The winter has begun from of 1st of June officially in Australia. I wonder, if the season does follow the calendar. It is safe to say, the season has its own subtle way to make transition. As I saw in my small suburb Ingleburn, far flung from Sydney city, the winter season was full on, its icy cold grip complete. But the season was not all about brute cold and unforgiving weather. It had its own elements to enchant on-lookers. The gradual change in colours of the season and in the mood of the sky with all-encompassing blue or wandering clouds was a joy to watch.
My street featured a wide variety of trees and plants: Eucalyptus, Acacia, Maple and so on. Many of them I was not familiar with even. I heard Eucalyptus had about seven hundred species grown all across Australia. However, one Maple Leaf tree on the other side of the road opposite to my house captured my imagination from the onset of Autumn.
My septagenerian neighbour Carrol lived in a house on the other side of our road, with the Maple Leaf tree few yards away from the entrance of her house. Carole was single and had a very quiet presence in our neighbourhood. But she was the owner of aneye-catching flower garden in her front-yard as well as in her back-yard. The garden hosts a variety of rose plants that outshone the presence of other seasonal flowers. From distance that garden would appear to belong to roses only.
In the middle of the garden she put on a name plate, Ruby Rose Cottage. Carole at some point of our societal deleberation on the street revealed that she inherited the house from her mother Ruby. I am not sure whether she also inherited the name with the house or she named it as such in remembrance of her mother.
Carole had been living in this neighbourhood for more than fifty years. All single houses of the neighbourhood probably belonged to that era. She has got two sons who live far south of Sydney in country side, a region called Southern Tableland. They come to see their mother occassionnaly, particularly, during X-mass and Easter.
When the fall season came along, cool afternoon gave way to cold evening, and I was able to feel the impending winter season. That Maple Leaf tree embarked on a nature's swan song of colour already then. Its green foliage gradually turned maroon, then shining yellow with light texture, as if enacting a slowly progressing drama, of which I became an avid spectator. Just before the fall to the ground, the tree leaves took on a lifeless yellow colour and just waited for the farewell caress by the winter breeze: the lifeless leaves shivered and dislodged from the tree branches, then waltzed like butterfly down to the ground. Now the almost half-bare poor Maple Leaf tree would see the remaining leaves fall down, then wait in silence for the spring to come to restore it the former glory of greenn foliage.
Today it felt icy cold in the morning. The sky extending all the way to horizon appeared to have been shrouded by an opaque dome of mist. The sun retreated behind the dome of mist and from time to time and distributed light only to make crave for more sunlight. The fallen leaves from the Maple Leaf tree made circular bed and many of them were driven by the winter breeze all along the ground by leaps and bound. Most of them gathered on the roadside gutter and crowded the steel wire fences of road side houses. The fallen leaves have gone down to the fences of Ruby Rose Cottage as well.
Today I saw Carrol gathering the fallen leaves by a broom. She tried to do her work by herself including gardening, except for lawn mowing, for which she would hire a professional land mower.
I thought Carrol was a bit struggling with the gathering of leaves. I went forward with the intention of helping her. “Carrol, do you like me give you a hand?”
Carrol said, “Thanks, Faruk. Let me do my own work. This bloody Maple Leaf is annoying because of the dead leaves. I wish they all fall off soon enough and leave me alone.”
“You may not be angry with this Maple Leaf any more”, I said, “the days of fall would be over soon, you see, hardly there are any leaves left!”
Carrol had a look at the almost bare Maple Leaf tree, then put off the gathering and retreated back into the Ruby Rose Cottage.
Our suburb has been experiencing change in demographical outlook. Large multicultural people have moved in, with a surge in population growth. There had been a rush for buying properties in our area. Old independent houses had been demolished to make room for the new duplex, even, triplex buildings. People leaving for decades were moving out and new people moving in. The new comers were all multicultural people: Indian, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, all from the migrant community; Bangladeshi are pouring in dominant numbers. The number ofcars parked on roadside were rising dramatically; frequent sale notices hung on the properties on both sides of the road, that was keeping the real estate people very busy.
I can recall Carrol was disappointed when she heard about my move to Brisbane to start a new job leaving behind my family. Pre-occupation of migrant people with search for livelihood could be overriding, which sometime cannot be understood by the Aussi people. Carrol felt assured learning that I was not taking my family with me. The dwindling white Anglo-Saxon people in the suburb probably worried Carrol. She confided to me once, “I wish I have more neighbours like you!”.
Carrol, I understood looked at us differently because we including my wife Mini met and talked to her, which was regarded very well by Carrol. We were both passionate about gardening and the nature as a whole. When we met on the road we talked about with open heart. The old people in many countries like Australia looked forward to talk and spend time whoever might be coloured or white, which was
hard to come by because everybody were busy.
To be concluded in the next issue.