Blog - Luca Antara

March 06, 2005: Hawthorne Canal

Today there was that first faint chill in the air cold climate people wait for. A cool wind whipping horse tails in the otherwise clear sky. A mix of nostalgia for winters past, anticipation for the one to come. Benign, anyway, in the temperate zone. It was also Clean-Up Australia Day. Remote from community affairs, I did not realise this until I watched the evening news on TV. Oh well. Went for a walk in the afternoon, seeking the sea in this inland suburb. North, I thought. The Dog Park I'd heard about. There's a canal running through Summer Hill, it marks the border between the Leichhardt and Ashfield municipalities. Once it would have been a stream but that's more than a hundred years ago by the look of the sandstock blocks with which parts of the canal are lined. Those neglected areas of a metropolis which belong to no-one but the graffitists. That are not real estate. In parts even the tree trunks are tagged. Coming out by the canal I caught the river scent that is so much a part of my childhood. There's no cleaner smell than clear running water, even when it's only a trickle in a concrete drain. Three sacred ibis were investigating the riverine wildlife. Schools of tiny transparent fish. Blue iridescent flash of a kingfisher's wing. Then startling green weed at what I took to be the intermingling of the fresh water and the salt. Two black teal beating up stream. A white-faced heron only feet away, pooling in the shallows. I ended up in a depot of some kind: old bricks, sandstone blocks, newly sawn timber, bark mulch, a disused bridge. Had to climb a hurricane wire fence to get into the Dog Park. Barefoot all the way to the bay without once stepping in the shit. There was the sea smell. Leaning over the side of the bridge leading back to the People Park I saw strange creatures moving through the khaki water of that arm of the Parramatta River which here was surely all salt. Medusas. They looked like uprooted brownish-grey mushrooms the size of a fat-headed man's head, with a stem trailing stumpy limbs and a kind of grilled or gridded cauliflower membrane that expanded and contracted rhythmically as they moved upstream. Images from the Bridget Riley show I saw yesterday at the MCA came to mind ... the Rileys gave me a headache as well as a dangerous sense of the instability of my perceptual world, but these medusas, though grotesque, were calm. There were plovers in the People Park. The tide was creeping up the canal. I saw toadfish in the shallows, more schools of the tiny transparents and then, splash! a big fish jumping. Don't know what they were—mullet perhaps. There were lots of them, heading downstream to greet the incoming tide, undulating in slow waves from side to side in the canal waters, black from above but sometimes showing a startling silver flank. At the vivid green bit where salt and fresh mingled, the smaller medusas that had made it this far were a delicate lavender colour. Another flash of kingfisher wing, then another. I saw it perching in the branch of a tree, the dusty ochre colour they have on their breast. The nightsweet, which has nearly finished where I live, was here still covered with tubular yellow flowers. I imagine the heavy scent on the air now darkness has fallen and only the graffitists are out, inscribing that almost wilderness with their arcana.