When I was a little girl, the last week of November was a torturous time. I would anxiously spy on the clock, waiting for the days to tick by until finally it would land on the first day of December.
I had decided that day would be the start of my Christmas campaign, a festive assault on my poor, unsuspecting family. I would pester Dad to cut a branch from the lone pine tree on the banks of our little creek and stand watch like a little general making sure it was as close to Hollywood-perfect as possible. Let's just say it wasn't always the most beautiful but that's often the case with real stuff.
As Mum pulled the box of Christmas decorations down from the top cupboard in the spare bedroom I would eagerly wait below, arms outstretched, ready to accept the treasures. The box would be haphazardly packed with a hotchpotch of trinkets: tiny glass-like ornaments, snakes of tinsel, a little straw angel. I would diligently dress the tree as it sat politely - my most supportive Christmas ally - between the piano and the wood heater, calling for help to place the angel on top of the highest branch.
The following weeks would be filled with festivities. I remember fossicking through the cupboard for my favourite John Denver Christmas record; thumping out Silent Night on the piano as the daily house soundtrack; sitting on the verandah podding fresh peas with my dear Granny; and deeply inhaling the welcome smells of plum puddings boiling away while apricot sauce, laced with brandy, warmed on the stove.
To be honest, not much has changed in that years since that little girl has become a (mostly) fully-formed adult. My heart still bursts when the crackling record player fills the house with old carols and friends drop into our family farm for a Christmas tipple. I adore buying thoughtful presents for my family and dear friends, having an woozy afternoon nap after overdoing it at Christmas lunch and packing my bag for our annual Boxing Day roadtrip to the beach.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have 24 days to go my dears! Silver bells...
This afternoon I hit the highway only a whisker ahead of peak hour madness, smiling happily as the busy roads, sneakily sandwiched between city housing blocks, slowly gave way to sweeping views of bright green, undulating lands.
As I zoomed along the highway the sun sprayed shades of yellow, burnt orange and fiery pink across the landscape, changing hues with each passing minute.
I saw frame after frame of country goodness: cows lolling on the banks of dams, no doubt seeking respite from the warm springtime day; bales of silage tightly wrapped in mint-green plastic and lined up in neat rows across the paddocks; and a kamikaze cockatoo that swooped cheekily, and somewhat stupidly, across my windscreen to reach the other side of the road and, perhaps to take a peek at some freshly killed roadkill.
All the while this beautiful new album States by The Paper Kites shared my journey. From the first bars I knew this lush, atmospheric collection with its understated, lilting melodies and (good) lazy riffs would be my perfect roadtrip companion. It didn't disappoint.
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.