Yesterday a friend and I walked the length of Back Creek for the first time. Our conversation meandered with our feet and the path of the creek. There are traces of stories all along the length of it. At the time it seemed mundane and ordinary but now in reflection moments leap out.
The meeting of two waters is always sacred, so it is with the mouth of Back Creek. There is even a circle of trees there, waiting patiently to hold space for us. A little further on the creek passes over rock. Striations mark the passage of millenia and show that the rock now lies perpendicular to its origins. I stopped for some time contemplating it and hardly believing my eyes for the creek has cut a channel through the rock almost half a metre deep. This then is an ancient path, perhaps the oldest of the creek’s modern length.
The story of colonisation is writ large, the creek subjugated and sent through concrete tunnels. For much of the length there is park to remember the creek bed that was and manage the inevitable flooding. In other places we were forced to search the curve of the land for traces of it. It wasn’t hard to see, a dip at the bottom of a hill and what a beautiful way to look at the suburbs. We laughed at the houses, built in the low point, no doubt the rains bring regular floods. What foolishness! Isn’t that colonisation all over? Write our will on the land as if it were an empty page and live in houses that flood.
I am tempted to get chalk and draw it back in, to show people what the land is saying.
Other places had other stories to tell, stories of hope, renewal and care. At the end of South Surrey Park it looks as though the creek has been reclaimed, reopened to sun and sky, lovingly surrounded with indigenous plants. That whole park and several other sections of the creek have been similarly tended with care and an eye to a brighter future. There are still places where you can stand and lose all the roaring, grating noise of modern life. I don’t know whether it is my ears or my heart that are becoming attuned but I am finding more and more of these places – urban oases of wildness and peace.
The source of the creek is mystifying, lost in a jumble of houses not even a path to show where it might have been. The land there is like a bowl, so I suppose it all collects water that feeds into the creek. There is a little park where I imagine the head of the creek might have been. An expanse of grass, a couple of park benches and a curious bluestone circle. We both wondered how it came to be there, the park and the circle seem like a fitting monument to the birthplace of a creek. I sang to it, a river song, to let it know I remember and perhaps to help it remember itself.
This was the first time I have walked the creek but it certainly won’t be the last. In responding to the creek I have accepted a responsibility and I want to honour that, for the creek and for myself.