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My happy place

Published 18 Jun 2021 
by Eliza Herbert

I grew up near the Yarra River – the Birrarung, on Wurundjeri country, Melbourne. It was my playground. When I was younger, my brother and I would go for bike rides along the trail, speeding up through puddles on rainy days so that mud would splash up around us.

When I was older, I would go for walks alone to sit on the banks and reflect. My favourite places were areas where the understorey was dense, full of silver wattles and bottlebrush and tall gums in the canopy.

Eliza Herbert by the Yarra River. Photo Daniel Hartley-Allen.
Eliza Herbert by the Yarra River. Photo Daniel Hartley-Allen.

I would lose myself in the fullness of the trees; the way they sprawled around each other, some long and slender, others curly, gnarly, knotted. The sky – whether tumultuous and stormy, or blue and sparse – always made me calm, as did the river.

The constant, subtle movements of the world around me made me feel still.

In the prolonged lockdown of 2020, I returned to the river. It kept me sane.

I would think about how it flows over 240km from its source at Mt Baw Baw to its mouth at Port Phillip Bay. Just as the river ebbed and flowed and stretched, so did the people who gathered around it.

It became a playground again, a meeting place, somewhere to explore. It was a place of reprieve and it felt good to see people reconnecting with nature.

While the world still faced many challenges, it gave me a sense of hope, rooted in a belief that when we come together, we are resilient.