Another Day, Another Blog

April 22, 2007

One man’s rubbish is another’s treasure

Filed under: elsewhere, the joy of life — iamza @ 12:03 am

The place I liked to play most as a kid was by the river. My sister and I would walk up sixteenth street to fifth avenue — usually making a brief stopover at Jimmy’s Cafe to replenish the sweet stores, and build up our picnic supplies — and then continue uphill along fifth avenue until it petered out in the red-gum-shaded parklands just after twenty-second street. From there, we followed a dusty pathway leading to an old stone jetty that jutted out over flat sun-baked rocks that had been worn smooth by ice-cold algae-tinged water.

The river — more of a stream really — separated our suburb from Delta Park, a bird sanctuary. Over the years, the river had migrated, leaving the bank on our side a relatively shallow easy walk down to the waterfront, but turning the far bank into a steep, sandy cliff. Someone had hacked a set of rough earth steps into the cliff-face, and an old tree-trunk had been wedged across the stream at it’s narrowest (and fastest flowing) point.

Back then, the river hadn’t been cared for much, and there was a lot of junk floating downstream. One afternoon, we hit paydirt in terms of treasure: A sheet of blue-and-white polystyrene packing had drifted ashore on the exposed granitic rock of the riverbed on our side of the stream. The polystyrene turned out to be a terrific base for making our very own mini-rafts, and some old ice-lolly sticks made great masts/rudders. We launched the rafts carefully into the maelstrom of the rapids just before the white water dropped away under the tree-trunk bridge, and watched with glee as they shot downstream. If we got the angle just right, the rafts would spin at the bottom of the rapids, and circle back towards quieter waters from which we could retrieve them by means of sticks.

Later, we tied notes to the masts.

Hello, fellow traveller.

I am a raft made by some kindly natives upstream. Please give me a bath and a good home.

 And,

J. H. loves C. G.

I used to wonder if anyone ever found our notes, or if they drifted slowly out into the Atlantic, unnoticed and unread. Maybe they even bobbed their way to a distant shore; ink slowly faded to nothing by sunlight and saltwater and rain, so that when they finally arrived, some tourist plucked our masterpieces from a rock pool, and muttered, “Damn kids today. Why don’t they ever pick up after themselves?”

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