I am a Melbourne based writer, primarily of speculative fiction. I find the writing process fascinating; the links below include examples of my work, fiction and non fiction, but also another story. How has a chapter evolved? How have places and the fictions of others informed and inspired my own. How do I research, develop ideas and turn them into narrative? Each page offers a different insight into the work and the story behind the work.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The path less traveled

It's a peculiar thing that I know is not particular to me. I have been reflecting on it lately, after spending many evenings and weekends exploring Melbourne for the Melbourne Street Art 86 blog... though I started work on this post just after Christmas, which is when I took the accompanying photographs.

'It' doesn't really have a name as far as I know - the tendency many of us have to follow certain patterns in our day, specifically certain paths through the geography of the paces in which we live or work, or spend our free time. There may be many ways to reach a point in space, a shop, or train station or even the front door of a friend, yet it seems typical to fall into a groove and favour one particular path. There may even be times when it is quicker to take a slightly different route, but something about that may seem uncomfortable or jarring.

I suspect it is part of the way that our brains seems to favour actions that can be taken on autopilot, that can allow the unconscious mind, in an apparently effortless fashion, to manage the business of getting about, while the rest of our consciousness can be involved in crucial matters such as making sense out of the the unfolding narrative of our lives, or thinking about a great deal of nothing much at all. A familiar path does not require decisions to be made, and also does not require new information to be processed. It is a useful laziness of a kind perhaps.

The interesting thing, which I certainly hadn't been doing enough of until recently, is when you take a different path.

It doesn't have to be anything that radical necessarily; I have certainly found that walking up, rather than down, a street I know well can make it a different landscape. Doing this sort of thing you may well see a shop or business you never quite noticed before, and when it comes to what lies in the distance, the great multiplier of perspective can present a completely different vista - impressions of a place a few kilometers away from where one is, and many kilometers away from where one would be looking if travelling in the opposite direction.

It can be healthy I think to break these patterns from time to time. It can have a quite wonderful and liberating effect on the state of one's consciousness, or open up different perspectives on one's self, as much as on the physical landscape. Probably this is one of the reasons people travel, but you don't necessarily have to travel that far to have the experience.

Not long ago a friend told me about a place not far from where I live from which it was possible to see quite a bit of the city. I had imagined it to be a bit of a hike and a significant departure from my usual paths through the Melbourne suburb of Northcote. During the Christmas holidays, that great recent liberator of my daily habits - my digital camera - encouraged me to go a find it.

To my great surprise, it was only a couple of minutes beyond the rear entrance of the shopping centre I have been visiting frequently week by week, since I moved to the area. When I finally went there, I felt a kind of foolishness, at never having bothered to explore just a stones throw from Kmart and Coles and other retail outlets in the controlled coolness of the shopping complex. What I found was a park that felt to me like a kind of discovery of another world just beyond that familiar to me.

There are times when taking the path less traveled is a fertile decision, though naturally some paths must lead to a blind alley. I suppose it is really a kind of metaphor, an attitude to oneself, and the surprises encountered in the landscape without are the fruit of being willing to admit new possibilities within.

The car park behind the shopping centre, with the hill that dominates the park beyond 

Cycle path along the bottom edge

The avenue of tree leading up to the ascent

Couples lazing among the trees and beyond

Believe it or not, this perculiarity is an ANZAC war memorial

Vista looking east from the summit of the hill - with the Dandenongs along the horizon , they are 40km away from Melbourne

The skycrapers of Melbourne to the south

Looking back at the familiar territory of shopping centre

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