Autumn ...

hello, autumn...  hello, smell of smoke in the air.  hello, hot cups of ginger tea with a cookie on the side, hello chilly evenings, hello colors spreading from mountaintops down, down down into the valleys here below.

Nina Bagley, extract from her blog Ornamental

If I had to describe the place I would most like to live then a location like Nina's would be high up on the list. Her blog is the place where I go when the need to wander off and be quiet is upon me and I can't physically go anyplace.

In fact there's a novel I've been writing since those days when I was an airforce officer's wife.  It's a story that has retained the same main character but one that has reshaped itself as I have moved countries and lives.  She always has a dog, lives someplace beautiful but slightly isolated, and her life has been simplified. 

She was a war photographer, so I researched post-traumatic stress and Iraq and the Green Zone and so many other places where people like her go, filled with the conviction that if people just knew the truth of those places and situations, they would rein in the monsters who create wars. 

My bookshelves have more than a few war journalists and photographer biographies sitting there, next to the climbers stories.  Another people who fascinate me.

But there's still no dog in my life.  Everyone feels compelled to remind me of the responsibility when I bring up my desire to have a dog again.  They tell me ... the woman who has had dogs since she was 9 years old, that it's a big decision.

I don't roll my eyes ... well, not visibly but it does get boring.  I rode horses, had cats, my daughter had a pony.  There are things I just know by now.

Another birthday soon.  Another year older and, oddly enough, I'm enjoying these years.  I'm becoming less concerned about what people think of me, how I 'should' look, and I'm turning down the self-censorship dial on those things I would like to say directly. 

I learned the fine art of careful and considerate behaviour as a child, with a side-helping of all-consuming guilt if I slipped up and was honest or direct. It's almost fun unlearning these things.  Fun and frustrating, and challenging too, but as  long as I'm gentle ...

Autumn is here.  It was crisp out there this morning.  The pollution levels have been high recently.  Our city is split by a ring road that has some of the heaviest traffic loading in Europe.  We're a true crossroads and it's a nightmare living so close to a section of it.  And then there's the industrial pollution.

It takes about 3 days for my system to begin to clear when I flit off to Genova, that spot by the sea that is close to some beautiful hills and mountains. 

New Zealand ... out there the air was simply stunning. I would all but dance, delighting in the variety of scents the air carried as we journeyed there.

Wild thyme in Central Otago, then the seemingly limitless beech forests and lakes that give Fiordland that unforgettable smell.  The wild west coast of the South Island, with the Tasman Sea crashing on one side while, on the other, the Southern Alps roar up into the sky.  The scent of the sea and the glaciers, soaking wet glacial moraine and forests.

Mmmm, I'm not really a city girl ... must work that one out one day soon.

But today is all about packing and preparing for another journey.  My cousin continues her journey back to New Zealand on October 8.  We will say our farewells in Milan, after almost two months together.  It's been good having someone around who shares a history, whose mother was my mother's much-loved older sister.

Sometimes, over these weeks, I've looked into Mum's eyes - Julie's are almost exactly the same.  Mum died way back in 1999 and I've missed her often over the years.   Anyway, it has been a time of 'remember when ...' and of familiarity, of picking over old wounds, and creating new stories to tell next time we meet. 

We're off on a roadtrip to a part of Europe I haven't thought of exploring before.  Although, admittedly, I do find it hard to go past Genova ...

But anyway, meet Julie.  She was the model of choice one day out there in Piedmont on the photography workshop.  Sandy and I photographed her, delighting in the colourful backdrop Diana provided with her delicious use of colour.

Julie has eyes just like my mother's.