This time last year, in preparation for the birth of our little one, my partner and I attended a weekend long childbirth workshop in some attempt to de-mystify what is one of life’s most inconceivable (ha) experiences. A great deal of that weekend was spent learning the fine art of relaxation, through breathing, meditation and visualisation, and as someone who has never really taken the time to practice these skills I was dumbstruck, rattled even, by their effect and the power I had unknowingly held over myself all these years previously.
As seems to be the norm in relaxation workshops, the facilitator invited us to conjure up the sensory experience of a ‘special place’, but not before we had shared with one another where that place was to us. Unsurprisingly, places in nature were high on the list. The beach took out top honours followed closely by cool forests and mountain tops. In my mind’s eye I could see the Shoalhaven River, where I have enjoyed swimming every Summer for as many years as have mattered.
I grasped onto the well-worn image. I thought of icy, tea-coloured water pulling at my limbs under a baking clear blue sky. I slowed my breathing, I shifted positions, but as the minutes passed I could feel that something was wrong. The river wasn’t correct. I couldn’t feel it – it was an image and only that. What I could feel was something gentler.
Out of that feeling, behind my closed eyes, came the unmistakable light of dusk. That luscious low light was all too familiar, as were the sounds of crickets, Currawongs, and dogs barking off in the distance. The air was crisp and sweetly smoky, and the grass felt cool underfoot. I frowned and tripped upon my breathing, unable to comprehend how I had possibly arrived to find myself here – a place I always was – in my own backyard at the end of the day. My ‘special place’ – the place I would be if I could choose to be anywhere – was a garden bench under a Hills Hoist in the twilight out the back of my Inner North Canberran home.
This is what was on my mind when I wrote about Canberra for the current edition of Meanjin.