Farewell Canberra. It’s been fun…mostly. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.
After packing for what seemed like forever, I finally managed to get everything packed away into a modest pile of boxes. Every time I move, I offload a number of things. Knowing how much it was going to cost me to transport all my stuff home has become a great motivator for traveling as light as I can; yet despite having had a garage sale last Saturday, I’m still left with a lot of stuff I could’ve done without.
This morning I awoke with just four key tasks to complete: collect a rental ute from the depot in the city; be at the house when the movers arrived; use said ute to run my mattress and some bits of old furniture to the tip; take my futon/sofa bed out to Rory’s place. The ute and removalists went fine, both done ahead of time, and after a mad dash into town to get the money necessary to pay for the load of rubbish I needed to dump at the tip (oh, and getting lost trying to find the tip), I found myself parked at the edge of the pit, discarding a bunch of artefacts brought from the last major chapter of my life: the Student Village.
The mattress I’d bought ten years ago with the bed frame I sold at the garage sale (can’t sell the mattresses in the ACT). The office chair I used to sit at my computer desk the past 12 years was a cheap metal-framed thing, the vinyl covering badly torn, which I’d taken with me when leaving the Village. There was also an old chest of drawers (very seventies looking), which I’d rescued from a skip at the Village in 1996, thinking “this will do me for a year until I buy a proper one”. As decrepit as they were, casting these items into a pit and seeing them come apart in the jaws of heavy machinery, felt like I was throwing away a large part of my life, and I had serious doubts about whether I’d done the right thing at that point; it’s bizarre how people can become attached to the most inane objects.
The blur of the past few months, but especially the past week, has not really given me a chance to think in any depth about leaving Canberra. I can say for certain that despite having a few moments (sometimes many of them) where I’ve found myself desperate to leave, being faced with a deadline for departure has caused me to appreciate the better parts of living in Canberra. I’ve also come to the realisation (now that I’ve rolled off), that the job I was in was becoming a major contributor to my sense of desperation, as the same recurring thought “I gotta get outta here” kept coming to me in Brisbane as well.
The experience many will have of Canberra is visiting Civic (the “CBD”), a visit to the War Memorial, maybe a drive to the top of Mount Ainslie to see how the War Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Old Parliament House and Parliament House all line up. They might also visit the National Botanical Gardens, or go to the top of Black Mountain and visit the Telstra Tower perched up there. I can assure readers that these are merely superficial elements of the city’s design, and it takes a lengthier experience of the national capital to fully appreciate the place.
Despite numerous interferences from politicians of the time, Burley-Griffin got most of his vision realised in this city. It’s true that in many ways it doesn’t quite “hang together” in places, but after spending a lengthy period living in this city, I can say that it definitely grows on you…kinda like frost bite I guess. To me, the proximity of the bush, and vast numbers of native birds, is one of the greatest attributes of Canberra; and the way in which the natural environment has been folded into all elements of the city combined with the array of national displays makes it a place that reveals it’s secrets slowly. The closer my departure was, the less I wanted to leave, even in the final hour where I waited in the departure lounge of the airport, I found myself wanting to go back and try to find another job and another place to live somewhere in Canberra.
I’ve not felt such a strong sense of dispossession since my parents moved off the farm. I’ve lived here for nearly 18 months, yet it still feels I’ve only just arrived; I spent a year meeting my friend Danielle for lunch on Friday’s, yet she’s already been with the OECD in Paris for the past couple of months. The pace at which it has all rocketed by is more than just a little frightening. When it was time to leave Melbourne to move to Canberra, I felt no real sadness at all, no pangs of regret about the separation; despite having lived in Melbourne for 13 years and really put down roots there. With Canberra, I feel I’m leaving behind a significant other. There’s no doubt the people I met there made a big difference in the way I think of the place. Those I worked with especially, were a highlight of the stay.
Sitting in the plane as it rolled across the tarmac, I could see the sultry silhouette of the Telstra tower atop Black Mountain, and I craned my neck out the window as we raced along the runway, trying to get my last lingering look; and as the plane lifted into the air, my heart sank a little, weighed by the knowledge I’ll not be back this way again for many years, if ever, and I was suddenly sharply aware that a valued chapter in my life has just ended.