To Canberra, With Love

The time has come–I am leaving the city that has been my home for over three years now. Canberra is a capital city, and, relatively speaking, a small town–one with many jobs, the reason why most people move here, myself included. But no matter how we struggle against it, things cannot remain the same forever. Staying on here is, unfortunately, one of those things.

The past two weeks have been a mad, yet sad, flurry of goodbyes. Packing up and leaving behind a life you’ve established is never easy. There’ve been last-chance road trips, catch-up coffees, farewell dinners… and many tears and hugs.

I always thought saying goodbye to my friends would be the hardest part. On the lonely journey of my first few months in this city, they are the people who have come along and walked alongside me. We’ve shared long conversations over steaming cups of tea, watched the extended edition of Lord of the Rings all day through till the wee hours of morning, set out on spontaneous weekend outings to distant restaurants, or caves, or even cities. We’ve shared the joys, struggles and fears of being alone in a new place, away from family and old friends, forced to stand on our own two feet in a hurry.

But as it turns out, there is something harder than leaving behind your friends. With people, there is a sense of finality when you take your leave. You’ve talked and hugged and promised to stay in touch. There are emails, Facebook, and even hand-written letters. But how do you say goodbye to something intangible?

How do you say goodbye to a city, one without the grim purposefulness that pervades most others, that catches you up in its meandering pace–drawing you up short and bringing to your attention all the little things most people pass by in the usual bustle of everyday life?

It first captivates you with the capricious early morning mists that turn the city into an ethereal reflection of itself, drawing you in as though a portal to another realm. Awhile longer, and you’re introduced to lazy afternoons, warmed by rays of the gentle winter sun that slant through the blinds and reaches across the room to illuminate the drifting dust motes. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be treated to nights so dark that millions of stars, normally so shy they hide their light within their brighter brethren, sweep across the sky in a display that puts New Year celebrations to shame.

Stay long enough, and you’ll observe the changing of the seasons: There is regal and stately summer, where the great black swans populate the lakes in full force and the day stretches long into the boundaries of night. Slowly, so slowly you may not even notice it, quiet and wistful autumn takes summer’s place, where the trees form an honour guard over the footpaths and roads, showering all who pass below with brilliant red and orange confetti. Dogging its footsteps, eagerly pushing to the forefront, is fierce and arrogant winter, where the city hunkers down in the biting cold and leafless branches stand proud and stark against the blue sky. After what seems to be an interminable wait, cheerful and coquettish spring skips lightly onto the scene, where wildflowers dot the fields in a colourful patchwork and the delicate scent of sakura is on the wind, waiting to surprise the unwary passer-by.

As you spend more time in this city, these things make their way into your consciousness until stopping to take a deep breath and enjoy the view is simply another part of everyday life. It will be hard to unlearn the habits that Canberra has patiently taught me in these few years, knowing they cannot survive in a new world of concrete and impatient city-dwellers.

So, I will say only this: Thank you for everything you’ve given me. You will be dearly missed.

Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on a young adult novel with a kick-ass heroine. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and random musings on writing.


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