Saturday, 1 March 2014

Eleven Stanzas about Middle Park

Eleven Stanzas about Middle Park
Philip Harvey

The Extinct Volcano shone iridescent green after the December rain as the flooding river formed an island of what already in 1839 was being called Emerald Hill, and still the waters moved south and west towards the unparklike heath lands, rough and holey, later to be known as Middle Park.

The River, that spread its floodtime everywhere after flowing over the basalt shelf, remembering its own vast course south and west towards the headlands of the bay, is itself a memory after the River was walled and channelled, a memory kept alive by the nerves of tramlines that spark and resonate their way across the spread of the old floodtime, all the way to where it washed up, a no-go area, in Middle Park.

The Swamp of fresh water and salty water, a place only the cunning and observant would enter in its heyday, is separated now and ended, with pipes and drains taking mountain water and rain water in and out again all over the grid; a place where modest gourmands purchase swamp label delicatessen and indulged young men film videos of their swamp songs and online users connect at their desks via swamp technology to the universe in general, in Middle Park.

The Wattlebirds were no concern of anyone as they moved anonymous unobserved from one bush to another in flower time, the nectar so sharp, the pollen so fine; however, of all the Wattlebirds, egrets, spoonbills, geese, brush turkeys, and emus, only the Wattlebirds visit these days, seen in front gardens sparring with mynahs, hiding their woolly nests in trees, and toeing along grevillea branches near street corners of Middle Park.

The Lagoon, end product of overflow, first cause of multiplying waterlife, a distant shimmer on sunny days, had no discernible boundary as it rose and fell every season, like a work an artist keeps correcting and correcting as each new shape appeals, then palls; until made discernible by the usual philistines who step in with their obtuse obsession for the oblong, ending the Lagoon’s long, languorous sprawl using walls and wedges, until a distant shimmer on the other side of such growing grids as Albert Park and Middle Park.

The Drooping She-Oak with its distinctive dark brown down, existed where it self-seeded in the harder soil of the delta all the way to the erasure bushfire of 1851 that cleared the way for land divisions, though even today a local may, on the off chance, if they tend a native garden, purchase a Drooping She-Oak in a pot from the nursery, instructions on a plastic label, and situate it beside the fence and away from their house in Middle Park.

The lines of large Sand Hills, the result of centuries of build-up from onshore waves, like dunes seen along Victorian coastline, stood between the bay and the low hinterland before being used as landfill to stop holes and cover the shallow swampland lakes of the emerging suburb, hence the flat view to the bay from Canterbury Road and from shiny windows of the trams gliding along the embankment bordering Middle Park.   

The Locals came through for the fishing and hunting, those growing old teaching those growing up, in the light of day remembering their own forebears who knew each dry time and wet time, down to the very pools and streams that settled around the places they would leave again for up country, in the times before the English ship people and their encaustic confabulations, those permanent homes the Locals call Middle Park.

The Shells ground down by pounding of waves and weather, countless heaps pushed beneath the surface, their crinkles and whorls, their contours and tapers, might on occasion be noticed by workmen, if they notice at all, as shattered remnants while they dig down to lay new foundations at the rear of a property (“deceptively large” as an estate agent would say on his auction notice) undergoing renovations in a side street of Middle Park.

The Sediments, all the dross and mineral goo that surged and settled in layers turning rich with fermentation, rested in the sun like wealth untold before the boat people came and diverted the Birrarung and degraded the habitat down from a triple A rating, preparatory to building on the centuries of Sediments, affluent Middle Park.

The Rakali ran amidst the thin woodlands, never lost, found their way along each well-known underbrush pathway to their burrows at the edge of the lagoon, living on insect antipasti and bird egg speciality and fish of the day, and remain, in smaller numbers, even today, a talking point for residents (unthreatened species) who noticed one, yes a water rat, out on their morning walk for coffee and pritikin cake in Middle Park.

The heart of Middle Park : stories from a suburb by the sea. Middle Park History Group, 2011. (Middle Park historical series, no. 1)
Middle Park Bowling Club website
Otto, Kristin. Yarra : a diverting history. Text, 2005.
Priestley, Susan. South Melbourne : a history. Melbourne University Press, 1995.
Tidey, Jackie, ed. Middle Park : from swamp to suburb. Middle Park History Group, 2014. (Middle Park historical series, no. 2)

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