Living on the borderlands

Late last year our apartment building caught on fire, and so we stayed for a while at my sister’s place in North Fitzroy. Even though I was technically homeless for that period, I had a pretty nice time. I love North Fitzroy. I love the abundance of cafes and quirky boutiques, I love the smell of jasmine in the air and the sounds of happy, healthy people gathered on pockets of public lawn. I love hearing classical music spill out from the homes of local musicians, and I love walking around in my vagabond shoes and oversized skirt and feeling completely at home.

But the thing I loved most about living in North Fitzroy for that little stretch of time was being around some more of my family, and experiencing that comfortable, natural way of being that took me, floating, between trees, earth and gelati, and some of my most beloved people. 

Our apartment escaped the fire unscathed, and so we returned after 10 days or so of homeless hipster bliss. Dave and I live in a funny little spot that marks both the edge of Docklands and the Central Business District of Melbourne. We overlook a wide channel of train tracks that connects much of Australia to Southern Cross Station. When we go into the lift lobby we can generally look directly into Etihad Stadium, and until recently (before they constructed another high rise apartment tower) could look over the whole of the Docklands harbour, and Port Phillip Bay in the distance.

North Fitzroy is almost the centre of the universe. Our little home, on the other hand, sits slightly uncomfortably on the borderland between two places. We are on the edge of things, not at the centre; not grounded in the earth but hovering in the sky, looking in.

But here we are and this is our home. Dave and I have thought a lot about what it means to make a home on the edge of things. One thing we have noticed is that we have become more intimately connected with the world of travel. Whenever we look outside we can see trains, buses, cars, trams, people walking, people riding bikes. When I open our big glass doors I listen to trams turning corners, to trains rumbling by, to a general haze of city activity. We are a still point in a world that is moving.

This makes our home an excellent stop-off point for travellers! We often meet people when they are in the midst of travelling from A to B. Sometimes people stay at our place, other times they come in for a cup of tea or a drink. I think about roadhouses or people who run hostels on the way to places. I like meeting with people when they are in-between things, when they are thrust out of the stability of life and onto the road. It’s fun and interesting and jolts me in the direction of discomfort, too.

I also can’t help reflecting that I’ve spent a lot of my life on the edge of things. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I’m an edge-dweller, and that’s just how I am, and I may as well make the most of it. The good thing about being an edge-dweller is that by my very nature I connect things together. When I sit on the edges of two communities, for example, I can introduce the people to each other. I’m coming to see this as a very valuable thing. It does, however, make me quite busy at times, and often torn between different people and places, because a part of me wants to immerse myself in every context I’m connected to.

Oh, and when you’re living on the edge of things, you meet lots of other edge-dwellers as well. Travellers, poets, marginal people, profits. My own apartment building has a transient population, here for a stint, moving between things. There is a social reality that exists in my apartment building that deserves my attention.

And even though a part of me would love to live in North Fitzroy, I feel that for the time being I am meant to be situated here, on this borderland.