Our Melbourne flat looked pretty desolate early Sunday morning  when the surly taxi driver dropped us off, refusing to touch a single suitcase.  He informed us at the airport that he thought we needed a station wagon, but we had already loaded our bags in his car and there was still room for another passenger in the front seat. After a sixteen hour flight in the back row of a 747, neither of us was inclined to indulge the driver, no matter how disinclined he was to take our fare.  Our place is only ten minutes from the airport.  Maybe that was it.  Maybe we smelled bad.  Who knows?  Who cares?

When we got inside, our cat let out a long wail that seemed to sum up our six week absence.  Where were you guys?  Two house sitters taking care of her needs while we were in North America was simply not enough. It is winter in Melbourne and the weather can be cold, wet and miserable, although it is so changeable that it sometimes seems like spring.  This time of year, Tibbey spends much of her time indoors, nursing grievances.

I happened on a piece in the Sunday supplement that was all about complaining.  The author of the article had come across a book suggesting that we all do too much of it.  Most complaints fall on deaf ears and sour us to life’s pleasures.  The writer had attempted to go for 21 days without one complaint.  The trick is to notice and keep track, and the secret weapon seems to be a purple rubber band.   I doubt if our cat would go for that. Purple is just not her color.

In a last-ditch attempt to hold on to some of the fragile summer sun in Nova Scotia, we did get out on the ocean for one afternoon of sea kayaking before we left.  It was windy, but wonderful.  At the end of the afternoon the cheap sunscreen seeped into my eyes and stung like anything.   I complained, of course, cursing myself for buying stuff that did that.

The day we left, we got up much too early and headed to the airport for our flight west.  Our trajectory back to Australia took us through Portland, once again.  We arrived in time to help my son celebrate his 37th birthday, to enjoy a delicious cheesecake baked by his talented wife, and to marvel at the verbal skills of Lucas, who has just turned three.  And meet his new sister, Zooey Marie.  She is beautiful, of course, but shows no signs of being a docile, quiet child.  I wouldn’t have expected as much, but these new Halbrooks are going to be handful.

I was able to get in a good bike ride in that bike-friendly city.  I saw the art museum and one small section of Powell’s huge book store.  While my son was at work, the rest of us went for a long walk into Mount Tabor park.  Lucas and I pretended to be airplanes beneath the towering pine trees.  He is absolutely obsessed with planes and helicopters of all descriptions.  Needless to say, I don’t share his enthusiasm.  As one of my favorite cartoons puts it, if man had been meant to fly, the Creator would have given him shorter legs and narrower shoulders.

It was a long, long walk for Lucas and I’m happy to say he made it home without having to water someone’s garden on the way.  Now that we are back in Oz, the heat of summer and the bright sun in North America at this time of year seems very far away.  At night, Tibbey curls up between our heads.  Sometimes I wake up to find that she has managed to displace my head on the pillow.  She pretends ignorance, of course.  “Oh, was this your pillow?”  Occasionally, she snores.  It is a peculiar sound, almost musical.  Who’s complaining?  We are all just fine.