Photo: Saima Ali

27 July 2010 – Early mornings now in the valley where I live are crisp, a cool gift that smacks me in the face when I walk out my front door.

And such a little song in my heart the other morning as I went in search for my rhythm for the day, and a place to sit among strangers, to breakfast.

Drops of water still on some leaves. Hardly anyone about. A few blokes and a blokette at work on the reno across the street. That’s it. Have the street to myself almost.

Turn left. Good start.

Cross the park, the crushed grass boring to walk on, the defeat of it by the transgressing utes and trucks an affront to all senses. Poor little park seems to attract more traffic over it than the Harbour Bridge.

On the other side where the road is, look up to check; ahh, good, the streetlight that’s been on for months is still on, beaming away in the clear morning sun, choofing up half a tonne of pollution in the Hunter Valley or wherever the electricity’s coming from.

More blokes here on the road doing yet more roadworks, these standing still and colder than those hard at it on the reno.

You can look up from here right along the street which runs straight to the east, see the low morning sun and there’s such clean air, it seems, the rain washed blue of it makes the outlines of the buildings so sharp you’d reckon a fine black pencil had drawn the edges.

Walking uphill, away from the lowest part of the slight valley where the water lies still in the gutter, I see the gravel and silt left by fast running water. How many people see this stuff? I’ve got to laugh at how I look at things.

Oh. And someone’s broken this little tree last night. A sad tree now, it’s trunk still hanging on by some fibres. Where’s the person who did that. Are they vomiting from too much grog. Are they fighting with someone they live with. What’s keeping them together, or are they as bad off as this tree.

Then the new thing I’ve been delighting in. An innocuous thing but it’s unusual. Just a pole about 3 metres high with a small metal box on top. But inside the box I know there is a thermometer to measure the temperature of the air and provide continuous temperature data so we can see the effect of the eastern and western summer sun on black roads. There’s another one around the corner that’s protected from sun by buildings and trees. We’ll be able to compare temperatures this summer and, who knows, this data may contribute to new rules about road design, may help us get roads which cool our cities. Hang on little tree, we’re coming.

But, in this quiet moment I take most pleasure in the sign at knee height at the base of the pole: “Adults only”.

The locals reckon the pole supports a camera and there’s maybe security data inside, tho’ a few of us would prefer the sign meant there was some pornography somewhere in that pole; ‘Why put that sign at a height where only kids can read it?” most ask. I stop to smile and relish the sign. There should be more like it. I can see a lot of good coming from signs saying, “Adults only’, at knee height across our cities. (Sadly, the sign’s irrelevant and is an unavoidable part of the pole which is mostly used in schools for play equipment; the sign is to keep kids away from the black box at the base which contains a winding mechanism.)

And now to the warmth of the cave that my café is, the day already long underway there for its workers.

So, ten minutes from home, halfway up the hill I talk to my first fellow human, am welcomed, and my day seems to be underway.

The world is outside my door.

Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach who works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy.

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