Green Vase and booksI was reading this article about the sentimentality of old things on Woogsworld a little while ago, and I thought of my maternal grandmother’s green depression glass vase that sits in a cabinet here in my loungeroom. It has a little splash on orange paint on the lip, which to me is like a beckoning story. This grandmother, Frances, died at 36. Her wedding photo sits on my mantelpiece, and my daughter bears her name as a part of her own. For some reason, though my mum didn’t really talk a lot about her, the spirit of this grandmother has always resonated strongly with me.


When I finally really began to write, it was a story that began with Frances and ended with me. That story was Wide Brown Land. It is a very long family memoir, but where it really began was with that green vase. As a writer I am deeply interested in the concept of memory and landscape as bearing witness.

After I broke up with a long term boyfriend in my mid 20s, I left the house that we had shared in Northcote (Melbourne) and moved across the river to Elwood. Househunting with my mum, we accidentally came across an art deco flat in a street named for the writer Dickens (it is a thing in Elwood, that there are many streets named after writers. I have lived in Tennyson, Dickens, Coleridge and Kendall). The flat had a little ‘To Let’ sign, and we had the audacity to knock on the door and ask for a quick look.


I fell in love with that flat. It had some round windows, up high like portholes, etched glass double doors, and big, sun filled rooms. We dashed to the real estate agent before they closed for the weekend, and put in an application.

Elwood has always felt a bit magical to me, a place of belonging. My older brother Grant and my cousin worked in a video shop on the main road when I was in my late teens, at the time that Grant died, and I liked walking streets that  had been familiar to my brother. After I moved into Dickens St, I discovered that a friend, who had also been acquainted with Grant, had at one time lived in the other downstairs flat, in the block of 4 at St Ives. So this gate that I walked in was a gate that my brother used to also walk through, of all of the thresholds to all of the flats in Elwood.

I wish that I could absorb the memories of my grandmother’s green glass vase, like some ethereal psychic conduit, though in the end, perhaps it is in the imagining that we divine the stories.

What about you? Do you have any precious things that inspire stories? Do you wonder what other footsteps have walked your path?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT