After days of chilly rain, yesterday in Amsterdam was hot, crystalline, and just right for reuniting with my Dutch publisher, the wonderful Hedda Sanders. We first met earlier in the year at the London Book Fair and have been excitedly planning to meet up again in Amsterdam ever since. Hedda suggested we meet at Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest gardens in the world dating back to the 1600s. I hope that’s okay? she asked me.
I tried to contain myself, first at the sight of Hedda in a gorgeous floral dress cycling towards me outside of the gardens, and then wandering together inside, pointing out different plants and flowers to each other: a wollemi pine! Giant redwoods, oak trees, water lilies, and apothecary gardens. Inside the glasshouses, a magic all of their own, we both seemed to shrink, two Thumbelinas skipping amongst giants. But possibly the most meaningful moment for me was when we strolled into a valley of gums and the story of my novel came to life between us in the eucalyptus-dense air. There was a river red gum, just like the one Alice sits under by her river, and there a mallee, and over there a lemon myrtle. I crushed leaves between my fingers and smelled the scent of home. To share plants and trees and flowers from Australia with Hedda, in Amsterdam, was nearly more than my heart could contain. Until we found ourselves in another glasshouse full of butterflies…
Later we sat in the evening sun drinking from frosty glasses, talking and talking and laughing and laughing. I got little electric shocks in my lungs every time one of us said Alice’s name.
As I watched Hedda cycle away I pinched the centre of my palm. She was real. The afternoon was real. This is real. It’s real.