January, flip on their computers, and are warmed with the thought that it’s still summer somewhere.

There’s the famous quote by Czesław Miłosz:

The bright side of the planet moves towards darkness and the cities are falling asleep, each in its hour, and for me, now as then, it is too much. There is too much world.

Too much world. I don’t think that’s possible. Yes, it’s vastness can be overwhelming and can fill you with insignificance and even melancholy, watching the sun bake the other side of the world as you sit shivering at your kitchen table, but there has to be comfort there, too. There has to be. If we can’t find comfort in other people’s summers, then we are lost. And that’s the gift of cricket: contentment in the knowledge that the circle on the ground around our feet is only one small piece of a planet so large it can make us dizzy. For if the world is large, there is room for us too. Room for us to move, heal, love, cry. Room to just be. Room to grow. To feel better. To move on.

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