The chickens let us know when midwinter’s come. The fortnight after the winter solstice, no matter how bloody cold it is, the girls start serious egg-laying. So even as you’re trying desperately to stash four different kinds of hot lemon pickle and a hundredweight of lemon marmalade, as you open the fridge, a dozen eggs roll out.
I went AWOL from the blog for the last six months, as the observant amongst you might have noticed. The days just got shorter and shorter. My garden kept growing and the Hawkesbury streamed uninterrupted to the sea, but time to write about these things just seemed impossible to find. But now the days are lengthening (and I’ve finished my night classes), all that is going to change!
The shortest day may have passed but it’s still pretty nippy at 5.30 in the morning when I get out of my lovely warm bed and drive off through the nautical twilight to put my kayak in the water. When it’s 3 degrees and you have wet feet, the exact moment when the sun touches your frozen toes comes to be of critical importance.
I have a nifty little app on my phone, SunCalc, that shows just where the sun will appear over the horizon on any day of the year. So I check the tide, and the wind, and then, on a winter morning, figure out where I’ll catch the very first light. Putting in at Brooklyn and heading for open water is not a bad choice.
I’ve had some lovely paddles from Parsley Bay in the last year. Quiet jaunts into Porto Bay, a shallow backwater frequented mostly by raptors and oyster fishermen…
And, on a day with hardly any wind, I braved it across to West Head, stopping off at four beaches – Gunyah on the way and Eleanor on the way back; and on the other side of Cowan Creek, Little Pittwater with its tumbling stream and littoral rainforest and Hungry Beach and its a pair of sunbaking sea eagles.
I was almost bold enough that time to cross the invisible line – “limit of flatwater sailing” – that passes between Juno Point and Flint and Steel Beach, but bottled it in the end, just peeking round the corner towards Pittwater and the open Pacific beyond.
And last weekend, coldest it’s been on a Sydney morning in a couple of decades, I set out for Refuge Bay, where the pleasure craft rocked quietly, their skippers sleeping. But not the kids, slipping away in their dinghies to fish and play under the waterfall on the beach.
And on journey there, what magic scenes! The open waters of Broken Bay skimmed, concealed, curtained, framed, illuminated, by the fog.
If there’s something to be said for the shortest days, it’s the long nights. You can almost have a sleep-in and still get up before dawn.