I've been awake since 2am, when Little One woke up in a tempest. Normally, the wake-up routine has two options: soothe and re-settle, and soothe, wake up for a couple of hours, then re-settle. The tempestuous wake-up, where no-one can even touch LO, is a new thing. There are squalls, fury, distress, frustration all wrapped up in the disorientating wake-up of night. The tempests haven't happened too often and I hope they stay that way.
Our attempted re-settle at 4am is interrupted by Indi-Girl suddenly coming to sit at the child-proof gate and speaking to us in anxious grumbles. I sigh and mutter and grumble about the timing - two hours after wake-up is the ideal time to re-settle LO. But there you have it. C'est la vie, and all that. The universe either has a different plan in mind, and/or a sneaky snarky sense of humour. Outside we all go.
It's cold. It's not cold-climes-cold, but by sub-tropical autumn standards, it's definitely cool. Indi-Girl races ahead to do her urgent call of nature and then moves around the garden with purpose. She sniffs the earth under the Poinciana tree and periodically nibbles at the dirt beneath - something she's started doing in the past two weeks - then she scrambles over some disused garden beds to eat some grass. Her tummy is clearly unhappy. If Indi is unwell, after what happened with her brother, my Beau-Bodie-Boy, I get anxious.
I suppose I could let Indi-Girl just be out here to do what she needs to do. But she's an excellent guard dog, who will bark remorselessly and furiously at anything that moves, including lizards, possums and any other night creatures. And god help the neighbourhood if anyone should be walking by the front gate - she will bark the sky down. Long story short, she needs supervising. Or, should that be, I feel the need to be there to watch over her and prevent any wuffaballoos before they happen.
Which means LO has to be there too. LO, wrapped in her cream blanket with the grey elephant in one corner, is very happy and curious for an adventure into the night-world. There are sweeping patches of clouds above, and not enough sky peeping in-between for us to see any stars. We stand under the Poinciana tree. It's a lovely, magic, matriarch of a tree, with wide outstretched arms in a gesture that is both welcoming like a hug and wholeheartedly offering to share her shelter. It has tiny little yellowing leaves which rain down in the breeze - not autumnal, just following their natural cycle. They are no bigger than a grain of cooked rice. Even at night, the tree feels welcoming, safe.
The safe feeling is important, because there are spectres in my mind in the dark. Human boogie monsters hover at the edges. Not based in my reality, but accumulated horror films and news reports run like an unwelcome news ticker somewhere in the darkness, somewhere in my consciousness. I try and ignore them. I'm mere metres from the back door. And we have Indi-Girl. I hold LO very close.
There is a possum which lives between our roof, the garage roof and the neighbours' yards. Australian possums are big-eyed, noctural creatures. They look timid, but can barrel across roofs like belligerent drunks, knocking over everything in their path. Tonight, the resident possum kicks at a neighbour's flowerpot and then skirts the garden perimetre and growls at us. Indi-Girl would normally bark, but doesn't partly because she's preoccupied and partly I'm there. I'd never heard a possum growl before we moved up to sub-tropical north. It sounds like it's trying to kick-start a possum-sized motorbike. This makes it fun to anthropomorphise and we have running jokes about possums wearing bandanas, muscle tees, jeans and leather jackets. If you've never heard the noise before and didn't know what it was, then it's a very strange and creepy sound.
LO reacts to the possum's growls by pointing towards the darkness where the sound is coming from. I explain it's a possum and LO gives a loud baby grunty-growl - a standard noise reserved for animals - which drifts into the night. The possum then unexpectedly receives a waves of kisses blown by LO and reacts by revving its motorbike again. LO puts a finger to lips and says "shhhhhhhhh." I giggle and do a cheek-to-cheek hug and am rewarded with a return hug, followed by a resting of a suddenly-tired toddler head on my shoulder. It's time to go back in.
Indi-Girl grooves a bit more - either because she needs it or on principle - and then agrees she's ready to return inside after a big drink of water. I lock the back door with a relief I don't always acknowledge. In the kitchen, something nudges the underneath of my flip-flop. I lift it up to find a discarded bit of rusting barb-wire. It's from a bit of garden that everyone - including LO and Indi-Girl - has walked in many times before. I drop it in the bin.
There's a return to the squalls before LO finally returns to sleep at 5am. I should sleep too. I should, I should, I should. But the night has started to breathe grey now. The butcher bird is awake and trilling its wonderful complex song, and then the lorikeets arrive, and really, I'm just making excuses. I'm just awake. Tired, but my mind is running now.
Time for another tea. Thinking time. While the world under my roof sleeps.