This weekend saw Darren make a quick, unexpected trip back to NSW to visit an unwell friend (taking the time to also briefly see his parents pre-christmas). Staying in Melbourne, with the end of the year looming and christmas even closer, I’ve found myself idly speculating on what I’ve left behind over the last few years.
What immediately springs to mind of course are the people. I’ve been acutely aware of that for my entire adult life. When I went to Uni at just a few months older than 18, I knew I was moving out to never return. I lived in Newcastle for 8 years, and accumulated several close friends, before moving to the Central Coast in 2000, leaving those friends behind. Proximity, or the lack thereof, subtly alters a friendship – you can stay close, and you can meet after having not seen each other for years and pick up where you left off, but there’ll always be big gaps in-between. Similarly, moving to Melbourne saw us leave several close friends on the Central Coast behind – to the point where we maintained that we’d miss the people, not the place.
From growing up in the country, with part of that time on a 100 acre hobby farm, I miss being able to go for a walk at midnight any time I wanted, stop a kilometre from the house, look up and seeing that tiny portion of the galaxy stretching in all its majesty, unobstructed by light pollution. If you’ve never truly experienced that, you’ve missed out. There is something intrinsically fantastic in looking out into the universe that way. Primal, moving, settling.
Likewise, I’ve never since lived anywhere since Newcastle where I had such easy access to amazing beaches. I’m not really a beach person – and certainly not an ocean or sea swimmer, but watching and hearing the waves crashing on the beautiful beaches of Newcastle can be balm for a troubled soul.
What occurred to me most this weekend was the aspect of the Central Coast I miss most. Our house backed onto the Rumbalara nature reserve – not a national park, but still large, and full of wildlife. I think having grown up in the country I was bound to find comfort in that.
Kookaburras by the dozens used our clothes line as a congregation point. Multiple Magpie parents raised successive generations of chicks in our yard, teaching them how to find food and survive. (And despite the oft fearsome reputation of mating Magpies, they had enough territory that those living near us were content with humans nearby, no matter what the time of the year.) Spiders galore, of course – though rarely any evidence of snakes, which was always a surprise to me. There was even a tortoise one day that wandered down the hill, watched intently by the cats until it reached the back door, gave them a derisive glance, turned around and indolently meandered back up the hill to wherever it had come from. My home office overlooked the street, but even then there was wildlife in abundance out the front. Such as Kookaburras using the mailbox as handy observation points.
I left the country a long time ago – I’ve lived away from it longer than I lived in it, but the echoes of it have lingered with me my entire life. I may now be a city man, but part of me will always be that country boy. And it turns out I’m cool with that.