Summer solstice was a few weeks ago. We are deep in summer, barefoot and high on daily ice blocks and the smell of sunscreen. I find it strange how the solstice ushers in summer, even though from that day on we get incrementally less light, and the pace with which we roll towards autumn seems to quicken. There is something oddly sad about the longest day of the year – where did April and May go? Why does it feel, now, as though autumn is lurking in every gust of wind, in every cloudy day? I stayed up later than usual on the 21st of June, until the lanterns we haven’t yet taken down from the plum tree flicked on and floated. I still get a kick out of these long north-German evenings with the light lingering as long as it can, as if trying desperately to make up for the darker months.
This has been the warmest, driest summer I have ever had in this country. I have never known the grass to be so burnt, the green to be so pale, the fields to be so brown. Summer here is usually a lush affair, made so by plenty of rain. Not this year. This year we’re having to … water the plants. Our grass is full of crunchy patches and some hydrangeas have burnt before they can bloom. In its faded colours, this year is not unlike an Aussie summer, except the heat is not as brutal nor unrelenting, and I don’t have to hop over the bindis when I walk across the grass.
Speaking of faded, we were at the beach the other day – we’ve been trying to go spontaneously on free afternoons, tire the kids out in the water and restore balance as only being by the sea can – and SG commented on how the colours of a Baltic beach are like a paler version of Australia. I always find sunny days by the Baltic so blue. ‘But your sky,’ he said, pointing to someone’s deep blue beach bag, ‘is that colour. And your sand is yellow.’ And the Pacific thrashes and roils, while the Baltic is so calm. My kids are fearless in its gentle shallows. Die Lüdde submerges herself completely, even though she can’t swim, and is able to push to the surface. Der Lüdde just goes for it, face first.
As with every summer, we’re getting through the strawberries in grotesque amounts. The prolonged sun this season has made the berries so sweet. German strawberries are like Australian mangoes – summer in a fruit and always good.
I finally sorted out the kids’ citizenships – they are Aussies now – and have to go to Berlin soon to get their passports. They’ll have the best of both worlds, and I cannot help but keep thinking how lucky they are. How lucky they are, as the world goes mad about who belongs where, that they belong to two safe, wealthy, beautiful countries simply by virtue of being born to us. And how lucky I was to be so free as to point to a country on the map and move there for no other reason than adventure. What a beautiful thing. Frankly, I never really considered being denied the opportunity to seek work and experience in another country; I assumed it as integral a right as being able to get on a plane. There was a brief period of uncertainty while I waited for my Working Holiday Visa to come through, although that was more my own superstition than anything else. And besides, I could always have applied for the bog standard two-year working visa in the UK that every Australia citizen is entitled to. I always had options, even though nothing about my life meant I actually needed them. I have always had freedom, from the moment I was born and now I belong to two countries simply because I wanted to. My children, too. What sheer, dumb luck we have had to be born where we were, in a world that says where we are born is something that should dictate where we can go and how we get there and with whom we can travel.
Sheer, dumb luck that has us eating strawberries and swimming in the sea during this extraordinary summer.