Hello my pretty little weirdos
I am super lucky. Not in a superstitious way, I’m not particularly good a guessing heads or tails at coin toss or win at the pokies, I mean lucky as in where I got to grow up. As most of you know, I am Aussie and, unlike a lot of Aussie kids, I got the chance to grow up in Sydney when there was still actual bushland in Sydney.
I grew up in a little town called Kellyville. We lived on acreage and the most exciting thing around was a cow farm. Most of us had horses. We could walk in the bush for hours and not come into contact with anything man made, except perhaps a dumped car or rubbish. I know I don’t make it sound glamorous (the bush normally isn’t) but it was the best way to grow up.
I moved away from home when I was 16. I was already with the man I would marry and we wanted to live alone together. I had quit school and already started working at the florist I still work at. We moved to “the city” as in the closest thing to a city, a place called Blacktown.
By this time, Kellyville was already starting to be built out, we had a service station (gas station) and a McDonald’s down the street. Things were happening. It wasn’t long until the houses I grew up in were gone. The bushland replaced by housing development and new suburbs. The woods I knew like the back of my hand were only a memory.
I think about it now, those woods, and I’m not sure anyone knew them as well as I did. Maybe that sounds cocky, but I was out there every single day. I lived in those woods, much to my parents’ dismay. I very rarely saw anyone else out there, besides the occasional horse riding school or trail biker rider.
I remember the way they smelled. The smell of the tea tree bush, woody and tangy. The scent of the running water. I can remember the sound the wind made as it whistled through the casuarina trees, haunting as if the trees were trying to speak to you.
17 years later, I still long for those woods. That feeling of freedom that the suburbs cannot give. No matter how many potted plants and open windows and youtube clips of “forest sounds” I surround myself with. To be able to not hear my neighbors yelling. To forget the sound of ambulance sirens in the night. To see more than a handful of stars in the night sky. And I don’t just long for this for myself, but for my children.
Recently, I had a day off while my children were on holidays. We had a great day. We went to book our Spiderman Homecoming movie tickets. We had FroYo. And as I drove home with them, we passed by The Ponds, the suburb that they created and built on top of my childhood home.
“You wanna see where Mama grew up?” I asked my boys. They answered with an enthusiastic yes. Not because I think they actually cared, but I talk about it so often I think they knew it was important to me to finally show them.
We drove down my old street. I showed the boys that around 10 houses could fit where my front yard used to be.
There was a new street where mine used to end and we turned down it.
We drove. I showed them where the dam used to be, where their dad kissed me for the first time, where I used to ride my horse, where I used to escape the barbed wire of my own backyard to enter the woods beyond.
There was another street. We turned down that one too.
And that’s when I saw it.
As if someone had carved out a chunk of the middle of my woods and stuck a fence around it. As if it were an animal, caged. A relic behind glass.
Of course, I parked our car and got out.
The boys were petrified. My youngest screamed “We are going to die, there are predators and we are going to die!” the entire time. So I took them back out.
The magic was not the same. I snatched glimpses of it. The trees whispered the same words. And some times I caught the faint scent of water from the stream, the song of a distant, lost frog calling out to no one.
Then I came across a sign. Not one from the heavens or the angels, but one left there by the humans that caged the beast that was my woods.
CONSERVATION AREA, the sign read. BUSHLAND REGENERATION WORKS IN PROGRESS. WE REQUEST YOU RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND DO NOT ENTRE THIS AREA.
What the actual fuck…
This made me so fucking mad. Like, ranting and swearing at an inanimate object level of angry. I had to sit down.
This just felt so typical of human stupidity.
Instead of doing the right thing the first time, let’s fuck something up then just try to fix it. Let’s destroy all the beauty then have a fucking winge about it. Conservation is not enough. It is a band-aid on the wound of where the scissors stuck in. How about we try not running with the fucking scissors in the first place?
The woods I speak of is still there. Even if it is just a fossil, bones of its former beastly self. I use it a lot in my stories. So many of my imagined places are a twisted version of those woods or of the street or of the house I lived in. So, hopefully, in that way, its memory can live on.
But I wonder if we will ever learn that “eventually” is not good enough. “One day” is too far away. It is a mythical time, as make-believe as Neverland or Hogwarts.