Friday, 18 November 2011

The Secret Map

I carry a secret map of Sydney with me. It's in my head, mostly in my 'mind', the intellect, though part of it is in what I might call my heart. It is written in a secret code, in invisible ink. It is not a guide book for tourists, though some of it would be of use to even the most obtuse fool. It is not strictly a linear history, or some smartly laid-out historical argument - it's far too personal for that, and too erratic. Parts of it come and go, some parts are overlaid, giving multiple versions through time, different weather conditions, seasons and moods. Part comedy, part tragedy, it has high drama and the most mundane repetition. Its chronological scope stretches back long before I was born, and there are many possible future versions, putative Sydneys yet to come.

The whole is never visible at one time, only parts, and only those parts that suit the mood, even when those parts seem like intrusions, mental tics that interrupt the current thread of thought. Sometimes a smell, especially flowers at different seasons, sends the map reader (me) off down a new pathway - new but familiar. Nothing is ever really the same twice. It might be the colour of forget-me-nots instantly bringing to mind the colour of a certain somebody's eyes, though the feeling that arises is always a variation or mutation from the last time, or another time long ago.

Sometimes the history is just wrong, confused with another story, another street, another house. But this is how history goes. It is first written by an eye-witness, then passed on, retold with variations - to make it more interesting, more relevant to the teller or the listener. It becomes part of the legend, then finally a myth. But we need our myths; life is pretty meaningless without them. My myth trumps your reality every time. Dreams eat into reality, distorting remembered events.

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