I have vague memories of all the places where I used to hang out when I was younger. I remember the cliff edge we walked over to get to the best ocean pool, but that might only be because I long carried a photo of my friends walking along it.
I remember exactly the density of grass where I used to park my car by one of our favourite creeks, but I can no longer navigate my way to that creek with any confidence.
I remember standing on the edge of the big jump-off rock, but I couldn’t tell you how high it was – I would undoubtedly exaggerate it.
I remember parks and takeaways and riverbanks, but no specifics about the landmarks or what we would order or exactly how the land disappeared into the water.
Every time we drive out to the pub where I worked for a few months after I turned 18, I’m surprised by the winding road and how long it takes to get there.
Everything has blurry patches and blank spots; all the overfamiliar paths are just kind of unobserved, unrecorded for being so unremarkable.
Returning to these places, there is a strange feeling of walking through the warps and gaps of memory, the replacement and embellishment of things imagined, and the actual physical changes over time to a place preserved in memory.
This past summer, I visited the beachside reserve where we used to drink cheap box wine under the banksia trees. It now has a coffee cart on the weekends that makes it seem – like almost everything in the world – less waywardly bored and more upwardly entrepreneurial.
And of course, the version of me that walks through these places sees them very differently now, more wholly. Having seen, and lived in, more of the world, I can appreciate how unusual some of those everyday things are. How rare that it’s easy to find a park close to the beach. That on a perfect-weathered summer Sunday, my partner and I could be the only two people walking around the headland. That there are no guard rails or concrete paths or noticeable human fuck-withery apart from soft-worn foot tracks. That there are tiny wildflowers and monstrous banksia blooms everywhere. That from the headland, we can’t really discern any structures, just more thick coastal scrub, and the coastline sliding away, north and south.
These are the things, that in my memory, had faded in all their unremarkableness and now seem quite spectacular and special.