Friday, November 02, 2012

Still Glides The Stream

Lured by Melbourne's sunnier days, my Beloved and I are back to our daily walking. Our favourite place is a quick drive from home, along the Yarra Flats trail in the next suburb of Heidelberg where I spent my high school days. 

The winding paths which follow the river were, once upon a time, the inspiration for some of Australia's best known artists. They were among the first painters who really got the Australian bushland and captured it in a style which came to be known as Australian Impressionist, or The Heidelberg School.

In 1888, Arthur Streeton gathered artists and friends here to a dilapidated farmhouse where they spent the summer creating some of Australia's most celebrated artworks. Together with Tom Roberts, Jane Sutherland and Frederick McCubbin, this band of artists committed to capture the local colour, people and landscapes on canvas. 

Still Glides The Stream And Shall Forever Glide - Arthur Streeton

I never knew any of this, when I attended high school in the thick of this very landscape. Perhaps our art or history teachers tried to tell us, but paintings of early Australia didn't thrill me so much back then. 

As a gatherer of threads for my historical writing, I now linger over walkway markers showing 19th century interpretations of the very paths we pound. I wonder about the people who stopped to preserve the vistas for those who came next, and how much has changed in the years between. 

Obstruction - Jane Sutherland

Maintained for the public, the Yarra Trail runs through 85 hectares of bushland along the Yarra River. Only minutes from my home and I'm transported not into a lycra-clad speed walker, but a pondering dreamer... as I imagine the walkers before me... the ones in longer skirts and bonnets. The ones who braved the bush, and bellowing cows on their way through. 

And I'm thankful not only for the canvas gifts of the Heidelberg School of painters, but the words they attached to their works. Words like these, by Charles Condor, who reminisced from Europe some years after his days in the Aussie bush. 

"Give me one summer again,... 
the same long evenings, songs, dirty plates, and last pink skies."

I'm so glad to know these artists ignored the dishes, long enough to enjoy the sunset. A little like me, when I run away some afternoons from what beckons at home ... to wander off the beaten track. To peek into winding pathways and hidden pockets of the bush, I once raced by on my way home from school.

Do you have a pocket of history on your doorstep? Something to draw you out of the everyday, and transport you to another time..?

What's on the road where you live? 
Blessings for a wonderful weekend,