Liquid Amber Leaves

liquid amber

When a place is new to us, all our senses fire up. Transitions are addictive like that.

I ran through crunchy liquid amber leaves today, kicked them higher than the uncertainty I was feeling. It brought me confidence and calm.  Somehow.

Have you ever moved cities? Or just moved house? Each change we have in life grows us somehow, but there is often some friction en route. My most recent move has been fairly friction-free; a few red-herring hurdles but nothing too mean.

I’m living in Melbourne now, an ‘experimental’ few months in this fair, funky city. I am living south of the city, in Elwood by the bay. Between my house and the bay there is a canal. Its perfect for jogging or strolling along to get to the bay.

What’s most beautiful about this canal is not it’s arching autumn red and orange-leaved trees, or chilled out noisy ducks and birds, or even it’s buff joggers pumping up the energy with ipods and pbs. What’s most beautiful is the stories which are literally chalked up along it’s edges. Beautiful snippets of people’s lives have been captured and written into specially placed bricks every fifty metres or so. Tiny memories from locals of Elwood, artistically captured by a feel-good council.

Pauline Thompson was one such local, she has a few memories etched into the bricks, like “I used to swim with dolphins at Elwood beach” and “my grandfather used to lower me down here to catch worms. When it was time to get out, I’d hang onto the edge of his fishing rod and he’d haul me out”.

There is a number of them I have paused at as I wander, and today this memory from Isabella Dorfman stopped me: “Every day we meet our friends and walk to the sea. This experience always brings back memories of the Ukraine and the transition to a new life made in Elwood”.

It was the word ‘transition’ which held my attention, imagining Isabella moving from one country to another, under circumstances unknown, and how she must have hurtled herself over many high hurdles to eventually settle in her ‘new life made in Elwood’. More captivating is the fact that there is activities in the new space which connect her directly back to her old space, walking to the sea reminds her of Ukraine. It’s as if her legs hold memory which her mind alone could not muster.

Elwood is a vibrant Melbourne suburb, so many miles from the Ukraine. There is wooden clad cafes with jittery smiling baristas, whipping up tea-inspired cocktails, ‘chai-tinis’ , while black and white John Lennons on canvas chaperone all the leather jacketed young locals on Tinder dates. Yet within this world Isabella Dorfman finds memories of the Ukraine, as she strolls from the cafes along the canal to the sea.

It takes just the tinniest of similarities to trigger our memory gene. The walking wakes her past, shuffles it into the now and gives her life a storyline, the snippets of her life are no longer disconnected, rather they become always relevant and bleed into her life eternity.

Now, each time I kick the crunchy liquid amber leaves I wonder if Isabella Dorfman does the same.

More Elwood Canal Memories

“One day when my son was riding home from school, he swerved and went hurtling into the canal. He hurt his arm so we had to get a chair and lower it into the water so he could scramble out” [Katie Ragheb].

“There used to be a swamp here. My father was paid to light kerosene lamps along the edge so that drunks and cows wouldn’t fall in. The next morning, before he went to school, he would return and blow them all out” [Don Taggart]

“Leaning on the rails of the canal bridge reminds me of my childhood on the Murray River” [Helen Graham]

“There have always been dreams for the Elwood Canal. In the 1800s they wanted to transform the waterway into a little Venice and have gondolas plying up and down the canal” [Roslyn Blackman]