shadow fitzroy

shadow fitzroy

Perhaps this dialog of ours is taking place between two beggars named Kublai Khan and Marco Polo; as they sift through a rubbish heap, piling up rusted flotsam, scraps of cloth, wastepaper, while drunk on the first sips of bad wine, they see all the treasure of the East shine around them.

— Italo Calvino (1972, p. 104)

A summoning spell can be a deceptively simple thing. I had apparently just conjured one.

Two days after I dared my witchy self to play for real, I returned to the game without this exhortation specifically in mind. I simply walked, as I had always done, and tried to settle into that sweet spot between attention and expectation. The awareness of attunement, which as Graham Joyce (2014) observed in his musings about walking and brainwaves, usually takes about 20 minutes to achieve. Beta descending to alpha; slowing down, slowing down.

On this day however I seemed to walk myself into an even deeper modulation. A frequency of witchy weirdness, almost like a lucid dream. I was in the practice of naming the photo album from each walk by its date and place, but when I got home that evening and uploaded the images from the day I simply named the album shadow fitzroy. The next day I tried to capture the experience in writing, but as I revisit those words now they are glaringly inadequate.

The game had changed, and so had I.

05 October 2015

Yesterday was made of shadow and light. Today walking home from Woolies, beautiful little whirlwinds of pollen and leaf litter catching the late sun. Thinking about beauty, about darkness. How do I work with them together? Can I? And then the realisation that has been so long in coming: accept things as they are. The heat, the fatigue, the heavy grocery bags, the walk home. Lungs, muscles, clouds, feet.

A neighbourhood opens itself slowly. It takes time and trust; patience and curiosity; persistence and bravery. Every time I think I’ve seen all of Fitzroy, gone down every laneway and more than once, something new reveals itself. I don’t know of any other place so folded in on itself, so dense with violence and filthy jagged beauty. I left the house intending to make my way down into East Melbourne and possibly over to Richmond, but Fitzroy caught me in its eddies and swirled me gently back into itself. Each time I thought to leave it would lean in and whisper another secret — something luminous; something dangerous. It showed me things that I could not make sense of, did not want to make sense of. For hours I remained transfixed, until my own body broke the spell with its need for food and water — and as it turned out, rest.

I’m beginning to feel something with this place. Not about it, but with it. Becoming integrated, although hardly in a communal sense — I rarely talk to people when I’m out. Something deeper, like a mouldy glimmer in my soul. A shadow deepening into material existence. Sinking in, feeling the streets yield to me like a lover. But this is not romantic. I’m still afraid of getting cut by dirty glass, stepping on a needle, turning down the wrong laneway at just the wrong moment. I’ll still wear my boots when I go out.