This introverted city is on the verge of falling into her annual deep collective slumber – a slumber from which she may never rouse.
Canberra’s winter is universally recognised as beginning on Anzac Day — the day heaters all over the city are switched on for the first time each year — and ending on, or about, the October long weekend, but things are running a little behind time this year. Anzac Day did not see the first frost, and the talisman of change, the wind, did not shift to the south-west until last week. The usually cold (by the standards of those who live in coastal cities) autumn that becomes the freezing winter is way behind schedule.
But for the icy hearts of the politicians who visit the city and the usual leaf-littered gutters of this time of year, one could have been forgiven for thinking that winter had bypassed us completely.
A deeper truth lies hidden, yet to be realised.
The equator has not shifted south. We have not experienced a freak shift in our weather patterns. This mild autumn has been the calm before the storm of emotion and negativity that is now bubbling to the surface.
Canberra is on the verge of falling into a deep, collective depression.
The federal budget, brought down by “Canberra” last month, signaled the watershed that has become known here as the beginning of the end, or would be if the plethora of sad-looking public servants could set themselves aside and look in on their world from afar. The dark depression into which this city has plummeted is not only evident in the faces of her adult inhabitants. The children and youth who also inhabit the Capital feel the angst of their carers, magnifying the negativity and spreading it, as though it were a virus on the verge of a pandemic.
The sullen faces looking back at me on my bus commute betray the truth of this city’s illness. Gone are the friendly smiles and waves from passing cyclists on my afternoon rides. Those who continue to brave the elements are lost in the meditative depths that cycling welcomes. I wonder if they will ever recover their senses enough to move beyond the horrible nightmares of faceless men, and to welcome the spring when she sweeps through town.
How long will it be before the bloom of the Floriade tulips brings a tell-tale lightness to the steps of the people? A thousand years? Two? Who will survive the coming freeze? How many will be left to rebuild this town’s spirit, lost so soon after the heights of her centenary party?
I fear there is no one strong enough, either in will or in substance, to win the day. Hope is lost even as those whose role it is to stand against the dark clouds roll over to have their stomachs scratched like compliant pets.
I fear the end is near. As the blanket of fog was drawn across the face of the city this morning, I fear that the death throes occurred in March, and that this ill city has run the black flag of death up her pole for all who pass to see. I fear that the liminal time, between life and death, has given way to the shroud of death itself and that this city is soon to be laid to rest, even as she is laid waste by deserting, injured warriors; given up for lost.
Who will be our saviour?
Who will rise up and become our champion?