Connecting to place

Often I take refuge in the small park off the Bay Run, Rodd Point Park. I do feel a sense of calm when I enter it and continue to relax as I slump on the rocks, look out to Rodd Island and stare into the ether. It is so far from the frenetic activity of the Bay Run — pushy pedestrians, speedy sportsters and breakneck bikes — and away from the constant traffic. I feel an attachment to the land here, even though my family hail from another bay on the other side of the world — the Bay of Rinella in the Aolian Islands off the foot of Italy.

I can understand the deep connection Aboriginal Australians have with their land — my family have only been here for a generation, and this strong pull has already started to take hold. It seems our connection with place is now only possible on public land, where our access is hopefully guaranteed and not prohibited by the end of a lease or sale of a property. Our homelands — where we live — are bought and sold, rented and vacated, built and demolished, as though there is no stronghold. Our land is treated almost like selling a piece of furniture on Ebay. We are convinced that there is no attachment, and ultimately no meaning.

Houses we grow up in, where we spend two or three decades and sometimes even more, are usually sold at some point. Our link is broken and our history there is scattered. We console ourselves with wise adages — “it’s only bricks and mortar” or ‘“we have to move on”. We deny ourselves any sentimentality to our recent roots and just get on with it. The booming Sydney property market has fuelled our broken ties to land, whereas in previous eras families would stay in one property for generations. This enabled familial stories that related to the home to be more readily passed on, and history was more deeply embedded in psyches.

As our financial needs or wants sever our links with family property and we live in unrelated dwellings with none of our past and a doubtful future, our public spaces have become more important. Places like the Bay Run become our link to the land and our familiar treading spot; a place we can visit where memories are sparked by landmarks. The public sphere has become so much more than it ever was, as it is in this domain that we can be granted access to at least some of our history.

My eyes wander down to the boatshed on Rodd Point Park when I remember a heat wave of a day when my little dog was thrown off the jetty by my daughter, and frantically swam back to shore. Perhaps there are advantages in selling off our memories after all!