I walk automatically, as if pulled, to the water.
Head stuck with pixel hue, pixel glue. But my legs want this.
A new bend of current is my home now. And we’re getting acquainted.
I’m on Wurundjeri Country.
This sweep is engrossed in the urgent work of redirecting rain.
Have you seen the Merri Merri after the rain?
The water comes thick with muscle. Trees are suddenly flanked.
Each surrounding street makes a tributary, and thrashes in without waiting for a welcome.
Merri Merri takes it all. Rocks trip slippery dips. The water slaps back at them, swirls instantly around to its destination. It is a self-determining thing.
I round the curve and it’s deeper here. The water flows fast but smooth. The colour is like iced coffee, once the ice has melted a little and formed a transparent film.
Pigeons coo under the bridge, leaving white and brown drip work. Lorikeets are boisterous as ever. And a tiny finch — whose weight I wouldn’t feel in my hand — stays quiet for now.
Check every yellow flower. Is it a yam daisy? Other people could tell you the names of the trees, but I love them no less.
The path forks around a humble wetland. Tell me how frogs make such a wooden sound from their slick bodies.
Yes, I’ve been brought undone by slippery grass. Not to speak of mud. This creek makes sleep in plastic sheets. And breathes in umber.
I’ve moved steadily, accidentally, upstream over the years. Pulled north and west. My last home was a summer place, a purifying trickle. The water made tip-toe dances over rocks.
My Merri Merri of four years ago was the spot where the trail ceases and trains screech. Shallow, scattered, clarified water. Willows were the shady cradle of intimacy. So private you could do a squat wee without being noticed. So private you could fall in love. I did.
Took off my shoes. Wet my feet. Smoothed the summer sureness. I once saw a wallaby.
It’s laid bare now, by the intervention of better ideas. Cleared and re-planted with baby natives. Visiting feels like a revival of your old favourite TV show: A bit too high definition.
Morning cyclists pass me, their conversation like a passing siren: immediate, fading, then gone. “Any day out of lockdown and there wouldn’t be anyone” It’s true. These banks host many extra guests now.
On the first sunny days of spring, four in the afternoon is peak hour. Gangs of pre-teens on bikes swerve to right their weighty shovels. They’re building jumps in the dirt. Friends walk in pairs, conversing. A teenager with a parent, conversing! Toddlers stomp tan bark and dogs are puffed out by their social lives. I rarely see a head bowed to a phone.
I’d been scouring my senses to grasp this altered quality of place. And now I’ve got it. The sensation is utopic. The creek, its pathways and ovals, in the bright sunshine it all feels like an architectural rendering come to life. That fantastical image of public space, demonstrated by digital collages of slightly-off-scale stock photos.
People interacting with people and with place, this is what I see. I breathe it, smiling and bemused.