Merri Creek, Melbourne, Mother’s Day 2020.
A low grey sky hangs over the Merri Creek as I walk our Pip around the cold, squelchy parkland flats. It is the Time of Coronavirus. But we could be in County Clare. Pip chases a ball through the gloom and she does not hesitate to run straight into a muddy puddle. And she stays there.
As we head for home, I spot celebrated singer and songwriter Paul Kelly on the track in a beanie and beard. He walks with a young fella. Pip runs ahead while my spirit performs small cartwheels of there-is-no-such-thing-as-coincidence. And my mind runs back, back, back.
It is 1993, late winter.
I am a first-year uni student and everywhere, everything is wide open.
Where is that?
What does it all mean?
It is a field trip to Kinglake. It is a Sunday and rain tumbles down onto the mountain ash and onto the ferns. We are all of us aspiring botanists and ecological biogeographers; all roll-your-owns and elastic sided boots, plaits and flannelette shirts, earthy knits and freckles.
For about five months I dreamt of sitting next to K. Recently that has repeatedly happened. And today here we are working side-by-side on a Kinglake transect, identifying the number and species of plants that live within a circle of some specified diameter, half-way down the sodden slope. And it is everything. She is everything.
Despite my coat, rain water runs down my back, runs over our notes. Her hair of auburn waves is drenched. We spend the day laughing and soaked. Before we are back onto the bus to uni.
We each wear a woollen jumper and jeans. And leather boots. Which sets off another round of laughter. The bus is along Alexandra Pa