Wednesday, August 15, 2007


We live on the edge of a landslip zone. This is not nearly as dreadful as it sounds, it's really rather nice. Two minutes walk up the road (ten minutes if kids are in tow) lies 'the area', a space at the top of a hill with trees and birds, a view of the valley and many intriguing possibilites for kids and their parents. This is my escape, a place of quiet in which I stroll or stomp, depending on mood(iness). This is Lucy's playground, where she runs with her imagination alight, seeing koalas, staying in motels, being a monkey, getting shot by spiders - a lot of adventures are had in this small piece of suburban wilderness.

I had always assumed no houses had ever been built here, that engineering knowhow had predicted troubled and council planning had marked the area off as unsafe. But chatting to a neighbour, I heard that there were in fact once houses. The details are sketchy, something about a resovoir, a landslip and the ruination of plumbing. The plumbing - what a mundane source of disaster. I think about those people and wonder if the event was sudden, an explosion up through the sinks and toilets, a sudden rush out onto the street. Or perhaps they faced a slow realisation as the pipes blocked and blocked again, until finally it just wasn't worthwhile fixing the systems. Was the neighbourhood evacuated all at once? Did they cry or joke as they packed up their cars? Was there a small, still space inside, growing cold as they walked away from a home they had loved and a garden they had tended? Lives and landscape have changed dramatically up the road, and I only found out through a chance meeting with a chatty home owner who lives nearby.

When we collect kindling or pick flowers, when we throw sticks to the dog, we're standing in someone's old front yard. There's not a hint of the houses - no foundations, no stubbornly standing chimney stack - but gardens have left faint traces: the blackberries we pick in the summer, the pears and peaches and plums, this flowering quince,

these jonquils,

the yellow red hot pokers just up the way,

the old and remarkable oak.

It's the plants, not the structures, that remain to bear quiet witness to the joys and hurts, the plans and disappointments, that were part of this space not so very long ago. I would very much like the people who lived here to know that I love it very much, and am mindful that my peace of mind and my calm arises out of their loss. Thank you.

Of course, I also hear the council keeps testing in the hope the land stabilises so they can sell it off to be developed. I grit my teeth and roll my eyes at this news. What's so very wrong with space that is shambolic and green? The value of this hectare or so lies not in its potential for sub-division but in its offer of slowness and stillness and memory.


Kez said...

Beautiful post!

nutmeg said...

What a great place to visit and to have it so close would be wonderful. I am glad you listed the name of that pink/watermelon coloured flower on the relatively bare branches (I love that look in a plant). I would have never guessed in a thousand years - quince.

And as to your previous post about the takeaway - we have tended to have one on Friday nights but the way they were making me feel sometimes only hours afterwards had me thinking about what I was ingesting! While I like the break from cooking I decided just because it was takeaway food it still had to be of good quality. So now our takeaways are from a local restaurant that uses fresh and local ingredients where possible - and soooooo much better on the stomach!

Jenny said...

The boys and I used to spend a lot of time playing and exploring in your little patch of heaven but that was about 14 years ago when they were little tikes. We used to collect kindling for the fire too. Its nice to see that it has become a special place for someone else.

Kez said...

I just awarded you the Nice Matters Award - check my blog :)

VictoriaE said...

That's a beautiful peace of writing Kris, glad you got this place to stroll and stomp in, and that oak is certainly remarkable.

Susan said...

What an excellent place to have nearby!

Janet said...

I agree, what a lovely place to have nearby. There was a place near where I grew up that was like that and I used to love traipsing 'round, watching for the changes of seasons and thinking about what survived old gardens.