>Place

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It’s a long drive, and it was late at night. I was tired, and Brigitte was asleep in the seat beside me. But as I got closer to the destination, the tiredness fell away; and when I turned off the highway and pointed the car at Sussex inlet I felt my heart soften, and a bunch of negative vibes melted away. I drove the last 13 k’s probably a bit too fast, but it was just some joy, too long hidden, bubbling out.

I had forgotten the importance of place. There are plenty of things which we can use to make sense of an imperfect and shifting world, but place can be taken for granted. With somewhere like Sussex Inlet, for me, place can be inter-woven with emotional threads reaching back 45 years, from late childhood, to teenage surf zealot, to gonzo uni student, to young father and now (young, I hope) grandfather. I don’t believe, though, that the peace which settled on me on Friday night was just about happy memories. The place was speaking to me.

I got up early the next morning, with only my son Tim and baby Kennadie awake at that hour, and snuck out on my bike. I turned onto a vaguely familiar dirt road, was dive-bombed by a currawong, and had a black wallaby race across my path. It was early, it was muddy, and no other fool but me was out there in the conditions; I had it all, all to myself. The road was fast in spots, and in others the bike sank to its axles (and my feet) in cold dirty water stretching right across the path. The conditions didn’t matter. Fast or boggy, descending or slogging uphill, the place was special and granted just to me. My hoots of exuberance bounced off the trees and mystified the black cockatoos. On the way home, I pulled in at a little look-out with a view over the rocky cove which had been one of the favoured, treasured surf spots and I connected with the place, as well as the memories.

I stood on the wharf at sunset, Kennadie on my hip and the tumble-down trees edging the far bank; the evening light tinting the clouds, mirrored in the ruffled water. A place like many others, I guess, but a place to me.

It’s there if you let it be there. Feel it through your feet, or your pedals, or even the car’s tyres. Place can touch you, caress you, restore you. You just have to keep your senses open so that when you get to the right place, the link is made.

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