Written by Anisha Pillarisetty
5.50 am July 8, 2021:
The smell is laden, congealing in the pre-dawn gaze of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. For the time it takes to cross West Terrace, I can’t remember anything before the smell. The crisp, bright yellow “M” hoisted into the sky and the headlights on a solitary car are the only interruptions. My stomach turns, empty.
The smell seems to have settled on everything, like the grime on high-up surfaces that no one ever bothers to clean. It reminds me of beginning to eat meat again after moving here, and watching the edges of the bacon ooze white in the pan for the first time.
9.00 pm July 12, 2021:
The smell is gone. The air is wet. Old sheets of the sky are torn into cleaning rags. The grass looks polished, new. I notice a cockatoo, lying on its side. I look away.
Cold wind darts between the blur of my bicycle spokes and I hang one arm to the side – a strange compulsion that does nothing to help the blood rushing away from my fingers.
I look to my left across the empty cricket ground, and I remember when I first moved here, half a lifetime ago, and looked out over similar buzz-cut grass. It was a Sunday morning. I would later tell my friends I thought there was a curfew. The eerie silence. The smell: just-mowed, just-mulched, just-renovated, peeled back by the dry air, razor-sharp, a hush-hush.
Much later, I would learn how we had driven first through unceded Kaurna, and then Ngarrindjeri lands.
Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Italian poet and health worker, Dominic Guerrera, speaking at the South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance’s IDAHOBIT 2021 event said:
‘Invasion and genocide continue to take place. So, you’ve been welcomed, now what?’
Falling down to the South, towards the cemetery, the sky is blue – almost the same bright blue as the plastic net draped across the temporary fencing. To my right, the sky furrows into a storm, cleaved in half, where I stand. The parklands stretch ahead, screeching with the loud smell of grass. The RAH is stoic, grey clouds looming above, like a superhero in the movies who can control the weather.
I’ve looked up Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) many times, and it’s always the same.
Health Direct doesn’t really tell you SADness isn’t just sad. It’s:
- clawing through the laden air
I don’t know if I have it. Maybe it’s just plain, old depression. But SAD seems better somehow, on paper. Contained by seasons. More manageable.
I remember hearing on the radio that 2020 was the first year ever that was:
- not only the third warmest, but also
- the fifth wettest
- AND the eighth sunniest.
I wonder if Health Direct will update their SAD webpage to factor in climate disaster. I wonder if the colony will listen. I wonder if I’m truly listening. I wonder if the colony will factor in colonisation when writing reports on climate disaster.
The (first) SADdest day this winter, I’m sitting up in bed with the lights turned off. The moon is hurled against the window. I can’t smell the wind, but it reminds me of home, the sound of a train if it had no wheels. It’s strange that I smell home here, on the (third?) windiest day, staring at the tops of gum trees unspooling. I imagine it smells warm, like a monsoon ballooning in curtains.
I can’t imagine what the winds smelt like before I was here, before this window was here. I’m here, settling, like the smell of deep fryers before sunrise. Now what?
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