Summer nights in Melbourne were often sweaty ordeals, especially during periods of long, drawn out heatwaves.
At such times the family home, a smallish three-bedroom brick veneer with terracotta tiles and no insulation, became an oven. Even with all the windows open, the house would swelter and hold the heat the entire night.
Domestic air conditioners were a fantasy, of course, something that wouldn’t appear for decades. Getting quality sleep in such conditions remained an exhausting challenge.
My dad, though, came up with a solution of sorts. If the night was unbearably hot, he’d setup two camp-beds outside in the slightly cooler back yard. And that’s where we would sleep. It was never a slumber party with chitchat and all the rest. My dad would fall asleep almost as soon as he lay down.
Not me, though.
Instead, I’d lie there on the camp-bed for what seemed like hours, gazing up at the star-filled summer sky. Even in the suburbs, with its abundant streetlights, the heavens still looked magnificent. I could see countless stars and all the magical glowing dust between.
My imagination would first run wild, conjuring fantastic mental scenes where I was traveling between the stars on exotic space liners. As the evening progressed, story after story piled up in my head.
Eventually, though, the beginnings of sleep would settle down around me. Then the space liners would flicker and fade until only the sky’s vast dome remained. Through sleep-heavy eyes I’d continue looking, trying to penetrate something I knew had no ending.
And that’s when it would begin.
Attempting to wrap your head around infinity causes either intolerable frustration, or provokes a surrender into the unknowable. I innocently embraced the impossible.
Of course, I never actually moved from my camp bed in that suburban backyard. Instead, it was my consciousness that took flight.
It would begin with me reaching out to meet the beckoning vastness above. Accompanying that reaching was a growing sense of falling upwards. The movement was gentle yet insistent, carrying me ever closer to an embrace with the star-filled stillness.
It would go on and on till sleep finally claimed me.